BUSY BUSINESS: Geoff Askin from Avondale Gradens Gracemere Nursery has been flat out trying to keep up with strong demand for food seedlings since the COVID-19 pandemic escalated.
BUSY BUSINESS: Geoff Askin from Avondale Gradens Gracemere Nursery has been flat out trying to keep up with strong demand for food seedlings since the COVID-19 pandemic escalated.

Strong demand for seedlings in CQ

EVERY 10 to 15 minutes the phone rings again at Gracemere's Avondale Gardens nursery with another customer anxiously asking Geoff Askin whether they had any seedlings left.

Fortunately for CQ locals, the nursury's co-owners Jeff and his wife Deb have managed to keep a supply of seedlings on their shelves to cater to the explosion of interest in gardening since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've had people call from as far away as Biloela, Jambin, and several from Emerald looking for seedlings and wanting us to keep seedlings for them. It's been an amazing," Mr Askin said.

Customers were focused on acquiring "the basic" varieties fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage.

He said demand for their food producing seedlings started to spike about a month ago with people fearful about the security of the food supply latched onto the idea of growing their own food in much the same way that they had taken to hoarding toilet paper.

"There's nothing in the supermarkets to suggest there's not going to be fresh food, there seems to be plenty so I don't know why people are panicking so much and are wanting to buy seedlings. It's unusual," Mr Askin said.

"I think it's the fact that people are home for a couple of weeks, they've got their kids home, and it probably gives them something to do - something to focus on."

STRONG DEMAND: Seedlings like the ones recently restocked in Avondale Gardens Gracemere Nursery are as valuable as good according to nursury co-owner Geoff Askin.
STRONG DEMAND: Seedlings like the ones recently restocked in Avondale Gardens Gracemere Nursery are as valuable as good according to nursury co-owner Geoff Askin.

Although conditions are currently ideal for growing seedlings, it takes months for them to produce a harvest.

"That's what's really surprising us whether they're inexperienced growers doing it for the first time and they think they'll have produce to eat in a short amount of time," he said.

This was coming at a cost to those living on the land who hadn't been able to source sufficient stock.

On Wednesday, he said they had three fully stocked racks of food seedlings and by midday yesterday it was down to 20 per cent, and he suspected they would be gone by the end of the day. Fortunately, another resupply truck was due to arrive today.

BUSY BUSINESS: Geoff Askin from Avondale Gradens Gracemere Nursery expects no seedlings to be left on the shelf at the close of business today.
BUSY BUSINESS: Geoff Askin from Avondale Gradens Gracemere Nursery expects no seedlings to be left on the shelf at the close of business today.

In addition to the rush on seedlings, he said there was a strong demand for potting mix and seeds, placing a strain on the seed supplies of his seedling suppliers.

"We do have a local supplier that grows a little bit of stuff for us but they've scaled back their operation so we've had to source all our stuff out of Brisbane which is from Pohlmans at Gatton and also Zoom nurserys in Brisbane.

When The Morning Bulletin visited Bunnings, both the food seed and food seedling aisles were stripped bare.

Bunnings National Greenlife Buyer Alex Newman said they had seen an increase in popularity of seedlings and were working with their suppliers to increase supply and replenish our seedling stocks, as soon as they become available. They were still getting regular weekly deliveries of seedlings and customers were encouraged to check in regularly.