Get Growing, Victoria!

2022 Get Growing, Victoria!

The award-winning Get Growing, Victoria! program supports communities in need through partnerships with non-profit organizations that help distribute seedlings to residents who face barriers to growing their own food.

Partner organizations support communities directly through their programs, like horticultural therapy for mental health support groups, and gardening and food access programs for community kitchens that support people with disabilities. The pandemic has exacerbated the need for more support and resources to help communities foster social and emotional well-being in safe ways.

Get Growing, Victoria! is the recipient of the BC Recreation and Parks Association Program Excellence Award. Learn more. Read the BCRPA's latest article highlighting the impact and importance of Get Growing, Victoria!  Award-Winning Victoria Gardening Program Sows Seeds that Feed and Connect

Download the 2022 Get Growing, Victoria! poster here

2022 Seedling Distribution 

Seedling distribution for 2022 is now complete. The list of fall/winter crops that were available this year, and care tips, can be found here.

About the Program

Get Growing, Victoria! is a City of Victoria program that provides food seedlings and garden materials with a priority to support underserved communities. The seedlings are grown in the City nursery in Beacon Hill Park and distributed in partnership with community organizations.

In the program's first year in 2020, over 81,500 edible plants were grown and 200 cubic yards of garden materials were distributed, supported by over 44 community partners that directly served over 10,000 households. In 2021, over 86,500 edible plants were grown and 250 cubic yards of garden materials were distributed, supported by over 60 community partners that directly served over 12,000 households.

In 2022, the City distributed 100,000 seedlings in partnership with 67community organizations, neighbourhood associations, supportive and affordable housing organizations, environmental ​stewardship organizations, mutual aid groups, and more. Over 300 cubic yards of garden materials will be distributed to community for residential gardens by the end of 2022. 

If your organization supports equity-deserving communities with gardening initiatives and has an interest to participate in this program in 2023, please contact parks@victoria.ca for more information.

Check out this NewCities article, Grow Food, Grow Gardeners, Grow Community by Mayor Lisa Helps about Get Growing, Victoria!

To learn more about the collective impact of this program, check out this video from one of our partners, Growing Together.

What We Grew in 2022

Seedling varieties are selected for easy growing for the novice gardener and suitable for a variety of locations, such as garden beds in yards or container gardening on decks and balconies.

Spring distribution provides vegetable and herb seedlings and includes tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, lettuce, basil, chives, nasturtiums, calendula and shiso. 

Late summer distribution of fall/winter crops included cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, kale and pac choi. 

For more information about each seedling variety and tips for seedling care, visit Growing Together.

How do I care for seedlings?

We want new gardeners to experience the joy of growing food successfully. Check out our educational opportunities and partner organizations below.

Growing in the City Workshops
If you are interested in an in-depth and immersive learning experience, check out the City of Victoria's new Growing in the City gardening and nature-based workshops. Learn more and register at victoria.ca/recreation.

Compost Education Centre
We have partnered with the Compost Education Centre to offer on-site education at all 2022 neighbourhood distribution days. They offer a wealth of educational materials, resources and knowledge to the community on topics such as composting, soil health, growing your year-round veggie garden and more. For more information about the excellent resources, workshops and services on offer, check out the Compost Education Centre.

Growing Together
The Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CRFAIR) and the Growing Together campaign 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 with Growing Together.

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 food plants and garden materials and may not have access to fresh, locally grown food.

This may include, but is not limited to, Indigenous people, racialized people, people who have experienced loss of work, people who are immunocompromised, people living with cognitive, physical, financial or social barriers or disabilities, seniors, youth, families in need, unhoused people, and/or people who self-identify as food insecure.

Garden Materials for Residential Gardens

Help build healthy soil in your garden with free leaf mulch and compost from the City of Victoria. Good quality soil is a key ingredient in creating a foundation for healthy plants. As part of the Get Growing, Victoria! program, leaf mulch, compost, and woodchips produced at the City’s nursery in Beacon Hill Park will be dropped off at community locations for pick up by residential gardeners in the spring, late summer and fall. Spring 2022 distribution is now complete.

How should I transport the compost, leaf mulch, and wood chips? 
When handling any garden material, it is recommended to use gloves and conduct proper hand washing practices. The compost and leaf mulch are loose and not pre-bagged, so please bring your own container such as a bucket, tote, or wheelbarrow, as well as a shovel and gloves. We encourage people to maintain proper physical distancing from others while loading material. 

What is in the compost?  
The compost is compiled of organic matter including grass clippings, leaves from parks and boulevards, plant material, excavation material from boulevards (soil and turf), wood chips, and manure from the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm.  

What is in the leaf mulch?  
The leaf mulch is compiled of leaves from the City’s residential leaf collection program. 

What is in the woodchips?  
The woodchips are compiled from branches collected through the City's branch chipping program.

Building Healthy Soil

Maintaining a neutral soil pH by adding organic matter and compost to your soil and mulching your garden soil are all great ways to help keep your garden happy! Remember to thoroughly wash your garden produce to help reduce your exposure to soil contaminants so you can enjoy the many health benefits of eating fresh garden-grown fruits and vegetables. 

Is this material suitable to use in food gardens? 
Recent soil tests for heavy metals conclude the compost and leaf mulch are within the allowable limits for BC Waste Management Act Schedule 3.1, the CCME Soil Quality Guidelines and OMRR guidelines. It is important to note that the compost is made up of organic matter including manure from the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm. Proper handling of garden materials and hand washing is recommended when working with all soil amendments, including compost.  

If interested in learning more about soil health and contaminants, check out the Compost Education Centre's information on soil contaminants basics. In addition, learn about the Healing City Soils program to have free soil testing conducted each year in the spring. 

Why does the carbon-to nitrogen ratio matter? 
The carbon-to-nitrogen ratio is an important consideration when growing food crops. Recent soil testing concluded that both the compost and leaf mulch have a higher carbon to nitrogen ration than optimal. The higher carbon ratio means that as the carbon breaks down, it will pull nitrogen from the soil to complete its de-composition process. This may result in slower plant growth, especially for vegetables. These materials should be used as an amendment to your soil and not used as a soil replacement.  

How to use these materials as an amendment?  
If using a high carbon amendment like the City’s compost, it is recommended to also add nitrogen rich compost such as kelp or composted fish fertilizer or add liquid kelp fertilizer throughout the growing season. It is recommended that the mulch is best suited to top dress ornamental plants.

Where can I learn more about soil health?
To learn more about soil health and contaminants, check out the Compost Education Centre and their information on soil contaminants basics. For more in-depth information regarding mulching practices, please refer to their fact sheets or webpages on:

Our Partners

Thank you to our amazing recipient organization who help ensure the success of Get Growing, Victoria! We are proud to partner with First Nations and organizations that provide a variety of community services, such as:

  • Indigenous foods initiatives
  • Friendship centres
  • Intercultural community organizations
  • Mental health and addictions organizations
  • Community centre operators
  • Neighbourhood associations
  • Mutual aid groups
  • Emergency food access organizations
  • Social service organizations
  • Subsidized and supportive housing organizations
  • Environmental stewardship organizations
  • Public health organizations
  • Greater Victoria School District
  • School and community gardens

In addition to the 50 recipient organizations accessing Get Growing, Victoria!, we also help offer neighbourhood distribution days in partnership with community organizations and neighbourhood associations across the city. This provides a community collection hub in every neighbourhood where free food starts and garden materials are available. 

Thank you to our neighbourhood distribution partners for ensuring smooth and safe collection events for everyone, including:

  • James Bay Neighbourhood Association
  • Oaklands Community Association
  • Burnside Gorge Community Association
  • North Park Neighbourhood Association
  • Fairfield Gonzales Community Association 
  • Fernwood Neighbourhood Resource Group
  • Government House and Friends of Government House
  • South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association 
  • Victoria West Community Association and Victoria West Food Security Collective
  • Yates Street Community Garden 
  • Quadra Village Community Centre

Growing in the City Grants  

Learn more about the various City grants that support community-led urban agriculture programs and activities, including community gardening, boulevard gardening, food tree stewardship and the City’s seedling and garden material distribution program, Get Growing, Victoria!