The Backyard Farmer - Urban Food Gardens


Please use the registration link below to go on the waitlist to receive a notice if spaces become available due to cancellations.

Program Overview

Following in the footsteps of Linda Gilkeson's Year Round Harvest program, this course will teach participants everything they need to know to produce food crops in their backyard, front yard, balcony or boulevard. The course is a strong foundation for beginner gardeners and also home gardeners with some experience.

Our local climate allows for a long growing season and we are fortunate in that we can grow edible crops for most of the year. There will be a strong emphasis on selecting varieties for our local growing conditions and how to make the best of small urban spaces. Participants will learn how to plan a food garden, grow from seed and how to grow various food plants including fruits and vegetables. Harvesting, storage and seed collection will also be covered.

The approach will be a focus on plant health, building healthy soil and integrated pest and disease management. There will also be discussions on coping with changing climatic conditions and gardening in harmony with nature, including birds, pollinators and soil ecology. Participants will also learn ways to contribute to community food production and contribute to local food security.

Classes will be held monthly. Most classes will be on Wednesday evenings 6pm - 9pm with two classes happening on Sunday afternoons 1pm - 4pm. Please check the schedule for specific dates. Classes will be in person except for those taught by Linda Gilkeson which will be via Zoom. Although we will plan for in-person delivery, unavoidable circumstances may mean that classes occasionally need to be moved online via Zoom.

Instructor Biographies

Lead Instructor Bio: Theresa Heinekey

Theresa started farming on Vancouver Island in 2013, after graduating from Dalhousie University with a Masters in Resource and Environmental Management. She fell in love with the local food movement while living in Halifax and going to the bustling farmers markets every Saturday. When she moved back to the West Coast she was eager to get her hands into the soil. Until recently she has been managing Seeds of the Revolution, the Saanich Organics seed company. Theresa stepped away from farming at the end of the 2021 season, and is now…a backyard farmer! Transitioning to a desk job has had its challenges for this outdoors lady, but she is very excited to be growing food for herself and her family, and excited to learn alongside her students how to be the best backyard farmer possible. With a certificate in Organic Seed Saving from the Canadian Organic Growers, a Master Gardener Certificate from Gaia College, and many years of experience farming in our area, Theresa brings a wealth of knowledge to the classroom. She is excited to share her skills with her students, and hopefully learn a few new gardening tips from them as well!

Instructor Bio: Gordon Mackay
Gordon grew up in the city of Glasgow, often called the 'dear green place'. Inspired by his father at an early age to pursue horticulture, he was fortunate enough to be able to follow in his footsteps and completed the 2 year Diploma program at Threave School of Gardening in southwest Scotland. It was at Threave that his love and deep appreciation for all things plant related was fully realized. Working under the head gardener and plantsman Magnus Ramsay, it was soon to become apparent that pruning trees and shrubs was going to play a large part of this obsession. Further training was sought on the 3 year Diploma program at Pershore College of Horticulture in England. Since emigrating to Canada in 1994, Gordon had developed and established his own arboriculture business specializing in fruit tree pruning and tree care. He works part-time at a local retail garden centre; this somewhat helps to satisfy his plant obsession! He is also an instructor here at the Pacific Horticulture College. Gordon is also an avid beekeeper.

Instructor Bio: Linda Gilkeson
Linda's comprehensive gardening book, Backyard Bounty: The Complete Guide to year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, became a BC best seller and has just been republished in a new, considerably expanded edition. It is also the text book for this program. She continues to self-publish books for local gardeners, most recently Resilient Gardens: Pollinator Gardens, Garlic Diseases, Pest Update. In the past she has co-authored pest management training manuals for the provincial government and organic gardening books for Rodale Press. Linda created and instructed the popular Year Round Harvest program at the HCP for 12 years at the HCP and the Backyard Farmer Program was created using her original program as a guide.

Instructor Bio: Christina Cook
Christina's background is in landscape design and gardening. She is a senior instructor at Gaia College for the Organic Master Gardener, Ecological Landscape Design, and Native Plant Knowledge courses. Christina is a SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional and has served on the board of directors of SOUL (Society for Organic Urban Land Care) for nearly a decade. Currently she runs The Organic Gardener's Pantry [], retailing fine organic fertilizers, soil amendments, and beneficial microbes across Canada.


Registration Fee: $50 (due on registration)
Course fees: HCP Members: $565.00/Non-HCP Members: $720.00 (includes registration fee)
Note that a membership is not required at the time of registration.
Fees Include textbook & hand-outs
Fees due by December 1, 2023

How to Register:

Registration opens in September. Please join the interest list to receive updates on registration for 2024 and to register early.


Program Withdrawals:

Note that program fees are refundable for program withdrawals prior to January 10. To withdraw from the program, please email [email protected]
Registration fees are non-refundable.

Program Schedule:

The schedule is tentative for the 2024 program and will be confirmed closer to the time.

Planning the Garden and Sowing Seeds

Wednesday, January 31- 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

  • Garden location
  • Sun and water requirements
  • Bed design
  • Planting plan (including for small spaces)
  • Crop rotation
  • Starting seeds
  • Planting Plan
Building Healthy Soil

Wednesday, February 28 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Christina Cook

  • Determining soil type
  • Troubleshooting common issues
  • Improving soil health and ecology
  • Organic soil amendments
  • Composting basics
The Spring Garden

Wednesday, March 27- 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

  • Transplanting, hardening off & cold protection
  • Intensive planting methods that produce the most in the smallest space.
  • Containers, greenhouses, tunnels
  • How to grow cabbage and onion family crops, lettuce and greens, carrots and other roots.
  • Encouraging pollinators and supporting wildlife
Gardening Techniques

Sunday, April 28 - 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

Hands on practice of the following skills:

  • Bed preparation
  • Direct sowing
  • Starting seeds indoors
  • Common hand tools
  • Weeding and basic bed maintenance
The Summer Garden

Wednesday, May 29 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

  • Summer seeding
  • Plant supports
  • Dealing with heat – watering & mulching
  • How to grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, corn, beans, squash & cucumbers
Insects & Diseases *Via Zoom*

Wednesday, June 26 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Linda Gilkeson via zoom

  • Identifying common problems
  • Preventing pest and disease problems
  • Natural control methods and easy weed management
  • How to attract beneficial insects
Planting for Winter and Basic Seed Saving

Wednesday, July 31 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

  • When to plant for successful winter crops
  • Fitting crops into the summer garden
  • Pollination basics; easy seed saving methods for common crops
  • Growing resilient gardens in a changing climate, preventing crop disorders.
Preserving the Harvest

Wednesday, August 28 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

  • Curing and storing onions, winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes.
  • Storing tree fruit
  • Preserves
  • Freezing and dehydrating as a way to store food
  • How to contribute to community food production and contribute to local food security.
Backyard Orchard

Sunday, September 29 - 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Instructor: Gordon McKay

  • Fruit tree/shrub establishment care
  • Strategies for restorative pruning and training
  • Pruning and training practice
Preparing for Winter and Review

Wednesday, October 30 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Instructor: Theresa Heinekey

  • Cloches, coldframes and winter covers; mulching & staking.
  • Managing greenhouse & containers in winter.
  • Cover cropping

Upcoming Events



Creating a Forest Habitat at Home (Miyawaki Method)

June 23 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm$35.00 - Horticulture Centre Of The Pacific

We are creating a pocket forest at HCP this spring as a project with help from a generous grant from Pollinator Partnership. The space adjoins our Meadow Makers Project Garden […]



Songbird Miniatures - Watercolour on Japanese Art Paper with Richard Wong

June 28 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pmHorticulture Centre Of The Pacific

This is Richard Wong's last workshop before the summer break. Spend a lovely afternoon creating several miniatures suitable for personalized greeting cards, or work on one larger painting.  Your choice.  Richard will guide you.  His […]



Plant Identification & Culture Workshop

June 29 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pmHorticulture Centre Of The Pacific

with Jane Tice This is a monthly class in which participants will be introduced to 20 new plants in each session. If you are a new gardener, new to Victoria […]



YP Summer Camps 2024 - July 2 to 5

July 2 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm$180.00 - Horticulture Centre Of The Pacific

During these camps, we will busy ourselves with seasonal gardening activities in our very own HCP Kids Garden! There will also be an exploration of the many natural systems that […]