Plant Something.

It seems a simple request. It doesn’t matter what you plant, just get out there and do it. You and the world will be better for it.

That is the idea behind the national Plant Something marketing program, just started locally by the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association (MELNA) and financed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This is a program that says it is not about what you plant, whether it’s a 3-inch herb plant or something like trees and shrubs,” said Jake Pierson, MELNA president. “It’s about the general gardener and consumer getting outside, getting dirty and getting involved in plants and the yard.”

The Plant Something program first sprouted in Arizona, Pierson said, and has spread to about 30 other states. The start-up money comes from USDA specialty crop grants, with ornamental horticulture being considered a specialty crop.

Pierson said the plan is to make Plant Something self-supporting, but that for the next few years the association will seek grants to keep the program running.

Gardening is something that families can do together and that benefits everyone, Tom Estabrook, chairman of the Plant Something committee, said.

“I think (the horticulture industry) missed a whole generation of gardeners, to be honest with you,” he said. “We want to engage that generation, have them plant their first vegetable garden with their kids and create a more sustainable home life.”

The website plantsomethingmaine.org lists a number of reasons to get involved in gardening. For me, the most important one is improved health – both physical and mental. When I had a full-time job and spent most of my days at a computer, I craved the time doing even the most menial garden tasks, from weeding to picking raspberries. I got to stretch my muscles while letting the stress of the workplace evaporate.

Other benefits of planting, according to the website, include increasing the value of property by as much as 15 percent; improving the environment by reducing carbon dioxide in the air; providing food and habitat for native wildlife; slowing runoff; and benefiting the local community by shopping locally for plants (although that last one is a stretch – you could always buy other local products, whether you garden or not).

The website also offers the basics about starting a garden and what to plant, often through links to established garden sites such as the University of Maine Cooperative Extension for general gardening information, the Garden Club Federation of Maine for garden tours and club plant sales and the Wild Seed Project for information about native plants.

Maine Landscape and Nursery Association officials also hope to encourage people to visit nurseries and garden centers, so are scheduling events around the state between May 13 and 15.

“The hope is that the Plant Something weekend will become something big like Maine Maple Sunday, a yearly thing,” Pierson said.

Estabrook is chairman of the Plant Something committee that is coordinating the events, but he said many members – including him at his nurseries in Yarmouth and Kennebunk – are putting ideas together at the last minute. As much as possible given that, the website will list events, according to Valerie Geredien, who is coordinating marketing for Plant Something.

As of late April, listed events included early a talk on planting in the vegetable garden at Springvale Nurseries; a how-to-plant demonstration at Allen, Sterling & Lothrop in Falmouth; a native plant display at O’Donal’s in Gorham; a North Spore demonstration of growing mushrooms at Broadway Gardens in South Portland; and Pumpkin Seedling Sunday at Pinkham’s Plantation in Damariscotta.

As always, the nurseries will have their plants ready for public viewing and expert staff ready to answer your questions – and that personal attention is often better than any organized event.

I don’t actually need much encouragement to Plant Something. Right now that “something” will probably be a magnolia. We have two star magnolias, both white, and I have been lusting for a pink or yellow saucer magnolia. Expect to find me at a nursery looking for one.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at [email protected].