P.E.I.'s community gardens will run differently this summer amid new COVID-19 guidelines

Green thumbs across the province are pleased as community gardens will be permitted to go ahead with spring planting.

New health guidelines will allow for the essential growing of produce

Charlottetown's Legacy Garden will be operating under new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this summer, says Phil Ferraro, who runs the garden. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Community gardens will be permitted to go ahead with spring planting on P.E.I., but new rules will limit what they can grow to produce under public health's COVID-19 guidelines.

"Gardening and producing our own food is an essential service," said Karen Murchison, a member of the Desbrisay Organic Community Garden in Charlottetown. 

Murchison said the community garden she works in is "fairly compact" and will mean that gardeners will have to be mindful of when and how they enter and occupy the space. 

"We haven't quite figured out yet how we're going to manage that," she said. 

'A co-ordinated approach'

While there are only 22 gardeners who use the space, Murchison said it will still take a more "co-ordinated approach." 

"So for instance, half my gardeners will be able to go in on specified days and perhaps, the other half will go on other days."

"Sharing tools is another thing. We have a collection of tools that we keep for all gardeners use, so now we're going to set up a washing station or a sanitization station so we can continue to share those." 

The Desbrisay community garden will be used to grow produce this summer. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

But she said what will be missed the most under the new guidelines is connecting with others.

"The true value of this particular community garden is we are very, very socially connected, Murchison said.

"We work around all the other things but that's really difficult to work with." 

Anticipating possible increase in gardeners

The green light for community gardens was welcome news for Curtis Laybolt, who operates a Souris Lions Club community garden.

Laybolt said the garden typically operates with between 16 and 18 gardeners. 

"I haven't heard from all of my previous gardeners yet but I'm predicting that it's probably going to be at least that if not a waiting list," he said. 

They will most likely be all full by the time it gets around to planting season.— Phil Ferraro, Charlottetown Legacy Garden

Laybolt said he anticipates an increase in people interested in taking part in the community garden after being cooped up indoors for a prolonged period of time amid the pandemic. 

Before green thumbs can have access to the garden, Laybolt said there's still some preparation to be done such as making sure people bring their own tools in. 

While new protocols will have to be put in place, he said he hopes the garden will not have to give people specific times to use the space.

"If everybody tries to go in at once, it will have to come to that," he said. 

New rules

Phil Ferraro who runs the Legacy Garden in Charlottetown said the space is also experiencing "a tremendous increase in interest." 

"Our garden is already pretty big, the community garden is 160 plots. They will most likely be all full by the time it gets around to planting season." 

But fortunately, he said when it comes to managing the space and the number of people who will be using it will be a little easier as it covers a large area of land.

"A couple of weeks ago I put together a draft set of rules for safety and social distancing and sent that over to the health department," he said.

Public health made a few additions to that list and now the garden has put up signs posted on physical distancing. They've also, as recommended by health officials, locked the community tools shed as a precaution.

The garden will also have a washing station available and specified time slots for people to use the space.The main building will be off limits. 

Curtis Laybolt, who runs the Souris Lions Club Community Garden says he anticipates an increase in participation this year amid COVID-19. (Souris Lions Club/Facebook)

"People with even numbered plots can come on even numbered days and those with odd numbered plots can come on odd numbered days," he said. 

While the garden usually hosts events over the summer months, Ferraro said the community will have to adapt to the changed circumstances. 

The garden is also planning to be able to supply more food than it has in the past, he said. 

"A lot of people are out of work and there's going to be more pressure on the food bank and Salvation Army and Gifts from the Heart." 

"We generally give in excess of 20,000 pounds of food every year. We're hoping to be able to increase that, weather permitting." 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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