Tannum Garden Centre owner Paul Ford
Tannum Garden Centre owner Paul Ford

‘It lifts your spirit’: High demand at garden centres

No one knows how the world will change because of COVID-19, but a shift towards self-sufficiency is a fair bet - based on what's in demand at nurseries.

Paul Ford has been running Tannum Garden Centre for close to four decades and is selling food-producing plants as fast as he can get them.

"We get seedlings in every week, but it's probably only 10 per cent of what the demand is out there," Mr Ford said.

The reason is twofold - seed companies have introduced social distancing measures that have impacted production, and demand is up.

Customers want traditional plants such as tomatoes, lettuce, zucchinis, cucumbers and cabbage, as well as fruit trees.

"The emphasis is on growing your own food, trying to be a little more self-sufficient, ­because people have felt a bit vulnerable in recent weeks," Mr Ford said, highlighting the lack of stock on supermarket shelves.

His grandparents lived through both world wars, Spanish flu and the Great ­Depression.

"They were very focused on growing their own food," Mr Ford said.

"I think modern society has been exposed to some of its weaknesses when a crisis like this comes along."

Mr Ford makes a strong ­argument for keeping garden centres open during the COVID-19 crisis. They supply food in the form of plants, and Tannum Garden Centre also stocks local products such as honey.

"The other consideration is if people are in lockdown at home, this is one of the few activities they can engage in, so it's healthy for them both physically and mentally," he said.

"It lifts your spirit to be out there in the garden in the fresh air, in the sunshine and making something grow. It's very good for mental health."


Paul's tips for beginners

Keep it simple, don't be overly ambitious

Target one or two things you want to grow

Ask local garden centres for advice

Once you've been successful with a few veggie seedlings or herbs, confidence will grow.

If you only have a balcony space, start with popular cooking ingredients such as chillies, parsley, rosemary and basil.