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Community gardens keep growing through Coronavirus

Following a survey to over 110 gardens by Capital Growth and Good to Grow networks at Sustain, the majority of community gardens reported they are continuing to grow food during this critical time, where safe to do so. 

Credit: Lizzy Mace at Cranbrook Community Food Garden

Credit: Lizzy Mace at Cranbrook Community Food Garden

The survey, complied for community gardens and city farms to assess their responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, received 113 responses in just over a week with most respondents from community gardens in London (70%) but many others from across the UK covering Aberdeen, Exeter, Preston and Gortin, N. Ireland.

‘More than ever, gardening can provide relief, and improve health and wellbeing’.

While some gardens had taken the difficult decision to close completely to vulnerable users, almost 70% of all gardens surveyed said they will continue to grow food this season.  As many are closed only to volunteers and visitors, allowing only staff or key members and volunteers access, a fifth thought they would grow much less than usual, but equally others were hoping to grow more. 

Asked what measures had been put in place to mitigate the potential of getting or passing on the Covid-19 virus, gardens showed they had implemented a range of measures to ensure safety is paramount. This included reduced access to 1 or 2 at a time, tools, equipment and frequently touched surfaces cleaned regularly, increased hand washing, assigned individual tools, gloves and no refreshments or communal areas (See our guidance for gardens here).

Feedback from gardens also showed concerns of the effect on the physical and mental health of volunteers and staff, as a result of social isolation due to reduced access to the gardens and nature, coupled with general uncertainty about the future.  There were also issues for some on access to resources such as seeds and soil, and finding ways to keep connected to other growers and volunteers who might be struggling with social distancing and self-isolation. 

Other concerns most gardens reported were around gardens suffering medium to long term if volunteers or staff can’t maintain, as well as the impact of this on volunteers’ well-being and garden production.  Other gardens were worried about funding streams that depend on users such as social or therapeutic gardening sessions or training income. One respondent commented ‘Our income stream is now zero (normally selling food and events), so need definite economic support to meet our running costs’.

Sustain’s food growing teams will be picking up these concerns with local networks who can help with signposting and information sharing, as well as local councils to ensure those maintaining gardens and supporting others to grow at home are recognized for the essential

National Charity, Social Farms and Gardens, are also lobbying funders and have sent a letter to government requesting confirmation that social enterprises will be given at least the equivalent financial support of similar for-profit small businesses through the small business grant fund.  

Capital Growth and Good to Grow are currently planning a series of online sessions, Q&A and longer training as well as forums to support local groups and networks. The first session takes place on Wednesday 22nd April on Building and caring for your wormery: recycle your kitchen waste and feed your garden and more info can be found on our Event page.  

Download the full report here.  

Published Monday 20 April 2020

Capital Growth: We believe everyone should have the opportunity to grow food as part of a healthy, resilient food system and we are working with our network of growers in London to make this happen.

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