Society for Organic Urban Land Care

The Society for Organic Urban Land Care (SOUL) is a Victoria, British Columbia-based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the transition to organic practices for the care of land among professional landscapers, groundskeepers, and the general public.

SOUL was formed in response to the growing need for ecologically responsible land care practices. Their mission is to promote and support organic practices in our communities through education, certification and standardization.[1]

Its efforts to spread awareness and use of organic practices provides an alternative solution for those working to ban the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides.[2]

History and branches

Since its foundation in 2003, SOUL has enjoyed a slow but steady increase in membership numbers. Starting up with a core group of about a dozen Victoria, B.C. based landscape professionals and gardeners, SOUL evolved into a nationwide society now exceeding 200 members. While the bulk of present-day members reside and work on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, others are joining SOUL from as far away as Ontario and the Northwestern United States, and even Japan.

The base and foundation of SOUL remains in Vancouver and Victoria, in the form of SOUL Central's President and Board Of Directors. Branches represent clusters of local SOUL members all across Canada and North America. There are currently branches in Victoria, Vancouver and Ridge Meadows (Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows).

Standards for organic land care

The SOUL Organic Land Care Standard was developed to define the practice of Organic Land Care for the public and for professionals in the industry. This standard clarifies the term "organic", and is intended to protect the public from misleading claims and practices.

This Standard was developed in consultation with many landscape professionals across the world. Like all standards it is a living document, and subject to change in the light of further experience with Organic Land Care.[3]

This Standard is used in LEED Canada for Existing Buildings: Operations and maintenance 2009 Credit 3 for Sustainable Sites

Certification of organic land care professionals

The landscape industry is undergoing rapid change as it responds to a growing demand for organic practices. In order to assist the public to make an informed selection of services, SOUL provides certification for landscape professionals who have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the principles and practices of Organic Land Care.

SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professionals are certified to have the knowledge and experience to provide Organic Land Care according to the SOUL Organic Land Care Standard.

Individuals who wish to become certified by SOUL must fulfill four requirements.

1. Providing proof of acceptable education and experience in each of the following areas

   * Organic soil management, including composting
   * Organic landscape design, construction and maintenance
   * Plant knowledge
   * Site analysis

2. Making a knowledge-based contribution to the public awareness of Organic Land Care. 3. Passing a written examination 4. Signing an affidavit that he or she will provide Organic Land Care according to the most current edition of the SOUL Organic Land Care Standard to clients who request Organic Land Care Services.

Certification is valid for 3 years.

Education of organic land care professionals and home gardeners

SOUL, working in partnership with Gaia College,[4] initiated the Organic Master Gardener program. This program, designed for urban gardening enthusiasts, is the organic alternative to the Master Gardener Programs. It was offered initially in Victoria, BC, through Royal Roads University,[5] and has now expanded to the following municipalities:
Maple Ridge
Port Alberni
Shawnigan Lake
Stony Plain, AB

Completion of the Organic Master Gardener program can earn continuing education credits with the following organizations:

International Society of Arboriculture: Certified Arborist[6]
Pre-approved: 30 Credits

International Society of Arboriculture: Board Certified Management Arborist
Pre-approved: 30 Credits (Science 15, Practice 15)

B.C. Society of Landscape Architects [7]
As per Society guidelines - eligibility of this program has been confirmed

SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional
Full required credits for 3-year certification renewal

Canadian Horticultural Technician[8]
Full required credits for yearly certification renewal

Public workshops

In 2008, SOUL was approached by the Victoria CRD Roundtable on the Environment's Pesticide Use Reduction Education (PURE) Working Group to help put on some organic gardening workshops. In co-operation with Gaia College, SOUL organized these workshops in all municipalities in the Greater Victoria CRD, and repeated them again in 2009.[9]

SOUL published 3 reference books used for these workshops: Practical Tips for Organic Gardeners, Products for Organic Gardeners and Soil Testing for Organic Gardeners. They are available for free to the public on their website.[10]

Organic Garden Tour

The SOUL Victoria branch organizes an annual Organic Garden Tour, offering attendees a look at different types of organic gardens around the city. In 2009, they added demonstrations at each garden to highlight a particular principle of organic gardening, including compost tea, bokashi composting and effective microorganism, vermicompost, aerobic bin composting and permaculture design principles.

Educational materials

A textbook, Working with Nature - Shifting Paradigms (The Science and Practice of Organic Horticulture), written by SOUL's founder, Heidi Hermary, was published in 2007.[11]


  1. SOUL
  2. Pesticide Free BC
  3. Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine Organic Landcare Standards, Fourth Edition, 2007.
  4. Gaia College
  5. Royal Roads University
  6. Archived 2009-12-02 at the Wayback Machine International Society of Arboriculture
  7. Society of Landscape Architects
  8. Archived 2010-02-16 at the Wayback Machine BC Landscape & Nursery Association
  9. PURE Workshops.
  10. SOUL EBooks.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2009-11-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Working With Nature
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