Let us grow in peace.

A light-fingered lettuce lifter has left Te Puke Community Garden chairwoman Julie Gray disheartened.

As part of their spring time preparation, volunteers planted 200 lettuce seedlings at a working bee two weeks ago.

When planting peas a week later, Julie noticed one or two of the seedlings had gone missing. Frustrating, she said, but not unusual.

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"Then last Thursday, on my way to work, I stopped off to check the peas and discovered all the lettuce beds had been stripped.

"It's crazy — they are not even plants, they are just seedlings."

The lettuces were being grown to supply The Daily cafe and the town's foodbank at EmpowermentNZ as well as being for the community.

Gray had grown the plants from seed, with others being sold to help fundraise for the garden.

''It took a couple of months to get the seedlings ready to put into our garden, and a week later they are all gone.''

She says she has around 50 left to partially replace those that have been stolen.

At $3.20 for six seedlings, it isn't practical to pay to replace them, so the hope is that some replacements will be donated.

''This deprives so many people of the fact that they could get a nice lettuce from the community garden, because they are gone. It's really, really disheartening''

The seedlings would not have been easy to remove as they were under shade netting which would have had to be moved aside.

Half a bed of kūmara has been stolen from the garden in the past, and seedlings do sometimes get taken, but not on the scale of the recent theft.

''I don't want to have to fence the garden off as that would deprive people of the ability to walk through and enjoy the garden,'' Gray said.

There is a stand where surplus produce is put that can be taken and when a crop is ready to be picked and is available to the community, notices are put on the relevant beds.

Gray said the lettuce seedlings were put at the Jocelyn St frontage.

''I joked at the time that it didn't matter if people picked a few - but to come along and find them all gone ...''