Our garden in viral times

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Hello fellow gardeners

I hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy! This is both – my heartfelt wish and a sentence that gained some gravity in recent days. These are uncertain times and as a community group and garden we need to address some serious questions. I’m sorry that this letter is a bit long and perhaps not very cheerful, but please take a moment to read it.

A challenging year

After a year of serious drought, a hot summer with water restrictions and severe bush fires, we are now confronted with a health threat that makes us vacillate between freak-out and denial. Who would have imagined the bizarre scenes at the shops? Long rows of empty shelves, nurseries not having one vegetable seedling or seed packet left to sell.

Watching news from overseas leaves no doubt: this is serious. The chief medical officer and the government recently announced the first measures to contain infections and we probably all feel that there is more to come and it will take us a while to get through this, individually and as a society.

More and more we realise that these measures make sense, but adhering to them takes practice. It all seems unreal, came very quickly and affects our freedom.

But we also know, that this is what we need to do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe, particularly our older friends and those that are immune-compromised and more vulnerable. As a society it’s the only responsible thing to do: keep the numbers of affected people as low as possible, so that our health care system can cope.

Our community garden in viral times

We are a community group that lives and breathes personal contact while we enjoy working in our garden. After the government finally acted on this emerging health crisis, our committee met to find ways to apply the recommended measures to our garden. For a while we will have to make some changes to how we operate, so that we can

  • keep our members safe
  • keep the community together
  • offer distraction and space to breathe for lots of our members
  • keep the garden alive

We are certain we can achieve this, if we all work together!

General advice

Our community garden is part of Mort Bay Park, it is an open space. Every member of the public is allowed to be in our garden! Please take care of yourself and follow the general advice given by the chief medical officer:

  • Observe social distancing guidelines
  • Do not visit the garden if you feel unwell, have a cold or a fever
  • Wash your hands with soap before you touch your face

We also ask every member to do their own risk assessment. Don’t visit the garden if you feel vulnerable.

Meetings, events and working bees

Gatherings are not only against the law now, they are the key promoter of the infection. As a result

  • the Family Fun Day in May is cancelled
  • school visits are cancelled until further notice
  • working bees are cancelled until further notice
  • general meetings are cancelled until further notice

The committee will email members about necessary decisions and ask for their feedback. If you feel the need to discuss a matter don’t hesitate to let us know.

Community composting

Corona virus can, under perfect conditions, stay infectious for a few days. We will ‘quarantine’ the food scraps donated by so many different people for 10 days, so that we can be very sure that our members processing the food scraps are safe.

There will only be one compost bin open at a time to receive food scraps. We will tape the other bins shut and apply signage to the bins that will make it obvious where to add your donation.

How do we keep our garden going?

We will work together and communicate what we do. We discourage ad hoc meetings of groups in the garden. Of course, for those people who are already domestically exposed to each other, there is no additional risk in working together in the garden. Strict physical/social distancing will keep us safe.

Now that a lot of garden members are at home, the garden is a great excuse for all of us to get some air and exercise. A lot of members need to be able to enjoy and work in the garden at different times. The demand for this will probably not be obvious today or tomorrow, but we expect this to change since this health crisis is not likely to vanish in a month or two.

This is how we will organise it:

  • Daily garden care, done by single members or in small groups, already in regular domestic contact, will do the jobs that need doing
  • Working with the teams we will compile a list of jobs that need doing. There will be an updated list every week on Mondays. The list will be posted as a blog post on the website, just visit the garden blog and open the newest post. We will also send you this list as an email and a printed version will be on the new whiteboard in the tap shed
  • Please document the jobs that you have done in the Garden Journal, available in the tap shed. Before you do something in the garden, look in the journal, so jobs don’t get done twice
  • We are asking all our members to consider a regular commitment to help with daily garden care. We will organise this using the garden care roster, so people don’t turn up all at the same time. Either put down your name using the link or feel free to email us to let us know when you would like to come. This might be your good excuse to go outside

Supplies

  • We will do our best to keep the sheds stocked. If anything seems to be missing, let us know by email

Education

  • If you feel you need advice, we can buddy you up with a more experienced member. Provided social distancing is adhered to, this is safe and can empower new members very quickly
  • We will monitor the tasks that need doing, and investigate options to organise tutorials using the website or other online tools. Please email us if you have specific questions on how to do a particular job. This will help us to track what needs to be explained

Should we disinfect tools?

A question raised frequently in the last two weeks. Bleach, methylated spirits and hand sanitizers were common suggestions. While it first appears to be a good idea, the answer is: NO, for a number of reasons:

  • It will give you a feeling of false security, even if you do it yourself. You will touch lots of things that other people may have touched before (taps, rims of beds, trellises, doors, locks, buckets …).
    The garden cannot be disinfected, disinfecting tools has no benefit. Working in the garden is similar to going to the shops. You touch items that other people touched before so apply the same rationale. The safe approach is: always wash your hands with soap before you touch your face!
  • The very best disinfectant in this case is soap, way superior to all the other suggestions
  • Please feel free to bring your own gloves and tools if this makes you feel more comfortable
  • Bleach, methylated spirits etc. will possibly be bad for our tools, without having any benefit
  • Chronic over-use of disinfectants leads to severe problems with aggressive germs that survive these measures. Our hospitals have to deal with these sorts of problems on a regular basis. Please don’t introduce these problems into the garden
  • MBCG is an organic garden. Any substance that is questionable should be kept away from the garden

We have installed a bottle of liquid soap in the tap shed, next to the white board. This soap has been provided for you to wash your hands, particularly if you need to touch your face. Please don’t use the soap provided to wash any tools.

With all these measures in place the garden should be a safe place for a lot of our members to enjoy a few hours in fresh air.

Being the strong community that we are, I have no doubt that we will get through this together. Our garden and our community will stay intact. We are lucky people having the garden as a space, that will offer us distraction and a reason to go outside in these strange times.

Stay healthy, look after each other. Stay in touch. Consider calling another member. Offer some help, there are a lot of things that can be done at a distance.

See you soon in social distance

Cheers

Frank

for the committee