Healing City Soils


Project Background

This project is about getting to know the soil beneath our feet, and building community around healing it. Ensuring the soil is healthy is a first step to any urban agriculture project; from backyard growing to community and boulevard gardening. Urban soils can sometimes contain heavy metals and other contaminants as a result of our industrial past and present.  This can be of concern for our urban food gardens as the contaminants may get into or onto our veggies and fruits. Soil testing can be expensive, and the results can be confusing or disheartening, which ends up being a barrier to getting more folks growing.

The goal of Healing City Soils is to analyze the health of the region’s soils and create a virtual soil map of the Capital Regional District highlighting areas where heavy metals may need to be addressed before growing food. This map is paired with factsheets and workshops to empower people with the knowledge and skills to grow food safely or to heal the soil with compost, plants and mushrooms.

Getting to know the soil where we live means acknowledging and honoring that these lands are the traditional territories of the Coast Salish People of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. It is an honor to live and work within their traditional territory. To read more about Coast Salish People, see: http://www.firstnations.de/development/coast_salish.htm

Free Soil Tests and Soil Quality Mapping

Through partnership with the Royal Roads University BSc. In Environmental Science Program and funding from the Royal Roads University Foundation, free soil testing for heavy metals will be made available to residents of Saanich and Oak Bay who are growing food, or are interested in starting food gardens or food forests on boulevards, in community plots or in their front or backyard

In 2016, we were able to complete 137 free soil tests for heavy metals throughout Victoria and Esquimalt. Soil test results from the first phase of the project are now uploaded onto the Victoria Soil Quality interactive online map, hosted on the Victoria Compost Education Centre’s website and available here: https://www.compost.bc.ca/healing-city-soils/victoria-soil-quality-map/. This open-access map provides community members with a picture of soil health throughout the city.

In 2017, we are expanding the project and are offering free soil tests to residents of Saanich and Oak Bay and the results of these tests will be given to the participants and will be added to the soil health quality map. Participants are chosen on a first come, first serve basis and at the discretion of the student teams from RRU and the project coordinator. All information is confidential and no addresses are shown on the map.

Factsheets and workshops

A key piece of this project is raising awareness, sharing information to inspire safe and healthy food production here in the city and empowering people with the necessary skills to build the health of their soil if contaminants are found. We are releasing factsheets with information specific to Victoria about:

Soil Contamination Getting to know your soil (including how to understand a soil test)

Best Practices for Healthy Urban Gardens Backyard bioremediation: How to work with plants, mushrooms, and compost to address heavy metal contamination in your soil

Already had your soil tested? Send us your soil test results:

If you’ve already had your soil tested, please send us the results to info@compost.bc.ca so we can include them in this research.

For more information:
Contact Marika Smith: info@compost.bc.ca

Thank you to our project partners at Royal Roads