Healing City Soils


We are working towards a COVID-safe Soil Sampling program.  at present Soil testing is postponed in order to ensure the safety of our Royal Roads student team.


If you have already applied to have your soil tested we hope to be in touch with you by the end of 2021 regarding next steps, but cannot make any guarantees at this time. 
We are committed to providing our free soil Contaminant testing service to community; thank you for understanding the limitations of our exceptional circumstances. 

100 applications will be selected for testing based upon the needs of the Healing City Soils team’s project objectives; application does not guarantee selection, however reapplication in following years is very welcome!  Please reach out if you have questions about the work or application process.

Project Background

Healing City Soils (HCS) is a partnership between the Compost Education Centre, mycologist, applied environmental scientist and HCS Program Creator, Danielle Stevenson, environmental analytical chemist, Professor Matt Dodd, and Royal Roads University Bachelors of Environmental Science Program.

HCS is about getting to know the soil beneath our feet, and building community around healing it.  Learning about the soil where we live also means honoring that the South Island is comprised of the traditional territories of the Lkwungen speaking peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, the SENĆOŦEN speaking communities of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation, as well as the T’Souke and Scia’new First Nations.  At the CEC we seek to respect, honor and continually grow our own understandings of Indigenous rights and history, and to fulfill our responsibilities as settlers, who live and work directly with the land and its complex, vital ecologies and our diverse, evolving communities*.

Ensuring that soil is healthy is the first step to any agriculture project; from backyard growing to community and boulevard gardening. Urban and even rural 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 food gardens as the contaminants may be taken up into or onto our veggies and fruits. Soil testing can be expensive, and results, often heavy with scientific language, can be complex, confusing or disheartening.  Any of these things can create barriers to getting more folks growing their own food and understanding why the health of their soil is vital to local ecosystems, our communities’ well-being, and to mitigating the effects of climate change.

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.

*Here are just three examples of many where you can learn more about First Nations communities where you live, see: The First Peoples Cultural Council Language Map of BC, Native Land 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 is available to residents of the Capital Regional District (CRD).  Applications are open to those who are growing food, or are interested in starting food gardens or food forests on boulevards, in community plots, teaching gardens, school gardens or in their front or backyard.

From 2016-2019 we were able to offer more than 500 free soil tests for heavy metals. Soil test results from the first four phases of the project are now uploaded onto the Victoria Soil Quality interactive online map, hosted here on our website. This open-access map provides community members with a picture of soil health throughout the CRD.

On January 25th, 2020, we opened applications and began offering free soil tests to residents of the Capital Regional District, unfortunately these applications were closed due to pandemic precautions in April of 2020.  Typically, results of these tests are given back to participants in the late summer or early fall and will be added to the soil health quality map. Participants are chosen based on the discretion of the student teams from RRU and the project coordinator, both of which are guided by the student team’s yearly project objectives. All information is confidential and no addresses are shown on the map.

Professor Dodd shows RRU BSc Environmental Science student, Kathleen, how to sample dandelion roots for contaminant bioavailability testing.

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)

?Finn?Jordi ?Katie ? RRU Professor Matt Dodd ? Martyna ?Kathleen ? Healing City Soils Program Lead, Technical Advisor & Soil Toxicologist Danielle Stevenson (joining us all the way from SoCal, nbd)? HCS Program Coordinator & CEC Rep. Alexis Hogan ?

Best Practices for Healthy Urban Gardens Backyard best practices: how to work with plants, mushrooms, and compost to reduce your risk of contaminant exposure.

Bioremediation for Urban Gardeners  

An introduction to learning about the relationships between native and non-native plants and mycelia and how they are used in remediation processes involving low-to-moderate levels of heavy metal contamination.

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 office@compost.bc.ca so we can include them in this research.

For more information:
Contact Alexis Hogan: office@compost.bc.ca

Thank you to our project partners at Royal Roads University, and Danielle Stevenson of DIY FUNGI.