It was love at first sight and probably not the wisest move. But I went for it anyway. A couple of weeks ago at the North Asheville tailgate market I spotted the most alluring heirloom tomato and basil plants. “No, no!” my sensible inner gardener shouted at me. “Too early!” But did I listen? Well, no. I bought them anyway, even knowing how often the freakish weather of these mountains breaks the hearts of intrepid gardeners.

I planted them in porch pots with casters on them so I could roll them in and out of our screened porch several chilly evenings last week. But they’re out there in the weather now, and I hope they make it. In fact, last week I even doubled down and bought kale and squash seedlings for my raised bed in the garden.

Each spring it’s the same: my hands itch to get back in the dirt. Though, I don’t think I’ve ever planted quite so early before. But I realize it’s not just my longing for the soil that’s working on me. Spring temperatures these days are warmer than they’ve been in the past, part of the overall warming trend that we’re seeing across the globe.

It’s a troubling trend. Several weeks ago in worship I described how science is showing that warming from human-induced carbon dioxide is accelerating, with fearful potential consequences for all life. The issue is, though, that the problem is so big that it’s hard to imagine what we might do to combat it.

The short answer, I said, is that it will take many things, among them big initiatives like reducing the use of coal and increasing the use of renewable energy. But there are also small things available to individuals that can make a difference. And here’s where gardeners can make a difference.

Plants of all kinds pull carbon dioxide out of the air. Trees are especially good at this, and we as a congregation have been doing our part in recent years. About five years ago as part of the Welcome Project remodeling of our campus, we undertook a major effort to plant our campus more responsibly. We replaced areas of lawn with two rain gardens – one in front of the main building on Edwin Place, the other behind 21 Edwin – and we planted many trees and shrubs, all of them native to this region. The mini-meadow beside the entry way from the parking lot and the pollinator plants that I introduced you to on Sunday are all part of that continuing effort. Hardy indigenous plants last better than exotics, and they provide good pollen and food sources for birds, butterflies and bees.

And the gardens in our playground and the blueberry bushes beside it also remind us of the pleasures and convenience of growing some of our own food. Meanwhile, local tailgate and farmer’s markets offer places where we can support local growers and reduce demand for food shipped over long distances.

Bit by bit, we can each be players in the campaign to preserve this beautiful garden Earth that is our home.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead  Minister