Perfect time to garden: Playing in the dirt, watching plants grow can relieve stress

“It is stress relief. There is a sense of pride and gratification with watching something grow or struggling and getting a hard species to grow,”  founder says.

Christine Lubera knew the power of playing in the dirt long before gardening became one of the few activities effectively sanctioned by the state due to the coronavirus crisis.

Raised in Fairborn by a single mom, Lubera spent countless hours with her grandparents in Midway.

“I never had a ‘babysitter,’” Lubera said. “I helped them in their yard.”

When she was a freshman in high school, she landed a job at Sheehan’s Farmers Market in New Carlisle, working with plants every spring and summer.

The 2004 Fairborn High School grad’s life changed when she became a single mother and had to come up with a plan to care for herself and her child.

Plants took a backseat.

Credit: Christine Lubera

Credit: Christine Lubera

Lubera enrolled in Wright State University where she went on to earn a nursing degree.

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It wasn’t until a few years ago that her flame for plants was rekindled.

Lubera credits her husband, Ray Lester, for helping her get back in the game.

The Careflight nurse says she was bringing the stress of the job she loves home with her.

He went with her to a gardening center where she found an aloe plant that she still has today.

Now Lubera, the founder of the 11-month-old, 1,800-member Gem City Gardening Gal Facebook group, says her world is filled with plants.

“My tropicals keep me busy,” she said.

Lubera has everything from tomato plants and herbs to Monstera spruceana and philodendron verrucosum growing inside and outside her Kettering home.

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

“It reminded me of my childhood,” she said of picking up the hobby again. “I have ones that have cost me hundreds of dollars and ones I have gotten from Walmart.”

Now a mother of three — she has a 14-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old stepson — Lubera said life is rewarding, but hectic.

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“It’s something that I can do that I am good at naturally,” she said. “It is instant reward, putting your hands in the dirt and just watching it happen. It is stress relief. There is a sense of pride and gratification with watching something grow or struggling and getting a hard species to grow.”

Credit: Christine Lubera

Credit: Christine Lubera


Gardening centers are among the few types of businesses allowed to operate under Ohio's stay-at-home order recently extended until 11:59 p.m. on May 1.

Gardening and yard work, while social distancing from non-household members, is among the few activities that Gov. Mike DeWine has encouraged.

The stay says that while garden centers can remain open, they "should determine and enforce a reduced capacity to keep customers and employees safe."


Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson

Credit: Photo by Amelia Robinson

Rick Kossoudji of North Dayton Garden Center located on 10 acres at 1309 Brandt Pike, said that in addition to shrubs and trees, he has plants like onions, potatoes, lettuce, collar greens, broccoli, kale and cauliflower available for customers.

“I will have tomatoes and peppers ready next week,” he said.

Many customers arrive wearing gloves and masks.

Kossoudji said he and his team wipe down carts and other surfaces inside and outside the center’s building throughout the day.

“We are swamped right now,” he said.

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Several garden centers have closed in-building shopping and are instead offering an order-ahead, pickup service.

John Scott of Knollwood Garden Center said the business at 3766 Dayton Xenia Road switched to a curbside pickup system shortly after the governor issued his first directives about businesses, for the safety of customers and employees a like.

The center is considering adding a process that would allow a limited number of customers in the garden center at a time.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Danielle Zack said curbside pickup has been going well for Berns Garden Center's two locations, 825 Greentree Road in Middletown and 3776 Indian Ripple Road in Beavercreek.

Customers browse Berns' website, call their desired center's phone number and arrange pickup.

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“Once they are assigned a time, they just show up and we bring it out,” Zack, the center’s marketing supervisor, said. “We just try to keep it very little interaction between the customer and the employees.”

Garden centers have been supportive of each other, she said.

“Honestly, (customers) have been great. Everyone has really showed support for Berns and really the whole gardening community,” she said. “We really want to provide the best service for all of our customers and keep it safe.”

Credit: Christine Lubera

Credit: Christine Lubera

Lubera said she has found friendship and support in the gardening community through the Gem City Gardening Gals group.

Before the crisis, the group held plant swaps like the Botanical Tattoo and Plant Swap hosted by Wells & Co in downtown Dayton and enjoyed outings like a trip to the Franklin Park Conservatory and Condado Tacos in Columbus last year.

Lubera is looking forward to getting a fundraiser for a group member who is battling cancer rescheduled, once it is deemed safe for gatherings again.

The gardening community is large and varied, Zack said.

“I had no idea that it would grow to the amount it has,” she said of the Facebook page. “That part has been exciting.”

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