What to do if you are bored and anxious at home during the COVID-19 lockdown?
For many Baltimoreans, the answer is gardening – it turns out to be good for the soul. And that’s the phenomenon that Pete Bieneman does every day at Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping on the border between Roland Park and Mt. Washington.
“Most people tell me they are stuck at home with little to do and turn to their garden for relief,” said Bieneman, the longtime director of the 97-year-old company. “And many parents are looking for projects that they can do at home with their children. Gardening offers many valuable lessons. What we didn’t expect was the original need to plant – gardening is always a great stress reliever. “
And it’s not just the lifelong mud flaps that take part: It’s also the first time that people are trying to work in the garden.
“We’ve heard from a lot of beginners, and maybe the seasonal timing of this crisis was a little boon to people getting outside,” he says. “Our ever beautiful spring in Baltimore was a pleasant distraction and inspired so many to try their hand at the garden.”
At the top of the list of things people want to grow are herbs and vegetables, especially basil, coriander, tomatoes, and hot peppers – which may reflect some kind of prep mentality for the end of the world, or are related to home cooking, many are now trying with extra hours on their hands. But blooming trees and bushes are just as much in demand as blooming perennials and annuals, says Bieneman.
Like the other companies that are allowed to stay open, Green Fields has taken extra precautions in the business as well as with the landscaping crews who are still employed.
“We are staying healthy and have implemented social distancing protocols and limited traffic in kindergarten,” says Bieneman. “Of course all employees have to wear masks and we have improved our cleaning and disinfection.”
One factor that helps propel business – and allay customer fears – is the nature of the outdoor kindergartens. “It allows you to get good space,” he says. “We continue to monitor the number of customers in the kindergarten and many do not enter at all because they choose to be picked up at the roadside.”
So does the therapy work?
“I had a customer say yesterday that she could feel the endorphins go up while planting!”