Project digs deep for information on backyard gardens

Saanich and Oak Bay residents can have their soil tested for free

Royal Roads University students Shawna Cheyne

A local project will allow Saanich residents to get the dirt on what’s in their backyard.

The Healing City Soils Project is offering free soil testing for homes in Saanich and Oak Bay. Students from Royal Roads’ Environmental Science Program will be testing this spring for heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and cadmium at residential gardens and boulevards in Saanich and Oak Bay.

“Urban food production is increasing and municipalities are encouraging residents to grow their own food and become more self-sufficient,” said Marika Smith, executive director of theGreater Victoria Compost Education Centre.

For the past 25 years the centre has been teaching Capital Region residents about organic gardening and how to grow their own vegetables, compost and build up their soil.

“We wanted to delve more into the soil science aspect of things and look at historical land use.”

The Healing City Soils Project is a partnership between the Victoria Compost Education Centre and Royal Roads University created to address soil health concerns in urban areas. The project started last year with Royal Roads students testing homes in Victoria and Esquimalt for heavy metals.

“Without wanting to scare people, it’s to give people a better idea of the health of their soil before they start growing their own food,” said Smith. “Soil testing from a certified lab is really expensive and it’s not accessible to everybody. That was sort of the main reason we started doing this.”

The group then put together an online, open-access map showing the sites that had been tested (without providing specific addresses).

“People can look at it at anytime and [see areas] where there might be some concern about soil contamination,” said Smith.

None of the areas tested last year revealed any serious health risks, but Smith said about 10 to 15 per cent of the properties were found to have some concerns with the soil.

“As predicted, the areas that had more historical industrial use or were right by a main street had the higher levels,” she said. “All of those people can still garden safely, they just need to follow some guidelines.”

That leads to the second part of the project, with the centre offering free workshops on how to remediate your soil.

“Sometimes, if it’s really contaminated, you need to not garden there or use raised beds,” said Smith.

Residents of Saanich and Oak Bay can apply online to have their soil tested by filling out an application. The application and the map can be found at compost.bc.ca, under the Healing City Soils tab. Applications are due by March 1.

“We need about 60 Saanich residents and 40 from Oak Bay to get an accurate representation on the map,” said Smith, adding residents will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Just Posted

Sun on its way after Greater Victoria sees wettest July in six years

Environment Canada meteorologists say the drizzle is likely to end soon

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

Saanich samples the best of local food at Pepper’s Foods showcase.

Tenth annual showcase celebrates local food producers and vendors

After Victoria dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

VIDEO: 1,400 classic cars roll into Victoria for Deuce Days

The four-day festival highlights classic hot rods, with a special emphasis on cars built in 1932

POLL: Do you carry reusable shopping bags?

While a court ruling determined the City of Victoria’s plastic bag ban… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of July 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Most Read