Ottawa Public Health’s Recommendation for Community Gardens:
On April 25, 2020, allotment or community gardens were added to the list of essential services that can operate during the emergency measures set out for COVID-19. The amendment to O. Reg. 104/20 now requires that:
“Any person who uses allotment gardens or community gardens shall do so in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.”
Ottawa Public Health has the following recommendations to ensure the safe operation of community gardens in 2020. These recommendations have incorporated suggestions from the Ontario Ministry of Health on the safe use of community gardens. A copy of our recommendations can be found on OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus under Information for COVID-19 Resources for Community Partners and Service Providers.
Recommendations for Allotment and Community Garden Coordinators to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19
- Seek approval from garden landowner for permission to operate in 2020.
- Develop an operation plan specific to each garden that includes a section on infection prevention taking into account garden-specific factors such as the size of the gardens, the layout of the gardens, the proximity of plots to each other, the common areas and amenities on-site, and if there are special provisions or restrictions for gardeners at risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Limit the number of gardeners at each garden site to a number that will permit adequate physical distancing. Consider scheduling gardener access to prevent too many people being at the garden at one time.
- Permit access to gardeners for the purpose of planting, maintenance and harvesting food only.
- Do not plan or host events at the garden that bring people together to the site.
- Share the 2020 operational plan with Just Food Ottawa for feedback and approval prior to opening the garden. Landowners may also want to view a copy of this plan to provide feedback and approval.
- Send a copy of the final 2020 garden operational plan to all gardeners so they can assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and permit those who do not wish to follow the plan or garden this year to opt out of gardening this year. Electronic or verbal sharing of the plan may be the best way to share this plan and gain their understanding, especially if there are different language requirements.
- Update the list of current registered members, staff and volunteers, and track those who have agreed to participate under COVID-19 policies and protocols. This may assist with communication, close-contact tracing if required, etc.
- Post signage stating that only registered gardeners, staff and volunteers are permitted to use the garden plots. Include who to contact at the garden if there are questions or suggestions for improved operation or infection prevention.
- Provide resources to gardeners so they are aware of steps they need to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at their gardens including:
- how to safely share gardening materials and tools,
- how to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as hoses, door/gate handles, tools, etc., and
- if feasible, provide soap and water for cleaning and handwashing and an approved disinfectant for disinfection of commonly touched surfaces. If you are providing products have original labels and are stored properly to prevent spills and accidental poisonings.
- Post clear, visible signage at all garden entrances reminding registered members, staff and volunteers about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and where to seek assistance if they have symptoms (Ontario’s self-assessment tool, health care provider or Telehealth Ontario [1-866-797-0000]). Resources and posters are available online at Ottawa Public Health/Coronavirus in different languages that address topics such as handwashing, cough etiquette, and physical distancing.
- Place clear, visible signage throughout the garden — especially locations where shared equipment, tools, etc. are located — reminding registered members, staff and volunteers of the requirements that must be followed when using the garden to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Recommendations for Gardeners at Community Gardens to prevent the spread of COVID-19
The risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus in outdoor settings like community gardens is lower than indoors — this includes the risk of human-to-human spread and from the risk from contaminated surfaces. Distancing is usually easier to maintain outdoors, there is more air circulation, and there is UV sunlight. In addition, we know that virus survives for less time on surfaces that are not smooth, and that UV light kills all SARS coronavirus in 60 minutes. For more general and updated information on COVID-19 visit our page.
Be aware that in addition to maintaining a minimum of 2-meter distance from all others, good hand hygiene is very important to protect yourself and others from infection both indoors and outdoors
- Conduct a COVID-19 health self-assessment each day before attending the garden to ensure you are not ill. Should self-assessments indicate they should self-isolate or seek medical advice, gardeners must not go to the garden until the issue is resolved.
- Practice good personal hygiene practices such as washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your arm, and not touching your face (mouth, nose, or eyes) unless you have washed your hands immediately before. Washed hands are the best protection against accidentally transferring virus to your mouth, nose or eyes where infection can get started. Wash hands as soon as possible before and after gardening at the site. If hands are visibly soiled, handwashing with soap and water is preferred, but hand sanitizer can be effective if dirt is removed from hands first.
- Use your own garden gloves and bring them home to wash with soap and clean water after each use. Always wash your hands thoroughly immediately after taking off your gloves.
- Practice physical distancing from others in the garden:
- stay at least 2 metres (6 feet) from others to limit the number of people you come in close contact with, except members of your household who are gardening.
- limit the number of gardeners at each plot. Allow only 1 or 2 gardeners per garden plot. Having more than 1 or 2 gardeners will make it more difficult to maintain at least 2 meters from all other people and would be unfair to other gardeners.
- Minimize the use of shared tools and consider cleaning and disinfecting tools that are shared. Not touching your face and washing hands after gardening are protective of infection spread from contaminated surfaces.
- The normal practice of wearing gardening gloves combined with not touching your face and washing hands after gardening are protective of infection spread from contaminated surfaces.
- Consider wearing a non-medical face mask when physical distancing is difficult, to protect others from the spread of droplets generated by breathing, talking, coughing, sneezing, etc.
- Wash your hands as soon as possible after touching commonly touched surfaces in the garden. Remember that you cannot rely on a surface being clean when you touch it – always wash your hands before touching any part of your face even if you think a surface you have touched is clean.
- Consider bringing soap and water and a disinfectant with you to clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces prior to use and ideally after touching them. Commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19. The following cleaning and disinfection recommendations aim to reduce the risks associated with surface transmission. Surfaces should first be cleaned with soap and water and then disinfected.
- Follow recommendations from Public Health Ontario on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings, consult Public Health Ontario’s fact sheet on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings, as well as read the specific label instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure products are properly prepared and applied; allowed adequate contact time for the disinfectant to kill germs; and that the person preparing and applying them is wearing gloves and any additional recommended personal protective equipment.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running tap water as per normal when preparing foods. Always wash your hands with soap and water before washing fruits and veggies and between handling different kinds of foods. Visit Ottawa Public Health’s Keeping foods safe (clean, cook, chill, separate) for more information.
For more information, visit: https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/professionals-and-partners/covid-19-resources.aspx