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Planting time

It may be hard to believe, but planting season has already started.  My family has a large agricultural operation in upstate New York and greenhouse production is a significant part of our enterprise. Every year, around this time, we begin to fill up the greenhouses that have been empty since last season’s mum crop with all different kinds of flowers and vegetable seedlings and cuttings. The plants will grow inside over the next couple of months, and ultimately be sold to consumers to plant in their outside gardens in late May, when the risk of frost in upstate New York is near gone.

This weekend my aunt informed me that the first shipment of geranium cuttings arrived, and that the tomatoes she direct seeded are already inches tall. Growing up, this was always the first sign of spring. Snow usually covers the ground well into March, but behind the doors of the greenhouse, life is developing as the plastic walls protect the baby plants from the harsh outside elements. It doesn’t take long for the four greenhouses to fill to capacity, and for reds, oranges and pinks to emerge from the green foliage as the plants mature to produce their first flowers.

GartengewächshausThe start of the greenhouses represents a new season not far away, and that makes the end of winter more bearable. By mid-February, I am tired of the darkness and cold. Winters, this one in particular, seem like they will never end. Many people experience low periods, sometimes referred to as seasonal affective disorder, confirming that humans share more qualities with plants than most realize. We too derive a lot of our energy from the sun.

When I moved to Baltimore to attend law school, I initially thought that I could no longer participate in the annual ritual of planting. Looking to fill this void, I eventually created a modified greenhouse–or, more appropriately, “green apartment”–experience and began to germinate seedlings indoors. With packs of seeds, potting mix, large windows and an open-minded roommate, I essentially recreated my own version of greenhouse season.

Sure, the plants were nice, but the experience of watching something grow and knowing that spring would soon eclipse winter’s darkness was the main objective. This simple activity provided a reminder that we all experience times of darkness, but like the season of winter, these times will eventually pass. When I blogged two weeks ago, the sun rose at 7:10 am and set at 5:32, for a total of 10 hours and 22 minutes of daylight. Now, the sun is rising at 6:55 am and setting at 5:47, providing a half hour more sunlight in just two weeks. February is a notoriously tough month to get through, and in the legal profession it can challenge the most optimistic. Hold on to hope; brighter days are around the corner and the darkness will pass soon. A look out the window may make it hard to believe that planting season has started, but trust me, it has.