Growing in the City
The City supports urban food production on public and private land.
Urban gardening and food production contribute positively to health and well-being, social interaction, connection to nature, and environmental education. They help create healthy and diverse ecosystems while building community and our food security.
Get Growing, Victoria!
This free food seedlings distribution program created by the City of Victoria in partnership with community and non-profit organizations supports communities disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is renewed interest in community resilience, food security and learning how to grow food at home.
In April 2020, City Council directed staff to temporarily reprioritize operations in the existing municipal nursery in Beacon Hill Park for the growth and distribution of food starts to be shared over the 2020 growing season.
Over 75,000 edible plant starts are being grown by the City, to be distributed by over 30 community partners who directly serve over 2,000 members of marginalized communities.
Most organizations are acting as distribution sites for community members to pick up seedlings to be transplanted at home. Some community partners are growing the seedlings in their existing operations to distribute the fresh produce through their programs.
What is being grown?
This program will provide a selection of 17 vegetable and herb starts for easy growing by the novice gardener, and suitable for a variety of locations, such as garden beds in yards or container gardening on decks and balconies. Local seeds were procured from Southern Vancouver Island farms and through the BC Eco Seed Co-op.
The selection includes a variety of cucumbers, zucchini, squash, cabbage, broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, chard, kale, basil, tomatoes, parsley and lettuce.
Who is eligible to receive plants?
The project prioritizes support for people who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and want to grow food at home, but that may be facing barriers to access to food plants and garden materials, or are facing barriers to access fresh, locally grown food.
That may include, but is not limited to, those who have experienced loss of work, Indigenous people, people who are immunocompromised, people with disabilities, seniors, at-risk youth, families in need, and/or people who self-identify as food insecure.
How can I receive seedlings?
Please contact your local community centre to register. Plant orders will not be placed in advance. Seedling varieties can be selected by participants on site.
Please see the Distribution Schedule for dates and times of distribution per location. Each location will host the first hour of distribution for seniors and immunocompromised folks only, and after registered participants have received seedlings, the program is open to the wider public.
For example, for locations offering 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. distribution:
10 - 11 a.m.: Seniors and immunocompromised
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Registered participants
1 - 2 p.m.: Open to wider public
Community Partner Organizations
Oaklands Community Association
North Park Neighbourhood Association
Victoria West Community Centre
Fernwood Community Centre
Fairfield Gonzales Community Association
South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association
Downtown Yates Street Community Garden
Burnside Gorge Community Association
Quadra Village Community Centre
If you are a family of the Greater Victoria School District, you are eligible to access free vegetable plants and educational materials. Seedling distribution will happen Monday to Thursday, from May 25 to June 11, at four school sites. Over 2,000 families from 47 schools will have access to the seedlings. For more information, see here.
The Food Eco-District – My FED Farm
In partnership with Top Soil Innovative Agriculture, My FED Farm provides free start-up food garden kits to 500 families in need. To sign up or to find more information, see here.
CRFAIR Youth Food Network
This program offers youth who are facing obstacles in accessing healthy and locally grown food to grow their own garden. If you are a youth and would like to sign up for this program, see here.
How do I care for seedlings?
The City has partnered with the Capital Regional Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CRFAIR) and its Growing Together campaign to offer free educational resources in the form of videos, webinars and access to a new-gardener mentorship program. Growing Together shares knowledge from local experts, including site-planning your garden, building healthy soil, companion planting, how to safely transplant seedlings, best watering practices, organic pest management and more.
Start learning today: https://www.growingfood-together.com/learn-to-grow
Growing Food and Gardening in Mixed-Use, Multi-Unit Residential Developments
To encourage urban gardening and food production in mixed-used, multi-unit residential developments, a guide has been developed to offer resources and examples to support the successful and durable incorporation of urban gardening and food production in new and existing developments. The guide also aims to increase awareness about existing good practices and opportunities to innovate. Learn more here.
Boulevard Gardening Guidelines are designed to help beginners and experts garden on City boulevards more confidently and responsibly. Learn how you can transform the boulevard beside your property into a beautiful and healthy garden. Learn more here.
Community Gardens and Orchards
The Community Gardens Policy encourages local non-profit organizations to establish community allotment gardens, commons gardens and orchards. Find a community garden near you or learn about starting your own. Learn more here.
Urban Food Tree Stewardship Pilot Program
Residents, through a community organization, can apply to plant and maintain up to five fruit and nut trees in a local green space. The City will work with the organization to find suitable locations. Trees must be planted from October to November. Read more about the program [PDF - 388 KB] and apply to become a Food Tree Steward here [PDF - 38 KB].
Rooftop greenhouses can enable year-round local food production in dense urban environments. If you want to build a greenhouse on a rooftop, the Building a Rooftop Greenhouse Fact Sheet [PDF - 611 KB] will help you get started.
Keeping Bees and Hens
The Animal Control Bylaw permits an unspecified number of bee hives and up to 15 female chickens or other poultry. Bee hives, coops and pens of all sizes must be set back from the property line. Check the Zoning Regulation Bylaw to see required setbacks for your zone, at victoria.ca/zoning. For information on good hen-keeping practices, see the Basic Chicken CareCare manual made available by the City of Vancouver.
Growing Food to Sell
You can grow and sell edible and non-edible products including unprocessed fruits and vegetables, flowers, herbs, fibre, seeds, nuts, seedlings, mushrooms, plant cuttings, eggs and honey. Apply for a business licence to sell products off-site (e.g. in retail stores or restaurants) as well as on-site (e.g. at food stands). Learn more and get started here.
Resources for Urban Gardening
- The Compost Education Centre offers information on building small greenhouses, soil testing and rainwater harvesting as well as workshops on compost management, organic gardening and soil science.
- The Capital Region Beekeepers’ Association offers online and in-person resources for new and experienced beekeepers.
- The LifeCycles Project Society helps people to grow their own food and have better access to fresh local foods.
- Haliburton Farm is an incubator farm in Saanich that provides educational opportunities related to small-scale organic farming.
- The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific offers gardening workshops and access to demonstration gardens.
- To minimize pesticide use, find tips on the City's website to prevent garden pests and encourage beneficial insects.
- The Guide for Planting, Growing and Harvesting Fresh Produce to Reduce Health Risks, made available by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health, provides resources to prevent produce and soil contamination.
- Public markets provide artisans and local growers the opportunity to promote and sell produce and handcrafted goods in a vibrant atmosphere.
- Pollinators are a key component of a sustainable, resilient and biodiverse urban environment. Learn more about pollinators and how you can help pollinators here.