-Photography by Mitro Hood
What to do when you’re bored and anxious at home during the COVID-19 lockdown?
For many Baltimoreans, the answer is gardening—turns out, it’s good for the soul. And that’s the phenomenon that Pete Bieneman is seeing every day at Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping on the border between Roland Park and Mt. Washington.
“Most people are telling me they’re stuck at home with little to do and are turning to their garden for relief,” says Bieneman, the longtime general manager at the 97-year-old business. “And many parents are looking for projects that they can do with their kids at home. Gardening offers lots of valuable lessons. What we didn’t anticipate was the primordial need to plant—gardening is always a great stress reliever.”
And it’s not just the lifelong dirt-diggers getting in on the act: People are trying gardening for the first time, too.
“We have heard from many beginners, and perhaps the seasonal timing of this crisis has been a small blessing in that people can get outside,” he says. “Our always beautiful Baltimore spring has been a pleasant distraction and inspired so many to try their hand at gardening.”
Topping the list of things people are trying to grow are herbs and vegetables, he says, especially basil, cilantro, tomatoes, and hot peppers—which may reflect some sort of end-of-the-world prepping mentality, or be related to the home cooking many are now attempting with extra hours on their hands. But flowering trees and shrubs have also been in huge demand, along with blooming perennials and annuals, says Bieneman.
Like the other businesses that are allowed to stay open, Green Fields has taken additional precautions at the store, as well as among its landscaping crews, which remain busy.
“We are staying healthy and have implemented social-distancing protocols, as well as limiting traffic in the nursery,” say Bieneman. “Of course, all staff are required to wear masks and we have increased our cleaning and disinfecting.”
One factor helping to drive business—and allay fears among customers—is the outdoor nature of nurseries. “It allows you to maintain good space,” he says. “We continue to monitor the numbers of customers in the nursery and many do not enter at all, as they opt for curbside pickup.”
So is the therapy working?
“I had a customer say yesterday that she could feel the endorphins rise when she was planting!”