Growing vegetables in allotments, community gardens

This Version Posted: May 4, 2020

Health Unit Offers Guidance for Community Gardens to Operate During COVID-19

Community gardens in the tri-county area are being allowed to put down roots this growing season, so long as they take proper precautions against COVID-19.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has released guidelines for how community gardens can safely open and operate in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes this coming year. This follows the Ontario government’s recent decision to declare community gardens as an essential service during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Community gardens are truly an essential service in allowing many local residents to grow, access and enjoy fresh food,” says Dharminder Kaler, a Public Health Inspector with the HKPR District Health Unit. “During COVID-19, it’s important that we support the good work of community garden organizers and members by ensuring they have direction to protect people’s health and reduce the spread of illness.”

Community garden organizers are required to notify the Health Unit of their intention to operate this growing season and confirm they are following all guidelines. They can do so by emailing inspections@hkpr.on.ca or calling 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.

The public health guidelines for community gardens are available online and include:

  • Preventing members of the general public from using the garden. Access is only allowed for community garden members.
  • Prohibiting anyone from entering the garden if they are sick with COVID-19 symptoms. Instead, they must stay home and complete Ontario’s online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to see what additional care is needed.
  • Limiting the number of people in a community garden to a maximum of five individuals at any one time. Gardeners must also maintain physical distance of two metres (six feet) from others.
  • Using a sign-in and sign-out system to track who is gardening each day at the site
  • Posting signs around the community garden promoting hand washing, physical distancing and other prevention measures.
  • Providing hand washing or hand sanitizer stations for gardeners
  • Directing members to bring and use their own garden tools as much as possible. Instructions on the proper cleaning of shared gardening tools is also being provided.

Kaler says the Health Unit wants to educate and work with community garden organizers to ensure the health of gardeners and the broader community is protected by reducing the risk of COVID-19. “We’re all in this together, so we encourage community gardens to put health and safety first as they go about their growing season,” he adds.