Community Gardens and Community Health

— Written By and last updated by

Both Governor Cooper’s Stay at Home Order and public health officials encourage us to practice social distancing. This does not mean that we have to be socially isolated. In this time of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19), community gardens have a role to play in our individual and community health. Amidst everything else that is going on, I am grateful that we have spaces to garden together in Guilford County! Community gardens are open, and continue to be places to grow healthy food for ourselves and neighbors, places to exercise, and places to get outside and enjoy the signs of changing seasons.

Agriculture and food production are essential activities that are allowed under the Stay at Home Order. Because of this, activities that support growing food in community gardens and urban agriculture are essential activities. However, proper safety precautions must be taken. Below are resources to support you in continuing growing in a community garden — specifically about food safety considerations, sanitation practices, and ways to continue to communicate and engage with other gardeners. 

If you have any questions, or would like to reach out, please contact me!

Quina Weber-Shirk, 
Community & School Garden Extension Agent
jjwebers@ncsu.edu or (336)525-6112 (work cell)

COVID-19 and Food Safety Resources

COVID-19 FAQ for Community Gardens (from NC State Extension)

This is a resource of steps that community garden managers and gardeners can follow in response to COVID-19. This includes: Best Practices, Communication, Cleaning & Disinfection, The Good News, Plan Ahead, Stay Engaged.

Community Garden Guidelines During the COVID-19 Pandemic (from NC A&T State University Extension). This is another good resource that includes supplies and safety procedures that are recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

A list of general COVID-19 Resources has been put together by food safety specialists from NC State Extension; and another great list of COVID-19 Resources for the Public by specialists at NC A&T State University Extension.

A Handbook for Beginning and Veteran Garden Organizers: How to Reduce Food Safety Risks (from NC State Extension). Key sections for existing gardens include handwashing and sanitation and tools. 

Consider posting a notice at your community garden with best practices. This is the one for Mixed Greens Community Garden — feel free to make a copy and adapt it for your garden.

Resources and information for beginning gardeners

If you would like to join a community garden in Guilford County, contact me, Quina Weber-Shirk, Community & School Garden Extension Agent at jjwebers@ncsu.edu or (336)525-6112. I will connect you with a community garden!

Vegetable Gardening 101 resources are available from NC State Extension on the Community Gardening webpage — including planting calendars. 

Share short how-to videos from the Homegrown: In the Garden video series from NC State Cooperative Extension. These 3-5 minute videos include how-to:

Watch and share past episodes of In the Garden with Bryce Lane — this show used to air on PBS UNC-TV. Topics in Season 9 include community gardens, sustainable agriculture, and vegetable gardening. 

The “SOW – A Planting Companion” app is designed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and North Carolina A&T State University Extension. This free app is both a planting calendar, and a garden record book. Simply choose your location and start planting. Click on the photo of a crop to see more information including estimated days to harvest, estimated yield per plant, spacing between plants, planting depth below ground level, suggested varieties, and special notes as needed.

Free Seeds for Community & School Gardens

There are cool and warm season vegetable seeds available for community and school gardens, as long as supplies last. Contact Community & School Garden Agent Quina Weber-Shirk to arrange pick-up or delivery details. 

Vegetable Transplants & Seeds (to buy)

You can buy vegetable transplants and seeds at many local nurseries, garden centers, and hardware stores. Please call ahead or check the website before visiting — some have changed their hours, are limiting the number of customers, or are asking all orders to be placed online or over the phone.