There is nothing more reviving to a gardener (especially in the throes of late winter) as the smell of dirt. Many of us start our seeds WAY too early and I don’t think the reason for this is to be planting seeds. I am willing to bet it is the smell of dirt. We start seeds too early because we need the smell of dirt.
My little seeds are safely nestled in their Plant Trainer in the southern window of my kitchen. Nothing brightens my day quite like running to that window in the morning (my neighbors have started to pull their shade but I am going to ignore that) and looking to see if there is a wisp of green shoving its way out of the soil.
That hasn’t happened… yet.
But, something else adds its favor to the day and that is the sweet smell of dirt. It is the self same smell I will find in the yard in a few months. It is the smell I will come to take for granted round about June, so use to it that it will be as normal as the smell of oxygen and smokestacks (at least here in Cleveland).
But right now, the smell is pure heaven. A promise, much like in the Christian story of the rainbow, the end is near and we will grow again.
This would explain why the neighbors have pulled the shades. You have to admit that the sight of a grown, half dressed, wild haired woman huffing dirt has got to be unnerving to most people.
It might interest you to learn that the smell of dirt is not in fact the smell of dirt. It is a bacteria called Streptomyces coelicolor which produces a chemical called geosmin which in turn is what we think of as the smells like dirt. Actually,Â the bacteriaÂ produces that smell when it is dying. In wet soil, it can’t breath and it suffocates. And that absolutely lovely smell of “dirt’ is the smell of dead bacteria.
Humans, and apparently all animals, are very sensitive to this smell. Some would even say that we are programmed to be attracted as the smell indicates that there is water nearby. Very handy to our long dead predecessors. It is theorized that it is a symbiotic relationship. We find water and the remaining living bacteria get a free ride out of a death trap on our shoes to a new location where, hopefully, they will not die. Not a bad deal.
Of course now that I know this, it puts a whole new spin on my Plant Trainer. It is not a nursery for new seedlings now. It is a mass graveyard for bacteria.
Sometimes curiosity can be a real killjoy.