Garden centres and nurseries have been raided by Kiwis turning backyards into hurried vegetable patches as the coronavirus pandemic continues to bite.

While supermarkets urge shoppers to keep calm and carry on shopping as normal, New Zealanders desperate to grow their own food and become more self-sufficient are binge-buying vege plants, seedlings and seeds.

Mitre 10's New Lynn garden centre today. Photo / Supplied
Mitre 10's New Lynn garden centre today. Photo / Supplied

The spikes in edible plant sales started around a week ago, according to Mitre 10.

The national hardware giant's New Lynn store was swamped today.


Mitre 10's general manager of merchandise Chris Fisher said they've seen huge jumps in sales of grow-your-own garden products including fresh seasonal vegetable seedlings cell packs, pack of vege, herbs, citrus plants, berry fruits and planters.

"With more people staying at home, working from home or needing to self-isolate, gardening is an excellent activity that integrates nature into our lives helping participants to love where they live and enjoy the benefits of active gardening," Fisher said.

It's the same story at Bunnings.

Director Jacqui Coombes thinks Kiwis working from home or with time on their hands due to cancelled events, are noticing jobs to be done around home.

Big Jim's Garden Centre near New Plymouth and Waitara has been "bedlam" since the start of the week, manager Chantel Bell says.

"We've seen an extreme increase in sales of vege plants and seeds, especially Friday and Saturday," she says.

Customers are a mix of novice growers and experienced green-fingered gardeners. Some already have things growing are planting a second round.

Coronavirus is causing Kiwis to think about growing their own food.
Coronavirus is causing Kiwis to think about growing their own food.

They're after plants and seeds: lettuce, celery, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, silverbeet. Blueberries, feijoas and long-term citrus fruits are also popular.


Bell says many plants can be grown in planters, tubs, or even inside on windowsills and still be enough to feed a family.

"They don't necessarily need to dig up the back lawn."

The increased demand has put pressure on the total supply chain for seedlings and plants, Mitre 10 says.

Seedlings have to be grown and while suppliers have ramped up production, Mitre 10's Fisher reminds customers that "nature still requires time for crops to grow".

He foresees the supply of certain seedlings to remain tight for the next 2-3 weeks before increased production of seedlings becomes available.

On Thursday, New Zealand's supermarkets put competition aside to publish full-page advertisements urging Kiwis to keep calm in the face of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today also told people to "shop normally".

"It's important to note that with every level, supermarkets and essential services - like access to pharmaceuticals - will continue," she said.

"Shop normally. If we do that, our supermarkets will have time to restock their shelves." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Growers and packhouses are working round the clock to provide supermarkets with the fresh produce that is in demand, Horticulture New Zealand said today.

But chief executive Mike Chapman said the industry had anticipated tighter public controls.

"It has been reviewing its operations and gearing up for several weeks."

Dig for Victory

During World War II, the government ran a Dig for Victory campaign where any spare patch of land was converted for horticulture.

Christchurch's Lancaster Park sports ground was even turned into a giant potato patch in 1915 during World War I.