Mayor Rhodes-Conway's Statement Regarding Community Gardens and COVID-19
Spring is here, and with it time for planting. Though our priority as a community is our response to COVID – 19, vegetable gardening, both on private land or in community gardens, can be a healthy outdoor activity and is a necessary source of food for many gardeners. As food production spaces, community gardening is an allowed outdoor activity under Governor Evers ‘Safer at Home’ Order (FAQ HERE) and gardens will remain open. As places that many different people use, community gardens are putting measures into place to protect gardeners’ safety.
Community garden organizers should cancel all events and workdays and make other arrangements for essential garden tasks. A new essential task will be ensuring there is a supply of hand-and-tool washing soap at each garden. Commonly-touched surfaces such as tool shed doors, water spigots, and gates should regularly be sanitized. Water will be turned on as soon as possible to allow for this cleaning, but until then, common tools should be locked up to avoid being a source of coronavirus transmission. Items that cannot be easily cleaned, such as hoses, should be locked up permanently.
A final message for organizers: community gardens are important but like many other things, they will be more difficult this year.
Be understanding with other gardeners and yourselves. There may be more empty plots than normal this year, as people avoid the garden due to sickness or the fear of it. There may be a large number of new gardeners, as high unemployment and food insecurity make gardening more attractive. Many municipal services that community gardens rely on will be done differently.
Your gardens will look different than they have in previous years, but safely keeping a community garden open in a time of crisis and uncertainty is an important community service. If you are interested in beginning a garden, the Gardens Network, a collaboration of the City of Madison, UW-Madison Extension Dane County, and Rooted provides support to new and existing gardeners. The Gardens Network website contains a list of gardens in the Madison area – there are over 40 acres of community gardens in Dane County, many with plots still available. Now is the time to sign up for an individual garden plot. On the website you can also find general gardening advice and more detailed safety recommendations for organizers and gardeners. Rooted is working with Public Health Madison & Dane County and other partners to ensure gardens are adequately prepared to carry out these recommendations.
For both new and experienced gardeners, do not go to community gardens or other park spaces if you feel sick – physically isolate yourself until you can be tested or until you have had 3 days without symptoms and at least 7 days since you first had symptoms.
Even without symptoms, you and other gardeners can be infectious. When gardening, continue to practice physical distancing, keep 6 feet away from people you do not live with, and consider wearing a cloth face covering. If possible, bring and use only your own tools. If using common tools, wash them - handle and all - with soap and water before and after using them, and remember to avoid touching your face while gardening. Rinse your vegetables in water and wash your hands after returning home. Remember that these guidelines keep you and others safe. Ignoring these guidelines could endanger your fellow gardeners. Done safely, however, gardening can be a way to practice physical distancing while building community and providing food for your family.
The Gardens Network is a partnership between the City of Madison, UW-Madison Extension Dane County, and Rooted. The network reaches beyond the core partners to include an array of organizations, garden leaders, municipalities, initiatives, funders, and programs working on community food issues in Dane County.