Coronavirus & community gardens
Throughout the Coronavirus crisis the Capital Growth team has been supporting its members and gardens to continue to grow food where possible, as well as gathering and providing latest updates and practical resources.
Last updated end February 2022
February 2022: with government restrictions being removed, what does this mean for community food growing spaces?
We're aware that with restrictions ending this may lead to confusion and concerns, particularly if your community food growing space involves people who are more vulnerable. The government sets out steps you may wish to take to reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. We would also advise that depending on the nature of your activities and people involved, you continue to incorporate some of the earlier measures in your risk assessments and volunteer protocol if this feels appropriate.
March 2021: What does the Roadmap out of Lockdown mean for community food growing spaces?
Please note that community gardens and growing spaces can continue running volunteer and gardening activities under current guidance (work and volunteer activities permitted outside the home when not possible to do from home) but please continue to apply covid-secure measures (staying at least 1 metre apart and wearing face coverings etc.)
In the meantime, the proposed steps in the roadmap that most impact growing spaces and activities are listed below:
- outdoor gatherings of 6 people (or 2 households) permitted after 29 March
- the 'stay at home' rule ends 29 March (although many restrictions remain)
- outdoor hospitality venues, public buildings and community centres can reopen on 12 April (along with non-essential retail)
- outdoor hospitality venues can serve outdoors (including garden cafes etc.)
- most legal restrictions on outdoor gatherings lifted on 17 May and events of up to 30 people permitted (plus large indoor events permitted in some cases e.g. sports)
- indoor gatherings permitted for up to 6 people (or 2 households)
- most other restrictions due to be lifted by 21 June
January 2021: What does the new lockdown mean for community food gardens? How can we support you?
We know that the current situation with the virus and news of the new lockdown is worrying and unsettling. We want to support the food growing community wherever we can so please get in touch if you have specific queries or concerns. In the meantime, we've digested the government guidance and listed below are the areas we feel most affect community gardening settings and activities:
- You can continue to work and/or volunteer outside of the home if not possible to do so from home and continue with covid-secure measures for your space/venue/garden.
- When around other people (not in your household or support bubble), stay 2 metres apart. When this is not possible stay 1 metre apart with extra precaution e.g. wear face covering.
- Public gardens can remain open (just not indoor parts of the sites) and are encouraged as spaces to meet for exercise (you can meet with one other person from outside your household/bubble for exercise).
- You can continue to meet in larger groups in a work or volunteering context (the government hasn't specified how many in a larger group).
- Garden centres and agricultural supplies shops remain open.
- Support groups can continue to run in person (with up to 15 participants) where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or other forms of support (could relate to community gardens, for example therapeutic gardening group).
- Remember 'Hands Face Space': Hands - Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. Face - Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult. Space - stay 2 metres apart from people or 1 metre with extra precautions e.g. wearing a face covering.
The second lockdown - what does it mean for community food gardens?
With the second lockdown starting on 5th November, we’re aware that many community food growers in London and beyond are wondering what this means for their gardens and allotments. We’ve digested the guidance in relation to community food growing and below are some key points which we hope are useful in helping you keep your garden open safely and confidently, keep volunteers coming and keep growing:
- Volunteering outside your home can continue but everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
- Support groups that are essential to deliver in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. For example, in a community garden context, this could include therapeutic gardening projects.
- Outdoor public places you can continue to visit include public gardens and allotments (you cannot meet in a private garden).
- Outdoor recreation and exercise is encouraged (visiting allotments is included in permitted exercise).
- Individuals can meet one person from outside their household in an outside public space (this could include a public garden).
- Clinically vulnerable people are advised not to leave the home to work or volunteer.
- Garden centres will remain open.
Sustain maintains, as we did in the first lockdown, that community food gardens are a necessity for many, playing a significant role in accessing fresh fruit and vegetables in local communities both in the short term, but also in the medium term (leaving gardens derelict would take months to turn around post lockdown). As well as the role gardens play in food production, they also provide opportunities for access to nature and green spaces for those that use them, contributing towards increased mental and physical health.
Rule of 6 - are gardens exempt?
This info about the rule of 6 was published in September
The recent 'rule of 6' has understandably caused community gardens to question their activities and feel anxious about whether they're doing the right thing. We hope the below helps to answer some of your questions and concerns and we will continue to update this page as things change.
- Gardens must continue to operate with covid-secure measures (advice and sample risk assessments available at the bottom of this page).
- Most gardens are exempt from the 'rule of 6' on account of the fact their activities fall under 'charitable purpose', 'work' or 'essential services'.This includes volunteers.
- If your garden is open to the public, visitors must comply with the 'rule of 6'.
Please note that all guidance continues to point towards outdoor activities being far safer than indoor activities. And in some cases (like in Scotland) the use of face coverings in gardens is strongly advised. Please contact us if you have any questions, concerns or comments about our Covid-19 advice for gardens.
Covid-19 Survey for Gardens
Our survey received over 100 responses. Read our news item or download our report to find out how community gardens are responding to the crisis.
Many of you told us you want to grow food this season and we think it's critical to keep our community gardens and allotments growing through the Covid-19 crisis, where safe to do so.
We are helping local networks and gardens to keep growing through the pandemic in the following ways:
- Online training
- Webinars to share experiences
- Community Harvest: a new project to grow food to share
Read on for
And check out our subpages in the menu on
- resources and materials
- other responses to Covid-19
Blog: Why it’s critical to keep our community gardens and allotments growing during Coronavirus
Our post-lockdown community food growing webinar on Wednesday 1 July, was organised by Sustainable Food Places and Sustain for Capital Growth and Good to Grow gardens.
The webinar covered strategies for re-opening gardens in a safe way and identified areas for support and widening participation.
Speakers included: Sustain, Social Farms and Gardens, Story Garden, Calthorpe Garden, Penrose Roots, Cordwainers Grow and Ageing Better.
Supporting community gardens during Covid-19
We know how important food growing can be for the wellbeing of people and whole communities. As the team at OrganicLea says: “Being outdoors is good for us all and for our overall health and wellbeing. Looking after our mental health is crucial at this time and many of us find that green spaces and nature connection supports us through difficult times such as these.”
Now more than ever it is critical to keep people and gardens growing as part of longer-term resilience and we know there has been a surge of interest in growing your own. We want to make sure people are doing it well, safely – and in a nature-friendly way!
Guidance for community gardens during Covid-19
We have teamed up with several community gardens (including Calthorpe and Story Garden) and used their policies to create documents you can download and adapt according to your setting:
Download Example Volunteer Protocol
Download Example Risk Assessment
Below are some general guidance points to use in your garden or project:
Access and travel
- Gardens should be accessible for members only rather than open to the public (this will be changing after new guidelines are announced after 4 July)
- Anyone considered medically vulnerable/subject to government.shielding advice should not visit the garden.
- Rotas or booking slots should be set up where there are a lot of members to limit the numbers of visitors into a garden at any one time.
- Growers are advised to travel to gardens by bike or foot and avoid public transport if possible (in the event of another peak, public transport should be avoided all together by garden users).
- Garden leaders should publicise maximum number of visitors on any communications and on external signage. This should include reference to government guidance on social distancing.
Social distancing and Sanitation
- At all times social distance (minimum 1m and 2m where possible) must be maintained between growers. Click here for guidance.
- Hand washing should be followed according to government guidance. Wash your hands when you arrive at the garden, wear gloves while working in the garden and ensure you only use your own gloves and take those home with you.
- Keep hand sanitiser available where possible and use before opening and closing any gate locks.
- Ensure any visitor to the site washes their hands before they engage in growing activities even if they are going to wear gloves.
- Growers should only use tools if wearing (own) gloves, otherwise no tools to be shared,
- Do not offer guest gloves to garden visitors or volunteers during this period.
- If children are onsite, ensure that they stay within its confines and do not run around on communal paths and spaces.
- We recommend that all communal facilities are closed. e.g tea making facilities.
- Click here for guidance if you do need to clean an area that has been visited by an infected person.
Notices for your garden
Kate Poland from the Union of Hackney Gardens has kindly shared her notices which you can adapt. One is targeted for users and the other for the wider community so they understand why you are still using the site.
Example notice to wider community
You may be thinking about approaching your local authority to ask them to support local food production (especially in the context of Covid-19). If you want more support around this, please get in touch with us and/or adapt the below template letter for use with your local authority.
- National Allotment Society response to Covid-19
- Social Farms and Gardens response to Covid-19
- Social Farms & Gardens insurance advice for community gardens and farms
- Landworker’s Alliance Coronavirus response and resources page.
Join our virtual training programme
Capital Growth are bringing you new online short sessions and longer training sessions.
Official information and guidance
We advise that you check the NHS and .Gov websites regularly for accurate and up-to-date information:
- UK government response
- Guidance for employers
- Support for people affected by COVID-19
- NHS pages
- NHS Volunteer Responders
Read more about Sustain’s Coronavirus Food Alert here: https://www.sustainweb.org/coronavirus/
Support our work
Your donation will help communities grow more food in gardens across London.
Capital Growth is a project of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.
New study shows biodiversity benefits from urban community gardens
Open call for Capital Growth’s London 2023 food growing training calendar now live!
Leading charity Garden Organic seeks new chair of trustees
Growing for Change: An urban food garden’s handbook for community, climate and nature
Council toolkit: Councils and food growing
Draft Briefing: The role of councils in Community Food Growing
Growing Connections: Guide to an inclusive and welcoming community garden
Food growing on prescription