Gardeners turn to ‘grow your own’ in face of coronavirus

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Gardeners are flocking to find advice on growing their own fruit and vegetables in the light of the coronavirus crisis, horticultural experts have said.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said it had seen a spike in visits to its online advice pages on how to grow your own vegetables, fruit and edible plants.

Stockists have also seen a boost in sales of vegetable seeds, seed potatoes and herbs, as well as other plants and gardening equipment.

It comes as people are being urged to stay at home except for essential work and travel, and panic-buying has cleared supermarket shelves of fresh food.

The RHS said views of web pages with advice on “grow your own” and growing vegetables in particular have more than doubled this week compared with the same time last year.

There has been a particular interest in potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and courgettes, and levels of people checking out what they need to do this month, in March, to grow their own has quadrupled compared with last year.

The RHS has had to cancel the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show, which was due to take place in late May, because of the Covid-19 outbreak, and is currently looking at ways of holding a “virtual show” online.

In an open letter on the RHS website, director general Sue Biggs said it was clear “how many feel they need gardening in their life now more than ever before for their mental and physical wellbeing during this national emergency.

“This applies to everyone from those who are having to self-isolate to families planning, maybe for the first time, to grow their own food.”

There has been a particular interest in growing potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and courgettes (PA)

The RHS has also had to close its gardens around the country.

Before it closed, RHS Wisley, in Surrey, had seen purchases of fruit and berry plants increase significantly, while sales in herb and vegetable plants doubled.

Chris Smith at Pennard Plants, which specialise in heritage and heirloom seeds, edible plants and fruit, said: “We’ve seen a huge increase in people wanting to grow their own food as they’ve begun to worry about food shortages.

“We’re approximately 40% up in sales at the minute and it’s not stopping.

“Where we’d usually see seasonal ranges slow down, we’re still sending hundreds of parcels. In particular, seed potatoes and vegetable seeds are doing well, as well as fruit and herbs.

“People seem to be looking for things they can grow to pack extra flavour to make their food more interesting. We’ll be continuing to dispatch orders as long as the delivery services are still operating.”