Healing City Soils


Project Background

Thanks to generous funding from the Victoria Foundation, Healing City Soils, a partnership between the CEC, bioremediation educator and HCS Program Coordinator, Danielle Stevenson of DIY FUNGI, GIS specialist and Mapping Coordinator Steeve Deschenes, and Royal Roads University, enters its 3rd year!

HCS is about getting to know the soil beneath our feet, and building community around healing it. Ensuring that soil is healthy is the 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.  Potentially toxic soils can be a concern for urban food gardens as the contaminants may taken up into or onto our veggies and fruits. Soil testing can be expensive, and results couched in jargon can be confusing or disheartening, which creates barriers to getting more folks growing their own food.

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 the south Island makes up the traditional territories of the Lkwungen speaking peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, as well as the W̱SÁNEĆ, T’Souke and Scia’new First Nations. It is an honor to live and work within their traditional territory. To learn more about First Nations communities where you live, see: The First Peoples Cultural Council Language Map of BC or visit First Nations Land Rights and Environmentalism in BC.

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 were made available to residents of the City of Victoria and Esquimalt in 2016, Saanich and Oak Bay in 2017 and View Royal, Colwood and Langford in 2018.  Applications are open to those 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 and 2017, we were able to complete 237 free soil tests for heavy metals. Soil test results from the first two phases 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.

As of February 15th, 2018, we have opened applications and are offering free soil tests to residents of View Royal, Colwood and Langford 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.

To Apply Fill Out Click the Link Below Highlighted Green and Fill Out the Form:

HCS 2018: View Royal, Colwood, and Langford

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 have released 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 University, and Danielle Stevenson of DIY FUNGI.