Get Growing, Victoria!
Learning to grow food at home contributes to food security and our community resilience, and the City of Victoria is responding to a renewed interest in learning to garden.
Get Growing, Victoria! provides food seedlings and garden materials to citizens in need, including people disproportionally impacted by the ongoing pandemic. The seedlings are grown in the City’s 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.
Check out this newcities article, Grow Food, Grow Gardeners, Grow Community by Mayor Lisa Helps, highlighting Get Growing, Victoria!
Garden Materials Collection a Success
Many home gardens across the city have been supported with free garden materials from the City of Victoria this year! Leaf mulch, compost and wood chips produced at the Parks yard in Beacon Hill Park were delivered to neighbourhood locations throughout 2021 for residents to collect and use in their gardens. 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
- The Compost Education Centre
- South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association
- Victoria West Community Association
- Victoria West Food Security Collective
- Yates Street Community Garden
- Quadra Village Community Centre
We’d like to hear about the wonderful ways you are using the garden materials. Share a story from your garden and/or send us some photos: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put Your Garden to Bed
Help put your garden to bed with free leaf mulch and compost from the City of Victoria. Adding compost and leaf mulch to your garden in the fall is a great way to build your soil over the winter. Good quality soil is a key ingredient in creating a foundation for healthy plants in the spring. To learn more about putting your garden to bed for the winter, and other topics from local growers, check out resources and videos from Growing Together.
Are the garden materials I picked up safe to use on food gardens?
Yes, test results confirm that the leaf mulch and compost materials are safe to use on food gardens. The compost and leaf mulch materials for this program are tested annually in the spring for hydrocarbons and heavy metals, due to the potential low risk of contaminants from leaves collected from streets.
Can I plant food plants directly into the garden materials?
Both the leaf mulch and compost are high in carbon and should be used as an amendment and not a soil replacement. Food plants love nitrogen and a nitrogen-rich amendment (sea soil or liquid fish fertilizer) should be used alongside these materials.
It may be best to use these materials as a carbon-rich layer when sheet-mulching or as a topdressing for ornamentals and pathways. Gloves are recommended and proper handwashing practices after use should be followed.
Where can I learn more about soil health?
To learn more about soil health and contaminants, check out our friends at the Compost Education Centre and their information on soil contaminants basics. For more in-depth information regarding mulching practices, please refer to their factsheets on:
2021 Get Growing, Victoria! Successes
Get Growing, Victoria! supports communities in need through partnerships with non-profit organizations that help distribute the seedlings to residents who are facing barriers to access materials to grow their own food.
Many partner organizations of Get Growing 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.
This is why Get Growing, Victoria! has neighbourhood distribution days – a community collection hub in every neighbourhood where free food starts are available to collect for those who are facing barriers.
(Photo credit: Aly Sibley Photography at Fernwood collection day)
Thank you to our amazing community partners 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
To learn more about last year's program, check out this video from one of our partners, Growing Together:
What We Grew in 2021
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.
Our spring seedling distribution provided vegetable and herbs and include tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, lettuce, basil, chives, nasturtiums, and edible marigolds.
Our late summer distribution of fall/winter crops includes cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, swiss chard, romaine and loose-leaf lettuce, broccoli, kale, and mustard greens.
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.
How do I care for seedlings?
We want new gardeners to experience the joy of growing food successfully. To help make that happen, we have 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: Growing Together
Tips for seedling care: https://www.growingfood-together.com/get-growing-victoria
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