GROWING IN THE CITY
by Alex Harned, Food Systems
Coordinator for the City of Victoria
FALL 2019 UPDATE
URBAN FOOD GARDEN TOUR – SATURDAY, SEPT 7:
Across Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, and Esquimalt, over 700 people
took a self-guided tour of 13 inspiring urban food gardens in the
region—backyards, front yards, allotments, boulevards, and more!
Neighbours and strangers shared knowledge on how to produce lots
of food in small spaces year-round. Topics included veggies, fruit trees,
chickens, bees, greenhouses, sustainable land use, and soil health. All
funds raised went to the Haliburton Community Organic Farm food
box program, 1Up Single Parent Resource Centre, and the Hleketani
Community Garden in Limpopo, South Africa.
Interested in having your garden featured next year?
BOULEVARD GARDEN WALKING TOUR – SUNDAY, SEPT 8:
In partnership with Mike Large (streetgreens.com) and Kathryn
Pankowski, the City of Victoria offered a boulevard garden walking
tour in James Bay on a sunny Sunday afternoon in early September.
The tour, attended by 40 participants, taught attendees about the
city’s boulevard garden guidelines and showed how indigenous plants,
pollinators, and food gardens can grow abundantly on boulevards in
any neighbourhood. The event was a hit, and more garden tours will
be coming to a neighbourhood near you.
BOULEVARD GARDEN WORKSHOP – SUNDAY, OCT 27:
Building on the tour, the city wants to provide a hands-on opportunity
for the public to help build a boulevard garden. In late October, a
boulevard in James Bay will be sheet mulched in preparation for a
beautiful boulevard garden. Participants will help design the garden,
gather materials and tools, and put in the work to create healthy new
soil. Thanks to Community Composting and Tre Fantastico for their
donations of compost and coffee grinds.
HOW CAN THE CITY HELP YOU BOULEVARD GARDEN?
Apply for a micro-grant for up to $500 to cover the cost of supplies,
plants, and more. Call the parks department to register your boulevard
garden (name, address, and contact details) and to check before you
dig so you avoid water, sewer, and stormwater lines.
START YOUR BOULEVARD GARDEN NOW
FALL SHEET MULCHING WITH MIKE LARGE OF STREETGREENS.COM
- Sheet mulching can turn grass into a garden in a few easy steps. In
our climate, it takes six to 10 months for compostable materials to boil
down to soil, but you can plant earlier than that, including on day one.
The rainy season is a good time to sheet mulch. Early fall seems to be
the best time, but early spring can work well too.
- Place a layer of unwaxed cardboard with tape and staples removed on
top of the grass and place layers of compostable materials on top of the
- Alternate thin layers of “brown matter” for carbon with “green matter”
for nitrogen. Examples of brown matter are dead leaves and wood
chips. Examples of green matter include manure, coffee grounds, and
fresh grass clippings. (Food scraps count as green matter but probably
aren’t a good ingredient on the boulevard. Dogs might dig for treats,
disturbing dog owners and boulevard gardeners alike.
- Sheet mulching does less to disrupt soil ecology than digging up the
grass and builds new soil on top of the old by leaving materials to
decompose in place. As microbes, worms, and bugs work their way
through those materials, new soil is created and old soil is loosened.
- Water thoroughly before, during, and after layering the mulch to speed
decomposition and help hold materials together. For more information
on sheet mulching, check out Factsheet #7 on the Compost Education
Welcome Gardens, a program offered through the
Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society
(VIRCS), helps provide newcomers and fellow
community members with the opportunity to share,
gain, and expand diverse gardening and cooking skills
in community. This program matches gardeners with
available land, either private backyard growing spaces
or public boulevards, to learn how to grow nutritious
and culturally preferred foods, meet new people, and
share multicultural food practices.
Interested in joining or attending a workshop?
Contact [email protected]
START A COMMUNITY GARDEN
Check out Growing in the City on victoria.ca to
learn how to start your own community garden!
Steps to get started:
- Read up on the city’s resources and
policies—“Building a Community Garden on
City Land” and the community garden policy—to
understand the parameters of what, where, and how
you can grow a garden on city land.
- Connect and partner with your local community
centre or non-profit organization to make a plan.
What sort of garden do you want to create—a
commons? An allotment garden? A community
- Choose a location. City land is available for
community gardening use. Check out the
Community Gardens Feature Map. It shows where
existing gardens are located and other areas in the
city with community garden potential (outside of
- Submit an expression of interest to the parks
department. The food systems coordinator will
review your application and give feedback to help
move to the next step.
- Complete a full community garden proposal. This
is the full application of what specific designs,
materials, plants, and infrastructure are needed to
complete the community garden. It also includes
garden management, ongoing maintenance
responsibilities, any community benefits, and a
- Community consultation—ask the public what they
think. Gathering feedback and receiving buy-in from
surrounding community members before breaking
ground is important.
- Council review. Victoria City Council will then have
the chance to review your full proposal, help identify
what needs to be included to ensure it meets city
regulations, and—fingers crossed—approve your
community garden for a license of occupation.
NEED SUPPORT? APPLY FOR CITY GRANTS.
All grants open November 15, 2019 and close December 31, 2019. Funding will be circulated in March 2020.
• City of Victoria Community Garden Volunteer Coordinator Grant ($10,000/neighbourhood)
• Microgrant for supplies and tools ($500/project)
• The new Designing a Community Garden Grant ($30,000 annually)