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Community gardens

Community gardens can take measures to operate safely during COVID-19. 

Last updated: September 11, 2020 at 12:30 PM

Community Users

Community gardens are important to ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food and to promoting positive mental health for many people in the community. Community gardens also offer important opportunities for students to learn about agriculture and food production. Community gardens may continue to operate with some adaptions in placeto reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in these settings.

Basic Precautions

All community garden users should practice basic precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including maintaining physical distance from others, regular and diligent handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting frequently, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and staying home if sick. 

Each community garden is expected to have a garden access plan outlining how infection prevention and control measures will be implemented. The Community Garden Coordinator is responsible for developing and communicating the information included in the garden access plan to garden users. A copy of the garden access plan should be posted on site for reference as needed.

Infection Prevention and Control Measures

Garden access plans should include three sections that address (1) access and use; (2) physical distancing; and (3) enhanced hygiene.

Access and Use

Gardens are to be used by registered garden members and official staff/volunteers only. Visitors should not be allowed at this time, including members of the public. Proxies may be used if people are temporarily unable to tend to their plot (e.g., due to self-isolation) given they are aware of the garden access plan and understand the necessary protocols.

Gardens must not be visited or used by people who are sick OR travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days OR were identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or outbreak. 

Garden users who are sick, including but not limited to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, should be advised to stay home. Garden users can check their symptoms using the BC COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool. The BCCDC has more information on symptoms and self-isolation.

In-person educational programs may only be provided if measures detailed in this document can be maintained. Consider online educational training as an alternative. If a small group of people needs to gather to support a project, ensure the measures detailed in this document can be maintained throughout the project.

Physical Distancing

Garden users should maintain at least 2 metres of physical distance from other users. Particular care and attention should be focussed on high traffic areas such as sheds and water fixtures. 

Garden users should be aware of any modifications made to the garden environment such as measures to direct traffic in one direction (e.g., markings on the ground, ropes, barriers, or other markers such as designated entries and exits).

If garden plots are close together (less than 2 metres) or physical distancing is difficult to maintain, the Community Garden Coordinator should develop a garden access schedule that clearly states when users can access the garden (i.e., which days of the week and time of day).

Garden users should limit family groups to ideally 1-2 people per household at a time and maintain at least 2 metres of physical distance from other garden users.

Enhanced Hygiene

Anyone using the garden should wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand rub before entering and upon leaving the garden. Follow guidance on how to wash hands and use alcohol-based hand rubs properly.

Community garden users should cough or sneeze into their elbow sleeve or a tissue. They should then throw away used tissues and immediately perform hand hygiene.

Garden users should bring their own tools to avoid sharing whenever possible and ensure they are taken home after each use. If communal tools are used, they should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily. Disinfecting wipes or a disinfecting solution may be used.

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed or scrubbed under cold, running, potable tap water prior to being eaten or shared. 

Additional information on cleaning and disinfecting is available from the BCCDC.


Community Coordinators

Community gardens are important to ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food and to promoting positive mental health for many people in the community. Community Garden Coordinators play an important role in helping to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in these settings and to ensure a healthy environment for community garden members, students, and volunteers. Community gardens may continue to operate with some adaptions.

Basic Precautions

All community garden operators should practice and encourage basic precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including maintaining physical distance from others, regular and diligent handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting frequently, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and staying home if sick. 

Each community garden is expected to have a garden access plan outlining how infection prevention and control measures will be implemented.
Check with your local government. They may have a standard garden access plan for all community gardens to use. If a standard plan is not in place, work with members of your community garden to develop an access plan.

Community Garden Coordinators are responsible for communicating the garden access plan to all garden users. A copy of the garden access plan should be posted on site for reference as needed.

Infection prevention and control measures

Garden access plans should include three sections that address (1) access and use; (2) physical distancing; and (3) enhanced hygiene.

Access and Use

Gardens are to be used by registered garden members and official staff/volunteers only. Visitors should not be allowed at this time, including members of the public. Post signage advising visitors to not enter the community garden area. Proxies may be used if people are temporarily unable to tend to their plot (e.g., due to self-isolation) given they are aware of the garden access plan and understand the necessary protocols.

Gardens must not be visited or used by people who are sick OR who have travelled outside Canada in the last 14 days OR were identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or outbreak. Post signage at the entrance to the garden notifying users not to enter if they are sick or meet any of these restrictions. 

Garden users who are sick, including but not limited to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, should be advised to stay home. Garden users can check their symptoms using the BC COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool. The BCCDC has more information on symptoms and self-isolation.

Post signage at the garden entrance to promote what COVID-19 prevention measures should be practiced. 

In-person educational programs may only be provided if measures detailed in this document can be maintained. Consider online educational training as an alternative. If a small group of people needs to gather to support a project, ensure the measures detailed in this document can be maintained throughout the project.

Physical Distancing

Modify the garden environment to ensure garden users can practice physical distancing (i.e., maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres between people). Consider high traffic areas (e.g., sheds and water fixtures) and post signs as reminders for physical distancing. 

Direct traffic in one direction through the garden with the use of chalk or tape markings on the ground, ropes, barriers or other markers as required. For example, if there are two exits, consider designating one for entry and the other for exit. 

If garden plots are close together (less than 2 metres) or physical distancing is difficult to maintain, assign a garden access schedule to garden users identifying when they can access the garden (i.e., which days of the week and time of day). Do not schedule two people to be working on plots next to each other at the same time unless they live in the same household. 

Advise garden users to limit family groups to ideally 1-2 people per household at a time. Advise parents/caregivers they are responsible for ensuring their children maintain at least 2 metres of physical distance from other garden users.

Enhanced Hygiene

Provide a handwashing station and/or access to an alcohol-based hand rub at the entrance to the garden. Anyone using the garden should wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand rub before entering and upon leaving the garden. Post information on how to wash hands and use alcohol-based hand rubs properly by the handwashing station.

Community garden users should cough or sneeze into their elbow sleeve or a tissue. They should then throw away used tissues and immediately perform hand hygiene.

Ask garden users to bring their own tools to avoid sharing (whenever possible) and ensure they are taken home after each use. If communal tools are used, they should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily. Disinfecting wipes or a disinfecting solution may be used.

Identify common touchpoints/surfaces such as water spigots, doorknobs, railings, and consider ways to reduce contact or determine a plan for them to be cleaned and disinfected more frequently (e.g., at least twice daily).

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed or scrubbed under cold, running, potable tap water prior to being eaten. 

Additional information on cleaning and disinfecting is available from the BCCDC.

Guidance for community gardens in school settings

Work with the school district or independent school authority to determine the facility access that may be needed (e.g., water supply and tool shed access). Follow all infection prevention and control measures outlined by the school district or independent school authority.

If a school garden is not currently being maintained, garden coordinators can work with the school district/independent school authority to find community organizations or groups that may be interested in managing the school garden until the school can use it again.

Sharing produce in community gardens

Develop a plan to prevent COVID-19 transmission if any seeds, seedlings, or harvested food is being delivered to others. Where possible, arrange for contactless deliveries. Persons involved in deliveries should practice physical distancing, hand washing/use of alcohol-based hand rub, and cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow. 

Consider ways to provide new garden space to people who may be facing barriers to food access whenever possible. This could include: 
  • Maintaining a separate waiting list for people facing barriers to food access;
  • Connecting with gardeners not using their plot this year to ask if it may be reallocated to someone on the waiting list for the season;
  • Coordinating donations of food grown to community food programs;
  • Donating food grown in open plots to community food programs; 
  • Sharing food grown with garden members who are not able to garden this season due to illness or need to self-isolate; and
  • Opening school gardens not currently being used as part of school programming to provide additional garden space for the community.

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