Update on Community Gardens Opening in Ontario

Local public health officials from across Ontario are reviewing the following recommendations for gardening during COVID-19 brought forward by the Ontario Community Growing Network and the Cross-Canada Food Communities Network.

COVID-19 Recommendations for Community Gardens
Finalized by Ottawa Community Growing Network
And the Food Communities Network – across Canada 

April 14, 2020  


Community garden organizers recognize the grave, unprecedented challenge that the COVID-19 virus presents. Extreme containment measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus and protect many lives.  Within this, food production is an essential service for all, including many low-income people and people from equity-seeking groups (By equity-seeking groups we mean: Black, Indigenous, people of colour, people with low incomes, LGBTQ2S+ people, people with disabilities and newcomers).  Community gardens must continue to grow produce to supplement household food security, in particular for those who struggle to access food, including fresh food. 

This document was developed in consultation with community garden coordinators across North America and with information from local and national public health authorities. It outlines proposed standards to be followed, as well as suggestions on how to implement them, recognizing that due to the diversity of existing gardens (such as size, governance, location, equipment needs and language) some of these suggestions will be modified to work in each garden, while meeting the overall required standard for health and safety.

Safety Protocols Work

The recommendation is that community gardens must follow these minimum standards to begin the garden season while following public health guidelines for containing the spread of COVID-19. 

Following these guidelines will be additional work for garden coordinators and committees at a busy time of year. Consider asking other garden members to help take on organizing and monitoring tasks.

If a garden does not have the capacity to follow the guidelines for whatever reasons, it must not open until emergency measures have been lifted or until your garden can set up these safety protocols.   

We all need to keep safety a #1 concern.  

  • Before opening, each garden must commit to the following health and safety protocols and must communicate these protocols to all garden members. 
  • Gardens are to be accessed by registered garden members only (as well as official staff/volunteers designated to gardens) and only for maintenance and planting, not for programming.  Suspend all programming (including events, children’s programming, training and group builds).
  • Gardens must be closed to the public. (For gardens without lockable fences, posted signs notifying that it is closed to the public must be up). 
  • All gardens must follow the basic personal guidelines for controlling the spread of COVID-19, which are:
    • Anyone who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus must stay at home for 14 days. 
    • Everyone in the garden must maintain physical distancing of 6 feet/2 metres at all times (unless gardening with members of the same household).
    • Use sanitary practices recommended by public health. 
    • Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or who has come into contact with someone who has shown symptoms should not come to the garden.  (Something like this document can be sent out to all gardeners to refer to re self-screening: https://bcfoodsecuritygateway.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/04/Health-Questionaire-Covid-19-AgSafe.pdf
    • Anyone displaying symptoms should be given public health contact information and asked to leave.
    • People may be infected with COVID-19 and not show symptoms immediately. Even if gardeners appear to be healthy and have had no contact with someone who is at risk, it is still absolutely essential to follow physical distancing and sanitation practices.
  • Enforcement:  Due to the severity of the circumstances, if garden members do not understand the guidelines, they must leave immediately for the day, with a reminder of the protocols.  If a gardener continues to disregard the guidelines that gardener will be banned from the garden, and their plots will be reallocated.  Garden members may also be fined by bylaw enforcement officers for infractions of emergency measures (such as not maintaining physical distancing).   This is an unusual approach for community gardens and is a process for this unusual time only, however the need to contain the spread of the COVID virus must be our main focus at this time.
  • All garden members who will be active in 2020 must sign an agreement to abide by COVID-19 measures and acknowledge they will be asked to leave and/or lose their plots if they do not.  (This agreement should be ready in languages used in the garden). 
    • It is important to update your list of current garden members and track who has signed off on COVID guidelines. 
    • Consider using gate lock with changeable code. Give access only to gardeners who have signed the agreement. Change the code on a regular basis.     
    • Consider ways of tracking who is in the garden on any particular day for assistance with communication, tracing contact, etc. 

Further recommended solutions that can be customized to work within each garden to meet the above requirements are below.

Physical Distancing

  • Unless gardening with members of the same household, maintain a distance of at least 2 metres/6 feet from other people at all times.
    • Pay particular attention to high-traffic areas in the garden, such as sheds or water fixtures. These are good places to have physical distancing reminders posted in the languages used in your garden.
    • Have physical reminders in the garden of what 2 metres looks like, such as a couple of swim noodles or sticks, or lay tape/markers to show the intervals.
    • If your garden normally sets up places for people to congregate such as seating areas, block them off or don’t put them out.
    • Arrange a garden schedule so that spacing can be maintained and reduces how many times people go to the garden per week.  Set a schedule in place, particularly for smaller gardens, and/or gardens with smaller boxes, to ensure maximum number of people.  For example plots can be numbered and ask odd/even numbered plots to come on different days. Online scheduling can be used if garden members all have access to internet and computers.  If not, then static rules needs to be put in place that can be communicated to people over the phone.
    • Each garden should determine the safe number of people in the garden at any one time to make physical distancing possible. Do not exceed this number at any time. Ensure all gardeners know the maximum number of people allowed. 
  • Children should only be brought to garden on an as-needed basis.  Children cannot be brought in if they are too young to understand physical distancing and hygiene practices to the garden (unless they can be kept in a stroller or are carried in an on-body support. Parents or guardians who bring children to the garden are responsible for following the guidelines and sanitizing any tools the children use.
  • Some gardeners or staff may not feel safe working alone in a garden space. If so, do not require them to work alone but ensure physical distancing across people from different households. 
  • People can be encouraged to wear face masks as they can reduce (not eliminate) the spread of droplets from people who are infected but aren’t showing symptoms.  Masks don’t replace proper physical distancing.
  • No pets are allowed. Garden members can bring service animals. 
  • Gardeners should plan ahead, used gardening techniques that reduce labour, and minimize the number of trips they make to the garden.
    • Use mulch to reduce the need for watering and weeding. 
    • Row covers can control pest invasions when people are not in the garden as frequently to monitor pest activity.

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • Provide handwashing stations and/or hand sanitizer. Anyone entering the gardens should wash their hands before entering and upon leaving.
  • Soap is very effective at killing the COVID-19 virus if proper handwashing procedure is followed.  Ensure all gardeners know how to wash hands properly. 
  • Gardeners should consider bringing their own tools and garden gloves to avoid sharing tools. 
    • If the number of gardeners is small, they can have dedicated bins and buckets.
    • Take garden gloves home to wash after every use and do not share.
  • Identify and disinfect surfaces before and after use, including: reusable bins and buckets, shared tools, railings, doorknobs, water spigots and tables. Non-porous plastic, metal and glass surfaces are best.
    • Be sure to remove all dirt and other organic matter from the surface of tools before sanitizing. Make sure tools are dry before sanitizing or the sanitizer will be diluted.
    • Ensure everyone is responsible for disinfecting all identified surfaces before and after each use.  
  • For disinfecting, use a sanitizing solution of either 75% or higher alcohol based product or bleach at a concentration of 20ml/4 teaspoons per litre. Diluted bleach has a shelf life of 24 hours, mix a fresh batch every day.
  • Avoid touching your face, particularly nose, mouth and eyes unless you have just washed your hands.
  • Latex gloves do not replace proper sanitation practices.  It is encouraged to use gardening gloves and to wash them after each visit, along with disinfecting/washing hands each time.
  • Find ways to limit or eliminate touching of surfaces.
    • A designated person can open the shed door or compost bin lid in the morning and it is left open as next person enters the garden. Another person closes and disinfects at end of day. 
    • Garden members can focus on completing one task rather than doing many things in different spaces.
    • One person can manage the compost.  
  • It is even more important at this time to keep garbage and clutter out of the garden to maintain sanitized surfaces. 
  • If anyone displays symptoms (such as fever, coughs, muscle aches, tiredness or difficulty breathing) have resources ready and/or posted as to where they should call).


Community gardens have a strong role to play in educating people about safe practices and gaining compliance with public health COVID-19 measures. 

Fight myth-information – go to trusted sources like your local public health unit or World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

  • Use any communication methods that work to reach your gardeners to inform them about the new measures – email, phone, social media sites, bulletin boards, posters. 
    • Use peer-to-peer translation when translated materials are not sufficient.
  • Place posters with garden COVID-19 policies and recommended measures around the garden. 
  • Post a public notice outside garden entry points indicating the garden is closed to the public, only authorized garden members are permitted. 
    • Include statement that garden members have been trained (through videos) in COVID-19 safety protocols and agree to abide by them (so public understands why some people are allowed in the garden)
    • If you are donating produce to community food programs, include a sign explaining this, to reduce vandalism and theft.
  • Crises like a pandemic increase tensions and anxiety. We can best respond with calmness and compassion.  
    • Have a system in place to support mediating conflict in the garden.  
    • Counter misinformation and racist or xenophobic remarks. 


  • It is very important to have a dedicated decision maker or team to hold responsibility for communicating with garden members, getting signed agreements and responding to garden members who do not comply with guidelines.  The contact information for these people in each garden should be identified to the municipality and community network organizers in your region (if that exists).
  • People who have been assigned tasks may fall ill or need to go into self-isolation. Have a back up plan for garden access (locks, keys, entry codes), organizing (contact lists, task allocations) and maintenance in case the person in charge of those things need to self-isolate.
  • Community gardens should seek ways to prioritize new garden space access for people who are facing specific barriers to food/income access, whenever possible.  Equity-seeking groups have traditionally faced greater barriers in accessing growing space based on the first-come-first-served systems used by many community gardens.  With limited garden space available for the season, gardens can prioritize access for those who will potentially have the most benefit.
    • Gardens can maintain a separate, prioritized wait list for people facing barriers to food access.
    • Offer volunteer and leadership roles to people from equity-seeking groups.
    • Consider increasing food grown for donation to community food programs. 
    • During crisis times, it is even more important to ensure that food is distributed equitably and reaching those who need it most and community gardens play an important role within this.
  • For gardens with allocated plots, some gardeners may choose not to use their plot this year, particularly people who are elderly or have compromised immune systems.  Options to deal with this:
    • Garden coordinators can ask them to give their plot to another person for this year, but both the current plot holder and the new gardener should be very clear that the allocation is temporary. 
    • This could be an opportunity to open spaces for gardeners from equity-seeking groups who traditionally face barriers to accessing plots. 
    • The garden may decide that open plots will be used to grow food to donate to community food programs, with some people in the garden agreeing to maintain them. 
    • The garden may choose to continue to grow food and share food with the gardeners who cannot garden due to illness/compromised immune systems.
  • Many gardens distribute seeds and seedlings and may need to develop a plan for distributing harvested produce if garden members are not taking it for themselves. A safety plan is needed to ensure transfer of seeds, seedlings and produce doesn’t transfer the virus as well.
    • Arrange for contactless deliveries (leaving seedlings or food on a doorstep or curb, arranging a drop-off time for apartments), handwashing before and after handling deliveries, minimizing the number of people handling the deliveries. 


City of Toronto, COVID-19

Institute nationale de santé publique du Québec. « Avis : Jardins communautaires et collectifs » April 8, 2020. https://sustainontario.com/2020/04/14/quebecs-proposed-safety-protocols-for-community-gardens/

Public Health Agency of Canada. “Risk-Informed Decision-Making Guidelines for Workplaces and Businesses during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Government of Canada, March 22, 2020. http://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/guidance-documents/risk-informed-decision-making-workplaces-businesses-covid-19-pandemic.html.

Seymour Natalie, Mary Yavelak, Candice Christian, and Ben Chapman. “COVID-19 FAQ for Community Gardens: Steps for Garden Managers and Gardeners.” EDIS New Publications RSS. Food Science and Human Nutrition, March 20, 2020. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs342.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “COVID-19: Resources for Households”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 6, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html.


World Economic Forum, These products work best to kill the virus, March 20, 2020,


With content from community garden protocols from Wareham Community Garden, Durham Integrated Growers, City of Surrey, University of Florida IFAS Extension and Institute nationale de santé publique du Québec.

This document was initially created by Toronto Urban Growers and 10 other Toronto agencies, and contributed to greatly by members of the Ontario Community Growing Network, followed by members of the Food Communities Network across Canada.

Gardening Training and Information for the 2020 Season

Update on Community Gardening in Ontario

1. Apr 16 | Webinar and Safety Recommendations Information 

Free Taped Gardening Webinars 

2. FREE Online Gardening Workshops | Get a Head Start on your Growing Season including Seed Starting

Live Gardening Webinars (Good for Getting Your Questions Answered)

3. Apr 18 & 20 | Small Plot Garden Design for Front Yard, Back Yard and Garden Boxes

4. Apr 18 & 21 | Container, Balcony and Window Sill Gardening

5. Apr 19 & 23 | Vermicomposting Design for Your Garden

6. Apr 22, 27 and May 2 | Basic Organic Gardening

7. Apr 26 | Outdoor Compost and Ways for Soil Building

8. Apr 25 & 29 | Seed Saving Up Above – Garden Planning Considerations

9. May 6 & 9 | Herbalism Workshop – Herbs to Grow and Weeds to Keep

More training webinars coming soon!

1. Apr 16 | Webinar and Safety Recommendations Information 

Hear an update first-hand on the efforts to declare community gardening as an essential service in Ontario.  

WHEN: Thursday, April 16 at 4:30pm
WHERE: Online (via Zoom)      
RSVP: For more information, click here

Learn more about the consultations, efforts and actions that have taken place with the OCGN. This includes the most recent letter and proposed safety protocols sent to the Ontario Government.

We thank all of you who have signed the initial petition and emailed Members of Parliament to urge Ontario to include community gardens as essential food services. If you haven’t signed already, you still can here. This update will detail the response of these actions as well as the development of proposed safety protocols.

This webinar is hosted by Moe Garahan of Just Food and Rhonda Teitel-Payne of Toronto Urban Growers, Co-Chairs of the Ontario Community Growing Network (OCGN).

2. FREE Online Gardening Workshops | Get a Head Start on your Growing Season including Starting Seeds

We will be posting free, pre-recorded workshops to learn the gardening basics from instructors who are experienced. There are two workshops currently available with more workshops coming soon:

  1. Urban Organic Vegetable and Herb Gardening – Container and Small Space Gardening
  2. Indoor Seed Starting

Please stay tuned to the page Gardening Workshops on the Just Food website to view more free gardening workshops as they become available. 

These online workshops are produced by Community Gardening Network at Just Food, in partnership with community partners and garden instructors.

Live Gardening Webinars

Please note: All of our 2020 Gardening Workshops will be online until further notice. Our goal is to enable as many gardeners as possible to grow food successfully in our region. All facilitators are experienced gardeners who have teaching experience and understand growing conditions in our region.

3. Apr 18 & 20 | Small Plot Garden Design for Front Yard, Back Yard and Garden Boxes

Have a backyard and do not know how to convert it into a food garden? Or that front yard with perfect sunlight but worry about the look of having a tomato trellis? What about those beautiful garden boxes you’ve always wanted to make?

Two Identical Sessions:

April 18

WHEN: Saturday, April 18 at 10am 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
RSVP: Click here to register for April 18
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend April 18 for free)          

April 20

WHEN: Monday, April 20 at 7pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
RSVP: Click here to register for April 20
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)       

This workshop focuses on designing small food gardens outdoors, around your house or in a small plot, without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It is good for both beginners or intermediate gardeners who have questions or want to confirm their practices growing food in the Ottawa region.

4. Apr 18 & 21 | Container, Balcony and Window Sill Gardening

Want to grow vegetables and herbs on your balcony or window sill? Container gardening is a great way of growing food if you know how. Small space can be very productive if you learn a few things about how to design it.

Two identical sessions

April 18

WHEN: Saturday, April 18 at 2pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register for April 18

April 21

WHEN: Tuesday, April 21 at 7pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register for April 21

This workshop focuses on using small space and light for growing food INDOORS, or on your BALCONY, without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Both beginners or intermediate gardeners can learn the basics and get useful tips on planting and harvesting your own pots of fresh produce!

5. Apr 19 & 23 | Vermicomposting Design for Your Garden

Just Food, in partnership with Box Of Life, brings this exciting workshop on using worms to make compost! Composting with red wiggler earthworms is easy, odour and bug free, and one of the quickest ways to create organic fertilizer from kitchen scraps. Why throw food into landfill when you can be a compost hero instead?

Two identical sessions

April 19

WHEN: Sunday, April 19 at 2pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register for April 19

April 23

WHEN: Thursday, April 23 at 7pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register for April 23

This workshop focuses on what you need to know to build your own vermicomposing system at home. It covers the basics of designing and running a vermi-composter. You can bring your questions and get tips for your system too.

6. Apr 22, 27 and May 2 | Basic Organic Gardening

Interested in organic gardening but don’t know where to start? This workshop is great for any gardener wishing to brush up on their gardening theory before the season. Whether you have never gardened before or hoping to boost your confidence in your abilities, you are sure to learn something at this workshop. 

Two identical sessions and one French session:

April 22

WHEN: Wednesday, April 22 at 7pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register for April 22

Le 27 avril

QUAND: lundi 27 avril à 19:00
OÙ: En ligne (Zoom – les participants peuvent avoir l’accès gratuit en utilisant un ordinateur ou un téléphone via l’internet, or par télécharger l’app Zoom)
PRIX: 5 $ par personne
(Si le paiement c’est un problème, cliquez ce lien pour demander de participer gratuitement)
REGISTRER: Veuillez registrer ici pour le 27 avril

May 2

WHEN: Saturday, May 2 at 2pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)   
RSVP: Click here to register for May 2

This workshop focuses on growing common variety vegetables in the Ottawa region in various settings – your living room, small space and yards – without the use of pesticides or herbicides.

7. Apr 26 | Outdoor Compost and Ways for Soil Building

Good soil is the basis for good gardening. Compost is the most important nutrient to give to your garden, especially in. It’s also free and easy to make in your own home when you know how. Composting is an environmentally-friendly way to ‘up-cycle’ your kitchen waste and yard waste.

WHEN: Sunday, April 26 at 7pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register

This workshop will teach the various ways of making compost, and how to use this ‘black gold’ to build healthy soil for your gardening success. Whether you are new to gardening or want to learn more about composting design for your garden, to ask questions.

8. Apr 25 & 29 | Seed Saving Up Above – Garden Planning Considerations

Just Food, in partnership with Gaia Organic Seed, brings this workshop just in time when you are starting and planning your garden this year. This workshop will equip you with the necessary skills to harvest your own seeds successfully for growing in the next years to come.

April 25

WHEN: Saturday, April 25 at 2pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register

April 29

WHEN: Wednesday, April 29 at 7pm 
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)          
RSVP: Click here to register

This workshop focuses on what you need to know to be able to harvest seeds from your own garden plot or pot. Plants naturally go to seed, but to grow vegetables for seeds, there are basic principles to follow and techniques to use.

9. May 6 & 9 | Herbalism Workshop – Herbs to Grow and Weeds to Keep

Just Food, in partnership with Amber Westfall of the Wild Garden, presents this workshop on herbalism! Do not miss this inspiring session with Amber that may just elevate your relationship with your garden plants to a new level.

May 6

WHEN: Wednesday, May 6 at 6:30pm
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)
RSVP: Click here to register

May 9

WHEN: Saturday, May 9 at 2pm
WHERE: Online (Zoom meeting – participants can access for free using a computer or phone via internet browser, or by downloading the Zoom app)
COST: $5 per person
(If payment is an issue, click this link to request to attend for free)
RSVP: Click here to register

Learn about adding good and healing herbs into your gardening project and how to meet those ‘weeds’ that might be worth keeping!

More training webinars coming soon!

Finding Food in Ottawa during COVID-19 – Please forward to everyone in your work and home networks asap

Just Food Newsletter April 10, 2020

In this Newsletter:

1. Good Food at Your Doorstep Launched | First order due by Monday 13th at noon for deliveries next Friday / Saturday

2. Connect to GoodFoodOttawa.ca for information on where to find food in Ottawa both if you are struggling with income AND if you are more financially secure and looking for online options

1. Good Food at Your Doorstep Launched | First order due by Monday 13th at noon for deliveries next week

Low income and vulnerable households can order a ‘Good Food at Your Doorstep’ box full of fresh fruits and veggies for $20. There is an option to donate a box to a household financially impacted. You may also buy a box for someone you know who is having difficulties affording food by using their delivery address and phone number.

The project provides those facing financial barriers to access food with an affordable ($20) box packed with a variety of fresh fruits and veggies delivered right to the doorstep, with delivery free of charge, thanks to Ottawa Community Foundation.

Due to the social distancing requirements, all home deliveries are ‘no contact’. Once the order is placed, customers will receive their box on one of the delivery days later that week between Wednesday and Saturday (9am-5pm). Produce changes weekly depending on availability and seasonality. Orders placed by Friday of each week will be delivered the following week, with an extension given on orders for delivery this first week until Monday April 13 at noon.

The Ottawa Good Food Box, in collaboration with MarketMobile, led by the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre, partnered with Ottawa Community Foundation, North House Foods and Just Food, is launching Good Food at Your Doorstep as one response to the need from COVID-19.

Ottawa Good Food Box - Think Inside the Box

2. Are You Looking For Food online or delivered? Visit GoodFoodOttawa.ca / BonnebouffeOttawa.ca

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, you may be looking for ways to buy online. Just Food will continue to update Good Food Ottawa as a one-stop-shop for finding food – for those struggling with income AND for those who are more financially secure AND for people seeking options to support local farmers. This service existed before, will be updated during COVID-19, and will exist into the future, to ensure good information on food is available.

Please share these sites throughout all of your networks as quickly as possible to ensure everyone has updated information on services available:  

On it, you will find:

  • Resources just published by City of Ottawa re. what is open now for emergency food support, for household and for isolated seniors
  • Good Food at Your Doorstep: a $20 box of fresh fruit and vegetables with free delivery for those struggling with low-incomes 
  • Savour Ottawa Buy Local Food Guide: Producers newly updated on April 8, 2020 – find local farms, restaurants, markets, retail, breweries, wineries and microprocessors (including those who have online shops)
  • CSA Farms: a detailed listing of who still has boxes available for the 2020 season (CSA stands for Community Shared Agriculture farmers in the Ottawa region)
  • Groceries and Restaurants: find online stores and restaurants that are open and operating with pick up or delivery options
  • FoodLink Directory: food bank, community meal program, community kitchen or meal programs (Please check individual websites for updated COVID-19 hours as many of these may be closed or have reduced hours)
  • Farmers’ Markets: find more information on farmers’ markets in Ottawa as it becomes available.  Many are moving towards online ordering with pick-up options

If you are aware of places that are not on the above lists, or aware of information that has changed, please let us know at info@justfood.ca.

Updates on Community Gardens as Essential Food Services

At Just Food – April 7 2020

Updates on Community Gardens as Essential Food Services

Thank you! – many of you have written last week to support Community Gardens Must Remain OPEN as Essential Food Services in Ontario, and have signed onto this Open Letter from Sustain Ontario. Just Food’s Moe Garahan was interviewed on CBC News – Declare community gardens essential, non-profit urges.

We all take safety and physical distancing seriously, to stop the spread of COVID-19. And, this can still be done while allowing thousands of people to grow food in community gardens as most rely on that food to feed their families and other community members.

Breaking news from Gatineau! “For the 2020 season, the City of Gatineau is supporting 22 community and collective gardens, 3 more than last year. The current context requires specific measures to comply with the guidelines for physical distance and the use of common equipment. The committees responsible for the sites, together with the City, are to set up the procedures required for the opening of the sites as soon as possible.” This is a Google translation of the relevant French document, read the original message on La Ville de Gatineau website HERE.

Last week, the provincial government in BC reversed an earlier decision and now has made Community Gardens essential services. BC government recognizes in this LINK that community gardens are a way of subsistence agriculture as it is food cultivation.

Similarly, last Thursday, Victoria BC passed a motion for Scaling Up Growing in the City for Community Resilience, in response to food security, which will temporarily reprioritize the focus of some Parks Department capacity to grow 50,000-75,000 food plants from seed in the municipal nursery and greenhouses for planting in the 2020 growing season.  Read this story HERE.

Updates from CGN and Just Food

We at CGN and Just Food have received many emails and understand your difficulty to make decisions on how to proceed with your community garden and its many members. We hear you!

Just Food is working very hard to….

  • Advocate an informed decision and reversal to make community gardens essential food services, so they can continue to operate this year. Across Ontario and across parties, many MPPs are working on this, as are many of our City Councillors.
  • Co-facilitate the Ontario Community Growing Network to develop safety measures and best practices for COVID-19 for community and allotment gardens across Ontario, based on public health input, so as to best coordinate and build on each other’s efforts.  This will be sent to the Ministry of Health next Tuesday to assist them in reversing the decision on community gardens while ensuring individual and public safety. Ottawa Public Health has agreed to work with Just Food to further develop these safety practices for the Ottawa context once the province gives the go-ahead.
  • Communicate with community gardens in a timely fashion – there will be more newsletters than usual on the progress.
  • Get ready for the growing season so we are ready to go as soon as we are able. This includes finalizing a COVID-19 specific garden agreement that every garden coordinator, and every community garden member, will need to sign in order to access their plot, outlining they understand the new procedures for this year and will abide by them.    

Next newsletter coming this week to all gardeners in Ottawa will be all about online garden workshop dates and topics.

Community Gardens Must Remain OPEN as Essential Food Services in Ontario

To All Gardeners and Supporters in Ottawa,

Your support is URGENTLY needed TODAY!

On March 30th, the Ontario government mistakenly identified community gardens as recreation activities for closure (READ HERE), as opposed to essential food services, where tens of thousands of people across Ontario grow food for their households.

Please send your own version of the letter below to your local MPP ASAP today, and copy Just Food at jf2@justfood.ca, so we can see how many letters are coming in.

If you are a member of a community garden, please say which garden you belong to, and why it’s important to you to access food through your garden plot.

Your list of MPPs in the Ottawa area:

Stephen Blais – Orléans – sblais.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Lucille Collard  – Ottawa – Vanier – lcollard.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
John Fraser – Ottawa South – Jfraser.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Hon Merrilee Fullerton – Kanata-Carleton – merrilee.fullerton@pc.ola.org
Goldie Ghamari – Carleton – goldie.ghamari@pc.ola.org
Joel Harden – Ottawa Centre – JHarden-QP@ndp.on.ca
Hon Lisa MacLeod – Nepean – Lisa.macleodco@pc.ola.org
Jeremy Roberts – Ottawa West – Nepean – jeremy.roberts@pc.ola.org

To read more about Gardening and COVID-19 in Ottawa, CLICK HERE.

To read and sign on an Open Letter Calling on Province to Identify Community Gardens as Essential Food Service, CLICK HERE.

Suggested letter template

To [name of your Member of Provincial Parliament or all MPPs if you are a City-wide service],

Everyone is working hard, and we are trusting this is just an oversight, but please immediately remove outdoor community gardens from the list of closures for recreation activities released on March 30th, and place them on the list of essential food services in Ontario.

Thousands upon thousands of families rely on community gardens to produce food for their families each year.  In Ottawa, we have a conservative accounting of 7,000 people relying on community gardens to supplement their food during the growing season.  There has been a major increase in demand for this service since the beginning of COVID-19.  People throughout the province have already invested in their seeds, and started seedlings, for this growing season.

This model of community food production is seen as integral to the COVID-19 response in countries throughout the world, particularly as food prices increase and global food supplies are increasingly uncertain.  Food banks also receive tonnes of much-needed fresh food in Ottawa from local community garden efforts. Community gardening availability should be enhanced, not limited, especially at this time.

We all take safety seriously.  We support community growing with clear protocols that WORK in gardens to maintain public safety, agreed to by public health officials. The Ottawa Community Gardening Network at Just Food is working with public health departments to achieve such safety protocols and is a key partner in communicating critical public health messages to our communities.  However, we must not identify community gardens as recreational activities, as for many, many people community gardens are essential ways that community members access their food. 

Please take immediate action to clarify for everyone in Ontario that community gardening is an essential food service.

Thanks very much!

Your name

Name of your community garden, if applicable.

Gardening and COVID-19

For All Gardeners in Ottawa

We hope you are all keeping well during this difficult time.

This newsletter is to reach out to all gardeners in Ottawa, including those in Community Gardens, to provide you with some updates, and seek your input in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.

We gardeners are creative, strong and resourceful! Did you know that there are minimum 6,000 – 7,000 community garden members in Ottawa within 100 community gardens?  Let alone the thousands of people gardening at home.

Together, we can do a lot!

If you are a Community Garden Coordinator: Please forward this email to all of your gardeners, and encourage them to sign up for community garden newsletters by clicking here.  Fill out this contact form to be sure you are on our coordinator-only emails.


1. Gardening at an unusual Covid-19 time
2. SeedLing Saturday scheduled for May 23, 2020
3. Gardening workshops
4. Ordering regionally adapted seeds for your gardening needs

5. Watch Cornwall’s Seedy Saturday Online

1. Gardening at an unusual Covid-19 time.

Just Food believes firmly that all gardening, including in community gardens, in yardshare situations and in households, are essential services.  

We have asked Ottawa Public Health for their advice for gardeners working outdoors, including in a Community Garden or Yardshare setting.  We are working with other networks, compiling practices under discussions in other regions in North America, and will share with you as soon as we have it together. So hang tight!

Just Food will be hosting all meetings and training workshops through Zoom until further notice. 

What are your ideas?

With food security becoming ever more looming, and many uncertainties ahead, we are gathering tips and ideas on how communities, households and businesses are responding to food access. 

Physical distancing (not social distancing!), type of food to grow this year, online community garden AGM, volunteer days, staggered gardening schedules…

What are some of the strategies you are considering for this year’s gardening season?

What measures are you taking and are seeing as effective in this community or reading about in other communities related to gardening?

Your experience, ideas and expertise can help us plan for regulations allowed for gardens this year.

Please click here to share your information or ideas

For Community Garden Coordinators:

If your Community Garden group needs an online meeting, including an AGM, we can set that up on our Zoom platform for you…

Please click here to indicate you would like a meeting set up for your garden.

2. SeedLing Saturday Scheduled for May 23, 2020

We have previously posted about East Ottawa Seedy Saturday on April 18, 2020. 

While seeds are an essential service, this event is CANCELLED, based on the ability of people to purchase seeds online.   (Please see #4 below for a list of seed companies).

However, seedLings need to be picked up, so Just Food is hosting a

SeedLing Saturday!

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 2020.
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking)
COST: Free admission (with strict requirement to adhere to physical distancing standards)
RSVP: Keep your eyes on the next newsletter for details on time of the event, and how to sign up.

If you are a seedling vendor and would like to participate, please click here and we will send you additional information beginning of April. 

3. Gardening workshops

Online Workshops

Learn food gardening basics from instructors who are experienced.

First, we are providing BASIC gardening online recorded sessions for FREE, so everyone who is interested in food gardening can get started.

The topics include:

  1. How to plan and grow a small garden on your balcony or pots/container. 
  2. How to plan and grow a garden in your backyard, front yard or community garden plot.
  3. Indoor Seed Starting.
  4. Making compost and building soil outside.
  5. Vermicompost – making compost inside and year-round.
  6. Container food gardening. 
  7. Natural Pest control.
  8. Water-saving gardening design.

These sessions will be available online on the Just Food website.

We will send out the dates to you shortly, in our next email.

For gardeners looking for broader topics and more intermediate skills and to get tips in an interactive way, we are going to host a series of interactive online workshops, from seed starting to harvest to food preservation to fermentation to herbalism. 

These workshops will be hosted by Just Food with community partners, and will be provided at cost ($5/person), or a free option if you don’t have the money.


Indoor Seed Starting Workshop for your Organic Vegetable Garden

Choose one of the two identical sessions

– Monday, March 30 at 1 PM – 2:30 PM (Event link), and
– Tuesday, March 31 at 1 PM – 2:30 PM (Event link

Please note that there is a link in the registration pages listed above, where there is an option to participate for free, if you do not have money.

The next newsletter coming out very shortly will have more topics and dates.

We need your input

*If you have the knowledge to be a trainer on any relevant topics, or
*If you have topics you want to see covered in an online workshop at any point during the growing season, 

please click here to let us know.

We URGENTLY need facilitators with experience growing in the Ottawa region to teach BASIC GARDENING in French and Arabic. if you have this expertise, please get ahold of Sun Shan at communitygardening@justfood.ca

4. Ordering regionally adapted seeds for your gardening needs

It is important to order seeds immediately if you haven’t already.

(If you or other gardeners don’t have the ability to purchase online with a credit card, or are low-income and don’t have money for seeds, please click here, and we can assist you in finding another way.)

We encourage you to use UNTREATED seeds. For community gardens, using untreated seeds is a requirement.

To ensure garden success, find seeds that are adapted to this region, either through a fellow gardener, or one of the vendors from the Organic Seed Directory put together by Canadian Organic Growers. The link to access this Directory is https://www.cog.ca/home/find-organics/organic-seed-directory/. Organic seeds are chemical-free and untreated, and they were grown under Certified Organic conditions.

In addition, check out

Bird and Bee Seeds

Email: info@birdandbee.ca
Phone: 613-601-9177
Address: 2391 Pepin Court, Ottawa, ON, K1B 4Z3

Richters Herbs

To email them, click here.
Phone: +1.905.640.6677  Fax. +1.905.640.6641
Address: 357 Highway 47, Goodwood, ON L0C 1A0 Canada

There are other seed companies that you might be buying from that have regionally adapted seed.  If they are not listed above, please let us know so that we add them. Thanks! Email CGN Coordinator at communitygardening@justfood.ca.

Have we said to order seeds immediately if you haven’t already? 🙂

5. Watch Cornwall’s Seedy Saturday Online

This past Saturday, Cornwall hosted an online Seedy Saturday. Watch the recorded Seedy Saturday video here on Transition Cornwall facebook page (you don’t need a facebook account to watch): https://www.facebook.com/TransitionCornwall/videos/636814140475290/.

Topics covered are:

Indoor Seed Starting Workshop | Register Now!

In partnership with Capital Greens, we’re hosting this workshop where you’ll learn how to get nearly 100% germination, and how to create the ideal conditions for your seedlings to grow into strong, healthy, high-yielding vegetable crops!

WHEN: Two identical workshops: March 30 and 31 from 1-2:30pm
WHERE: Online
COST: $10 per person
(If payment is an issue, participants can attend for free at the registration pages below) 
RSVP: For March 30th, please register at http://justfood.nationbuilder.com/indoor_seed_starting_workshop_20200331

For March 31st, please register at http://justfood.nationbuilder.com/indoor_seed_starting_workshop

These workshops will be hosted by Just Food with community partners, and will be provided at cost ($10/person).

*Note that there will be a chat feature which you will be able to use to ask questions during the workshop!

The webinar will begin with a ~30-minute “classroom session” (to get you up to speed on some of the theory) followed by ~1hr demonstration in you’ll be shown how to prepare your growing medium, fill your pots, plant your seeds, and then care for your seedlings.

A hands-on tutorial with face-to-face interaction would be better in terms of education, but we feel an obligation to do our part to protect the vulnerable people in our community, and to slow the spread of this virus.

Transforming and Sustaining Local Food: Ottawa’s 2020 Local Food Networking Event

WHERE: Restaurant International, Algonquin College School of Hospitality
COST: $0 (Lunch included) *Parking is $4/hour

Join us for the Ottawa Local Food Networking Event for farmers, chefs, food retailers and processors on Monday, April 6, 2020 from 11:00am – 2:00pm (previous date March 10). 

Presented by the Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism in partnership with the Egg Farmers of Ontario, Just Food, City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism.

RSVP required: priority will be given to local farmers, chefs, retailers, and processors.

Free lunch, courtesy of our sponsors!


  • Presentation from the Mayor on the new Rural Strategy and Action Plan
  • Highlights from local food regional innovators on sustainability including a keynote by David Beking of Beking’s Poultry Farm

February 2020 Newsletter

News and Events in the Ottawa Region  

Just Food News and Events 

1. Fermentation Training – LAST CHANCE to Register for First Session  

2. Feb 28 | Agri-Art Tour 2020 Information Sessions

3. Mar 7 | Ottawa West Seedy Saturday

4. Apr 18 | Ottawa East Seedy Saturday at the Just Food Farm

5. Learn to Keep Bees with Success | Registration Open for 2020!

Other News and Events 

6. Mar 14, Apr 4, 18 and May 2 | 2020 Urban Organic Gardening Seminars

7. Permaculture Meetup Group in Ottawa

If you received this monthly newsletter from someone else and would like to receive it directly, sign up here. If you have a food or farm-related event or issue that you would like posted on this newsletter, send a request to info@justfood.ca.         

Although all volunteers and community partners of Just Food want to ensure Ottawa has a vibrant, accessible, sustainable food system, we have many diverse perspectives on how to get there. Just Food welcomes this diversity and believes that it is through working collaboratively with different opinions that we will arrive at a healthy food system for all. Any information that Just Food sends can include information from different community members and community partners and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Just Food.  If you ever have a question about any information listed here, please do not hesitate to e-mail info@justfood.ca or call 613-824-7771.

1. Fermentation Training Sessions    

Last chance to register for the first session starting March 4 (postponed from Feb 26 due to weather). Registration for Second Session is still open.

WHO: People who sell food or are planning to sell food
WHEN: First session is three Wednesday evenings:
March 4, March 11 (and the third date TBD together with participants on March 4) – 6pm to 9pm  
Second identical session is two weekends:
April 25 and May 2 – 10am to 3:30pm
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking) 
COST: $110            
RSVP: Click here to register

Topics include:

  • Non-alcohol fermentation and its potential for incorporating into your existing food/farm business
  • Lacto-fermentation such as making kimchi and tabasco style hot sauce
  • Fermenting beans and peas for making miso and tempeh
  • Grain fermentation varieties, including no-sweetener-added desserts such as sweet rice ferment or jiuniang, and using grains in vegetable lacto-fermentation
  • Daily ferment such as kefir
  • And many more…

Please contact chigarden2015@gmail.com if you have any questions about the event.

2. Feb 28 | Agri-Art Tour 2020 Information Sessions

WHEN: Friday, February 28, 7-8:30 pm
WHERE: Just Food Farm Red Barn, 2391 Pepin Court, Ottawa

Join the Eastern Ontario Agri-Food Network and Just Food for an information session that will interest farmers, processors, food producers, artisans and artists across Eastern Ontario. The Agri-Art Tour 2020 will take place from September 3-5 across eastern Ontario, if you are interested in hosting or being a vendor at a host location, come to the info session above.

For more info contact phil@justfood.ca and see the poster here.

3. Mar 7 | Ottawa West Seedy Saturday 

Come and stop by the Ottawa Seedy Saturday on March 7! 

WHEN: Saturday March 7 from 10am to 3pm
WHERE: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, Britannia Beach, 102 Greenview Ave
RSVP: For more info, please click here

There will be plenty of fun to be had with a day of garden talks and seed sales, and seed exchanges. 

4. Apr 18 | Ottawa East Seedy Saturday at the Just Food Farm

New in 2020—a second Seedy Saturday event is happening in East Ottawa, brought to you by Just Food in partnership with Greta’s Organic Gardens!!

WHEN: Saturday, April 18
WHERE: Just Food Farm (2391 Pepin Court – Bus #25 and free parking)
COST: Free admission – free workshops
RSVP: Keep your eyes on this newsletter for details

As a complement to the long-running, always bustling Ottawa Seedy Saturday in Britannia in early March (see above), this East end event will give you another chance to find, buy or swap seeds as well as many seedlings.  

If you are a seed vendor and would like to participate, contact info@justfood.ca

5. Learn to Keep Bees with Success | Registration Open for 2020!

Capital Bees is now accepting registration for their Hands-On Natural Beekeeping Program.

The course runs from April through October and is held in the apiary at the Just Food Farm in Blackburn Hamlet. Capital Bees provides the support you need to keep your bees alive and thriving.

To register or for more info, please click here.

6. Mar 14, Apr 4, 18 and May 2 | 2020 Urban Organic Gardening Seminars

The Urban Organic Gardening Seminars are back for 2020!

WHERE: Hintonburg Community Centre, 1064 Wellington St
WHEN: Saturday mornings 9:30am-12:30 pm
March 14th, April 4th, April 18th, May 2nd
COST: One session $20, all four sessions $70
(Discounts are available for students and those facing financial barriers)
RSVP: To register or for more info, please click here

Whether you are new to gardening or a seasoned horticulturist, there’s always something to learn from Canadian Organic Growers’ gardening seminars. Each session has two seminars touching on a different gardening skill such as seed starting, planning, composting and seed saving. 

2020 Urban Organic Seminars

7. Permaculture Meetup Group in Ottawa 

Learn about permaculture with the new Meetup / Facebook group for the Ottawa-Gatineau area!

This is a discussion and skill-sharing group for all things permaculture including mushroom hunts, local permaculture tours, looking at permaculture applications in our daily lives, experiencing local food, geo/solar greenhouses, etc.

Check out their Meetup group here and their Facebook page here.