VANCOUVER -- A Nanaimo company was offering a deal so good Saturday that it literally caused traffic jams.

Milner Group, a construction and disposal company that runs a recycling centre west of Nanaimo, decided to offer community residents two yards of "premium" soil for free as a way of encouraging people to stay home and take up gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We expected a decent turnout, but nothing like this," said Craig Cookman, the company's general manager, as workers tended to the long line of trucks seeking to pick up soil Saturday afternoon.

Cookman said vehicles had been lined up since he arrived at the facility on Biggs Road at 6 a.m. The soil offer didn't officially start until 7 a.m.

For some of the day, the line of vehicles stretched the entire length of Biggs Road - nearly three-and-a-half kilometres from B.C. Highway 19 to the recycling facility - Cookman said.

"We have had an absolutely overwhelming response to a little idea we had a couple weeks back to put something together to support our community," he said.

In addition to offering the soil for free for anyone who wanted it, the company offered to deliver it - also for free - to frontline health-care workers.

Cookman said the company received more than 1,000 orders from health-care workers and had 30 trucks dedicated to delivering the soil to them over the course of the week.

Crews at the site worked to fill pickup trucks and trailers full of soil, all while maintaining physical distance of at least two metres from each other. Drivers were asked to stay in their vehicles while picking up the product.

Cookman praised Milner Group's employees, who he said had been working "dawn 'til dusk" for the last week to produce enough soil for the offer.

"We think we have about 5,000 yards, and it looks like we're going to probably go close to going through it," he said.

The hope is that Saturday's event will help people kick-start their gardens for the year, Cookman said.

"We saw a demand out there from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for people to want to grow their own vegetables," he said.