Memphians turn to gardening to stay active outdoors while staying safe at home

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday a statewide stay-at-home order, some Memphians are turning to outdoor activities that don’t require them to leave home.

Home Depot is limiting customers inside the store to 100 people, but that didn’t stop locals from going to the Midtown location to get gardening supplies.

“It’s beautiful weather to just be outside your home,” customer LeAnn Ruddick said. “I just stopped to pick up some flowers but have stayed away from everyone.”

Ruddick said she noticed people inside the store keeping their distance, and she noticed the steps the store is taking to enforce social distancing.

“They make it pretty easy to stay away from people,” she said.

A security guard monitors the number of customers inside Home Depot. To slow the spread of coronavirus, Home Depot is limiting to only 100 customers in a store at once.

In addition to limiting the number of customers in stores, which is enforced by a third-party security guard at the entrance, a Home Depot spokesperson said the company is increasing its coronavirus-related safety measures to ensure customers’ protection.

“We’ve cancelled our major spring promotions to avoid driving customers into stores and are limiting the number of customers in stores, aggressively reiterating physical distancing and reminding customers on our PA system, and we’re closing early to sanitize,” Home Depot spokesperson Margaret Smith said. “Promoting safety is a top priority for us.”

Smith said Home Depot is considered an essential business, and it plans to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re very much committed to keeping stores open just like we do during times of crisis and natural disaster,” Smith said.

Smith said items like hot water heaters, refrigerators and electrical supplies are in-demand during times of crisis.

But some Memphians on Thursday had a different need. They wanted to stay outdoors and active while also safe at home.

“You need some fresh air, and you need something to do in the fresh air,” Ruddick said.

Mike Earnest, owner of Midtown Nursery, said people have been coming to his business during the pandemic for many reasons, and he thinks gardening can offer a peace of mind for people stuck at home.

“A lot of people said while they’re at home, they want to get out and do something, so they’re working in their yard,” Earnest said. “A lot of people that hadn’t been gardening before are gardening now just to have something to do.”

Earnest said customers have recently been buying his vegetable plants and herbs, which he thinks has a lot to do with the coronavirus.

“A lot of people are buying vegetables and herbs and making their own gardens this year,” he said. “This has got people thinking about doing their own gardens because it’s definitely been a run on vegetables and herbs.”

The vegetables are exactly what’s keeping Midtown Nursery open. Earnest said because they sell vegetables, they’re classified as an essential business.

He said he plans to keep the business open as long as possible, while taking the steps needed to protects his customers, many of whom are already taking the virus very serious.

“Basically we’re letting customers keep their own distance apart,” Earnest said. “Most of them do keep the distance because we are wide open. We’ve had a lot of people come in with masks and gloves.”

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