Guidelines for Community Gardening During a Pandemic

photo: shelf with crate of sanitizing supplies

We are happy to report that the City of Philadelphia has determined that community gardens are allowed to function at this time because they provide essential opportunities to exercise and to produce food. However, our activities must be somewhat restricted. For the time being, we may not hold any “meetings, gatherings, workdays, social events, etc.,” at the garden. We are making plans to adapt our annual plant-sale fundraiser to a minimal-contact format with online sales; you’ll be hearing more about that (including appeals for volunteers) soon. We will also be adapting our maintenance schedule to allow for volunteer hours to be done in staggered shifts rather than at work days.

We want to be certain that we are doing our part to prevent the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. Emerging information suggests that people who carry the virus without experiencing symptoms may be far more numerous than previously reported, so it is more important than ever that we all behave as if we are carriers, even if we don’t feel sick. We will be observing guidelines that closely follow those suggested by the Centers for Disease Control, the City of Philadelphia, and the Neighborhood Gardens Trust. It is critical that all members of the garden follow these rules:

  • No more than eight people may be in the garden at one time. 
  • Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and any other member who is not a member of your household. On windy days, it is better to stay even further away.
  • Wear a mask to the garden. If possible, wear gloves. Do not share gloves. Please note: when you return to your home, remove your gloves and mask before entering your living space. After each outing, they should be washed or left on a porch, vestibule, or in a container near your door. Recent studies show that the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive on a porous surface for up to 24 hours and on a nonporous surface for up to three days. Items (like gloves) that have potentially been exposed to virus should be “quarantined” away from your living areas until enough time has passed to ensure that any virus is no longer active.
  • Bring your own tools if you have them.
  • Thoroughly wash produce that you harvest from the garden.
  • Wash tools from the shed with soap and water after use (see instructions below).
  • Disinfect locks and other surfaces when you leave (see instructions below).
  • If you become infected with covid-19, please let us know (email me at, or call or text (267) 225-8217). We can arrange to have someone tend your bed while you are ill, and we’d want to alert other members to monitor themselves for symptoms.

About Washing and Disinfecting

Our sink is currently out of order. We are working to repair it as soon as possible so that we have a proper handwashing facility. In the meantime, a hose can be used to wash hand tools before returning them to the shed.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Supplies

There is an orange milk crate with disinfecting supplies and soap on the shelves to the left of the tool-shed door (see picture above). It contains dish soap, hand sanitizer (not much, though!), paper towels, a spray bottle of bleach solution, and a backup jar of bleach solution. Under normal circumstances, bleach is not something we use in the garden, but it is very difficult to buy alcohol right now. If you have a good source or want to donate some, please let me know! We’ll also welcome donations of hand sanitizer, paper towels, and soap.

Instructions for Sanitizing Locks and Other Surfaces

When you are ready to leave the garden, take a paper towel from the crate of sanitizing supplies. Thoroughly saturate it with bleach solution from the spray bottle (be careful! It will bleach your clothes if you spray it on yourself). Rub the saturated towel(s) on all the common surfaces you have touched (like the lock and chain on the shed, the part of the hose you have touched, and the lock on the gate). Plastic bags for discarding towels will be hung at each gate.

We’ll be staying in touch and holding meetings electronically until the danger of infection with Covid-19 has passed. We look forward to meeting in real life when we can do it safely!