Coronavirus update for community gardens

As the Coronavirus crisis dominates the national and global landscape, the Good to Grow team are reaching out to members projects and gardens to see how we can support as many of you as possible to continue to grow food.   

Last updated 5 January 2021

As the Coronavirus crisis dominates the national and global landscape, the Good to Grow team are reaching out to members projects and gardens to see how we can support as many of you as possible to continue to grow food.   

What does the new Jan 2021 lockdown mean for community food gardens? How can we support you?

We know that the current situation with the virus and news of the new lockdown is worrying and unsettling. We want to support the food growing community wherever we can so please get in touch if you have specific queries or concerns. In the meantime, we've digested the government guidance and listed below are the areas we feel most affect community gardening settings and activities. Please note, advice may slightly differ across the four nations:

  • You can continue to work and/or volunteer outside of the home if not possible to do so from home and continue with covid-secure measures for your space/venue/garden.
  • When around other people (not in your household or support bubble), stay 2 metres apart. When this is not possible stay 1 metre apart with extra precaution e.g. wear face covering.
  • Public gardens can remain open (just not indoor parts of the sites) and are encouraged as spaces to meet for exercise (you can meet with one other person from outside your household/bubble for exercise).
  • You can continue to meet in larger groups in a work or volunteering context (the government hasn't specified how many in a larger group).
  • Garden centres and agricultural supplies shops remain open.
  • Support groups can continue to run in person (with up to 15 participants) where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or other forms of support (could relate to community gardens, for example therapeutic gardening group).
  • Remember 'Hands Face Space': Hands - Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Face - Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult. Space - stay 2 metres apart from people or 1 metre with extra precautions e.g. wearing a face covering.

Update on our events 

Good to Grow Day 2021 will be going ahead!  We will be in touch with more information, but please keep- 23-26 April free in your calendar for a weekend of community growing celebration

November lockdown - what does it mean for community food gardens?

With the second lockdown starting on 5th November, we’re aware that many community food growers in London and beyond are wondering what this means for their gardens and allotments. We’ve digested the guidance in relation to community food growing and below are some key points which we hope are useful in helping you keep your garden open safely and confidently, keep volunteers coming and keep growing:

  • Volunteering outside your home can continue but everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
  • Support groups that are essential to deliver in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. For example, in a community garden context, this could include therapeutic gardening projects.
  • Outdoor public places you can continue to visit include public gardens and allotments (you cannot meet in a private garden).
  • Outdoor recreation and exercise is encouraged (visiting allotments is included in permitted exercise).
  • Individuals can meet one person from outside their household in an outside public space (this could include a public garden).
  • Clinically vulnerable people are advised not to leave the home to work or volunteer.
  • Garden centres will remain open.

Sustain maintains, as we did in the first lockdown, that community food gardens are a necessity for many, playing a significant role in accessing fresh fruit and vegetables in local communities both in the short term, but also in the medium term (leaving gardens derelict would take months to turn around post lockdown).  As well as the role gardens play in food production, they also provide opportunities for access to nature and green spaces for those that use them, contributing towards increased mental and physical health.

Rule of 6 - are gardens exempt?

This info about the rule of 6 was published in September

The recent 'rule of 6' has understandably caused community gardens to question their activities and feel anxious about whether they're doing the right thing. We hope the below helps to answer some of your questions and concerns and we will continue to update this page as things change.

  • Gardens must continue to operate with covid-secure measures (advice and sample risk assessments available at the bottom of this page).
  • Most gardens are exempt from the 'rule of 6' on account of the fact their activities fall under 'charitable purpose', 'work' or 'essential services'.This includes volunteers.
  • If your garden is open to the public, visitors must comply with the 'rule of 6'. 

Please note that all guidance continues to point towards outdoor activities being far safer than indoor activities. And in some cases (like in Scotland) the use of face coverings in gardens is strongly advised. Please contact us if you have any questions, concerns or comments about our Covid-19 advice for gardens.

 

Check out our news item and blog on why it is critical to keep our community gardens and allotments growing through the Covid-19 crisis.  

BLOG: Why it’s critical to keep our community gardens and allotments growing during Coronavirus

WEBINAR RECORDING: Community food growing during Covid-19

You can also read our news item: Community Gardens keep growing during Coronavirus which summarises finding from our Covid-19 response survey.

Read more about Sustain’s Coronavirus Food Alert here.

Supporting community gardens during Covid-19 

We know the health and wellbeing benefits that community food growing brings and how important our gardens are for the people that use them.  

As the team at OrganicLea says “Being outdoors is good for us all and for our overall health and wellbeing.  Looking after our mental health is crucial at this time and many of us find that green spaces and nature connection supports us through difficult times such as these.”   

Now more than ever it is critical to keep people and gardens growing as part of longer-term resilience and we know there has been a surge of interest in growing your own.  We want to make sure people are doing it well, safely – and in a nature friendly way! 

Guidance for community gardens during Covid-19 

We have teamed up with several community gardens (including Calthorpe and Story Garden) and used their policies to create documents you can download and adapt according to your setting:

Download Examply Volunteer Protocol

Download Example Risk Assesment

Access and travel

  • Gardens should be accessible for members only rather than open to the public. 
  • Anyone considered medically vulnerable/ subject to government shielding advice should not visit the garden.
  • Rotas should be set up where there are a lot of members to limit the numbers of visitors into a garden at any one time. 
  • During Covid-19 outbreak growers must travel to gardens by bike or foot.  At no time should public transport be used. 
  • Garden leaders should publicise maximum numbers of visitors on any communications and on external signage. This should include reference to government guidance on social distancing. 

Social distancing and Sanitation

  • At all times social distance (minimum 2m) must be maintained between growers. Click here for guidance
  • Hand washing should be followed according to government guidance. Wash your hands when you arrive at the garden, wear gloves while working in the garden and ensure you only use your own gloves and take those home with you.  
  • Keep hand sanitiser available where possible and use before opening and closing any gate locks. 
  • Ensure any visitor to the site washes their hands before they engage in growing activities even if they are going to wear gloves.  
  • Growers should only use tools if wearing (own) gloves, otherwise no tools to be shared,  
  • Do not offer guest gloves to garden visitors or volunteers during this period. 
  • If children are onsite, ensure that they stay within its confines and do not run around on communal paths and spaces. 
  • We recommend that all communal facilities are closed.  e.g tea making facilities. 
  • Click here for guidance if you do need to clean an area that has been visited by an infected person. 

Notices for your garden

Kate Poland from the Union of Hackney Gardens has kindly shared her notices which you can adapt.  One is targeted for users and the other for the wider community so they understand why you are still using the site.

Example notice to users

Example notice to wider community

Council Support

You may be thinking about approaching your local authority to ask them to support local food production (especially in the context of Covid-19). If you want more support around this, please get in touch with us and/or adapt the below template letter for use with your local authority.

Example Council Support

Other guidance 

Join Capital Growth virtual training programme 

Capital Growth are bringing you new online short sessions and longer training sessions

Go to training page

Grow-your-own advice 

With many people stuck at home we are looking to compile useful advice on growing your own food.  If you come across any that you don't see on here, let us know by emailing capitalgrowth@sustainweb.org 

School/at home resources for children

  • Capital Growth log on to the dashboard for school resources, or you can find some activities and ideas on our website
  • Garden Organic has practical advice and activities for all ages on how to start and maintain an organic food growing garden on their school resources page
  • Trees for Cities  has a selection of curriculum guides, lesson plans and a range of other resources to support you to teach through food growing.
  • The RHS has activities, projects, lesson plans & other resources suited to your educational needs.
  • The Orchard Project have some homeschooling resources available: Primary School Lesson Plans and Activities

Garden equipment and materials

This is updated as frequently as we can.  If you know of anywhere else that has seeds or soil available please let us know by contacting capitalgrowth@sustainweb.org 

Seeds 

Seed saving resources

If you can’t access any but would like to start to save your own seed look here...

 

Compost/Soil 

Other 

Other responses to Covid-19 

We have been collecting stories and information on food growing that are relevant to Coronavirus. Please check them out here and do share any you have with ren@sustainweb.org

Good to Grow/Sustain take no responsibility for the content of any external websites or articles and only want to signpost growers to the places where you might find the resources you need.

We do recommend that you try to buy from your local or independent garden centres/businesses where possible, and to buy seed with minimal intervention, and peat-free soil and compost. 

Official information and guidance 

We advise that you check the NHS and .Gov websites regularly for accurate and up-to-date information: 

Read more about Sustain’s Coronavirus Food Alert here: https://www.sustainweb.org/coronavirus/