Healthy Socializing Around Plants and Gardeners

Written by Pat Naughton, Master Gardener Volunteer

 Social isolation can be stressful. Tending to outdoor plants brings a breath of fresh air to every gardener.

An Alternative Method of Composting
 One of the best ways to care for plants is to add compost. Amending soil around plants with compost adds nutrition and water retention to the soil. Composting is usually done is large bins. Most homeowners’ associations prohibit these types of bins.

 Trench composting is an alternative to bin composting. Keep a one-gallon plastic container with a lid under the sink. A coffee container is perfect for this purpose. Collect non meat kitchen scraps such as coffee grounds, eggshells, nut shells, and plant material.

 When the container is full, dig a hole adjacent to a plant, dump the container in the hole, and cover it up. As the soil temperature warms up the plant material will decompose and attract earthworms and other beneficial insects.

Staying Healthy in Community Gardens
The level of future virus infections is unknown. There are things gardeners should do maintain a healthy community garden environment year-round. Here are some recommendations from the N.C. State Extension:

 Wear disposable gloves to avoid picking up germs from gates, spigots, etc.
 Bring your own tools and avoid sharing tools.
 Gardens should provide handwashing stations, if at all possible, or hand sanitizer.  Everyone should wash their hands before entering the garden and upon exiting.
 Clean and disinfect when possible. Wash and rinse tools prior to sanitizing to remove organic matter on the surface that would reduce the benefit of sanitizers. Provide a tub of soapy water (a biodegradable soap should be just fine here) and a separate tub to rinse tools before tools are sanitized.

Disinfectants: The Centers for Disease Control advises using compounds on the list of EPA recommended disinfectants, which can be found at Note: this list is based on current data, but compounds have not been validated for COVID-19.  Bleach may be used to disinfect surfaces, but the concentration is higher for COVID-19 than for everyday sanitation: 5 tablespoons bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.

For more information on composting, visit For more information on COVID-19 and community gardens visit