We are excited to announce the launch of a Greener Greenspaces, a new recognition program promoting ecological approaches to urban land care.
Greener Greenspaces encourages landscapers, groundskeepers and horticulturalists in cities and towns across Canada to care for publicly accessible greenspaces in ways that promote ecological health, resilience and biodiversity.
We are living in a climate emergency and a biodiversity crisis. How we alter, create and care for greenspace matters. Healthier and biodiverse landscapes support climate adaptation and mitigation and provide enormous ecological services.
The program recognizes site-specific greenspaces, such as parks, school grounds, campuses, institutional grounds, community gardens and other spaces that demonstrate they are cared for in ways that:
increase biodiversity and support plant health
improve soil health and protect air and water quality
take steps to minimize waste and energy consumption
actively avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides
The 2021 program is now open for submissions and we will be accepting applications until October 15th.
The program details and application form are now online at organiclandcare.ca
If there is a greenspace that you would like to nominate, or someone in your community that you would like to put us in touch with, please do. The email for this program is firstname.lastname@example.org
On National Indigenous Peoples Day, I always reflect on the reality that, in doing the work we do, we are working with land.
The historical, social and legal status of that land is complicated and, in many cases, troubling.
I live and work in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on unceded Algonquin lands. My livelihood is directly, physically tied to stolen land. In many other places in this country, we work with lands covered by treaties that have not been honored.
This map is a great starting point for finding the territories, languages and treaties of the places we live and work.
It can sometimes feel like there isn’t much for us, as individuals, to do with this reality.
As challenging as getting started can be, there are growing calls for learning more about the history and present of the places we live and the diversity of people and cultures that have the deepest roots in these places.
There is a lot of critical work that needs to be done to create ecosystem health in urban spaces. This is important, healing work that needs to be completed in partnership with soils, plants and micro and macro-organisms. We know that taking time to get to know the life we are working with is critical to practicing care-centered work with land. What many of are still in the process of learning about is the cultural and social ecosystem that we are working with.
The SOUL series on The Role of Horticulture in Cultivating Social and Land Equity explored a range of experiences and voices on land relationship, directly relating to landscaping and horticulture. The sessions were recorded and are available for viewing on the SOUL website.
In Urban Green Space and Land Access Isaac Crosby shared stories about his work and experiences in horticulture as a Black and Indigenous person and about his projects and plans relating to the Indigenous gardens he has been creating at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. If you don't have time to watch the entire series right now, this would be a good session to check out in honour of Indigenous Peoples day.
By taking the time to learn about the historical and present human relationships and experiences with the land and the spaces we work with and in, our work can also help to heal human and cultural ecosystems.
Happy Solstice Everyone,
The Canadian Society for Organic Urban Land Care
Since 2005, Sunnybrook’s groundskeeping team, led by Head Groundskeeper Rohan Harrison, has worked to optimize the ecological health of the grounds. This has resulted in the adoption of 100% organic land care practices to build soil health, which in turn contributes to plant and tree health. As described by Mr. Harrison, “like in humans, proper nutrition (soil management) is the foundation to create and maintain a healthy, environmentally-friendly and sustainable landscape – that heals!”
We are pleased to be able to share with you this Case Study of the Use of Organic Land Care Practices at a Health Care Campus.
We’ve been working on adding expanded member profiles to the SOUL website. Please check out the stories of your land care peers and some of what they have been working on.
I was particularly taken with some of the work that Cate Henderson is doing for the Kenhteke Seed Sanctuary and Learning Centre, which is centred around the Rematriation of an heirloom seed collection to Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory-a Haudenosaunee community near Prince Edward County.
Are you passionate about organic land care? Have ideas that can help SOUL grow nationally? Want to be a part of the future of organic land care? Join the Board of Directors! We are looking for passionate people to join the 2018-19 SOUL Board to help us navigate the major change of becoming a federal organization.
To nominate someone (or yourself), please submit your name and contact info to adminATorganiclandcare.ca by midnight PST Sunday, October 21, 2018.
This week we are joining Canada’s organic industry in celebrating Organic Week - a celebration of organic food, farming, and products. For over a decade now, Canadian Organic Growers (COG) and Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) have drawn attention to all the wonderful aspects of organic Canada has to offer.
There are many ways to celebrate Organic Week from recipe challenges to BBQs with organic food to offering a composting workshop. One of our favourite ideas is opening up your organic garden to your neighbours and showing them just how vibrant and healthy it is with it’s lack of synthetic fertilizers and chemical inputs. Our other favourite way to celebrate is to talk about organic, and not just food or farming but organic land care as well. With our Organic Land Care for Your Community guide, it’s easy to start the discussion about organic land care with your neighbours, municipal council and gardening friends. Or, you can always talk about the weather - dry spells or periods of heavy rain - and how gardens maintained organically are more resilient to these events.
Whatever you do, take time this week to let people know that you support the Canadian organic industry and let’s get people excited about all aspects of organic food and land care, including the microbes keeping the soil healthy and the care taken to plan for the future.
We are all stewards of the land, whether it be as a certified organic grain farmer or a SOUL accredited or certified professional, we have a duty to the earth and future generations.
If you enjoy having a weed infested garden, then mulching is not for you. Mulching is not only good for your yard and aesthetically pleasing, but it is also good for your lawn's soil and the plants you have living within your garden. Mulch can be made from anything organic - meaning that all the materials you need are readily available and can be collected from all around. You can start by collecting leaves in the fall. Regardless of the other organic materials you are planning on using, leaves will definitely make for a strong base for your mulch, add essential nutrients to the soil and protect the new plants from weeds.
Mulch prevents weeds from proliferating in your yard by forming an artificial barrier between your soil and their space above it, landscapers far and wide should be familiar with its benefits. These benefits include a unique ability to maintain soil temperatures and conserve water, while stifling weed growth and promoting garden health.
These abilities allow mulch to control the level of moisture present in the soil and stop water from evaporating from the soil, moderating the temperature of the soil and making it easier for plant roots to stay cool.
There is no standard mulch, however, so it's all about taking into consideration the number of factors at play in your yard when it comes time to choose what to include in the mulch for your lawn and how much to use for a given area.
Check out this infographic for reasons why you should use homemade mulch on your garden and lawn.
~Submitted by Timberland Tree Care
“… in indigenous ways of knowing, we understand a thing only when we understand it with all four aspects of our being: mind, body, emotion, and spirit.” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 47).
Simply put, compost happens, so I can now finish this short exploration into compost, decomposition and transmutation (“Black Gold”) – truly alchemy if ever there was. Because we, the readers have been cultured, schooled and involved in “Working With Nature”, my assumption is that the activity and process of composting is familiar to all of you.
Its been my good fortune to be involved in composting for a long time -both here in B.C. and in the Yukon, where I experienced the best and worst of compost (that is another article on compost bins going rogue and the story of flies!). My initial experience with compost revealed an increase to the nutrients that supported growth of plants. As I explored the world of micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and micro-arthropods) and macro-organisms (earthworms, arthropods), I began to understand how organisms drive the decomposition process. Furthermore, in mature compost the microorganisms continue to digest organic material, providing an ongoing supply of nutrients to plants through the “Soil Food Web” distribution system. Composts built with a diversity of materials, with attention to the Carbon/Nitrogen ratios, determination of whether to use a hot or cold composting process, aeration and increased moisture produces well broken down compost. When one composts, it is good to replicate a natural process.
The composting process is improved through the utilization of technology (e.g. bin structures) mechanization (e.g. aeration and irrigation) or a combination of both. Exploration of ways to enhance the compost include: addition of Effective or Indigenous Micro-organisms, use of a fermentation process called Bokhasi composting, addition of Biochar to increase the speed of decomposition, reduction of GHG emissions and to “charge” the Biochar, and use of composting methods from other geographies (e.g. utilizing Hugelkultur composting). However, current literature supports what has been known; aerobic composting uses a hot process whereas a cold process is slower. Good compost making will produce good compost.
The wisdom introduced by botanist and Potawatomi Indigenous knowledge keeper Robin Kimmerer says, we understand something when we know it through our mind, body, emotion and spirit. This reflects something I/we have always known, but now science backs up this knowledge. The microscopic world (microbiology), to my mind, may be where the developments in composting are heading. Two recent pieces of research point in this direction. I know good compost by smelling it, although tests will reveal what precisely is in it.
A pleasant earthy smell means good compost. This smell is called geosmin; it is the Actinobacter (a filamentous fungi like bacteria previously called Actinomycetes), and its presence denotes good compost. (Paul, 2017). Furthermore, I feel good when I am working with good finished compost, although I feel great anytime I am in the garden! Although the smell is pleasant, there is also something else promoting my good feelings. Research has found that the soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae is at play here. This bacteria when inhaled or enters the body elsewhere, it appears to activate neurons in the brain that release serotonin which positively affects one’s mood. (Schlanger, Z., 2007). Dirt has been labelled as the new prosac, now referred to as an antidepressant.
Compost is good for the soil, good for plants and now we find it is good for us! As has been said, we start with the soil and everything will follow!
“Nothing ever grows from the heavens downwards; everything grows from the earth upwards to the heavens. We are all part of nature …” (Stiene, 2015, p. 23).
Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Milkweed Editions: Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Paul, John (posted October 13, 2017). Helping us Pass the Sniff Test for Composting – the Amazing Actinobacter. Retrieved from the internet on May 9, 2018. http://www.transformcompostsystems.com/blog/2017/10/13/helping-us-pass-the-sniff-test-for-composting-the-amazing-actinobacter/
Schlanger, Z. (May 30, 2017). Dirt has a microbiome, and it may double as an antidepressant. Online Magazine Quartz. Retrieved May 10, 2018. https://qz.com/993258/dirt-has-a-microbiome-and-it-may-double-as-an-antidepressant/
Stiene, F. (2015). The Inner Heart of Reiki: Rediscovering Your True Self. John Hurt Publishing Ltd.: Alresford, Hants, UK.
David Greig - MEd, HTR, CP, Cert. Soil Steward, Master Composter
David wrote this article from his home on the unceded and occupied Coast Salish territories, specifically, the ancestral lands of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, the lands of the W̱SÁNEĆ First Nation and the T'Souke First Nation.
Compost is a great addition to any garden or growing space - except when it's not. Too much, poor quality or unfinished compost can have detrimental effects. Professional Member Laurie Balch shared her experience in her article Death by Compost.
If you have an organic gardening lesson learned story to share let us know! Email us at adminATorganiclandcare.ca
A draft copy of the Organic Land Care for Your Community guide, developed for members of the public to use as a road map for working with their municipal government to adopt organic land care policies on public lands, is now available.
Please take a look through it, let us know if you have any feedback to offer and share it with anyone in your network of contacts that you think would find it to be interesting or useful.
Our next step is working on compiling supporting information and resources.
If you have a go-to place for good technical information, articles or case studies relating to organic land care in public spaces, please let us know by email, or by commenting on this post.
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