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What if you lived in a food desert?

It would be utopian to believe that all Quebecers eat their fill, even in 2020. Despite the initiatives of food banks, food baskets and public markets that are multiplying, many remain unequal in terms of access to fresh and healthy products, especially fruits and vegetables. In the province of Quebec, 420,000 individuals live in a food desert.

 

Source: Radio-Canada, 2013

 

 

According to the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, a food desert is a geographic area where very few shops offer the products necessary for a healthy diet. In these often socio-economically disadvantaged areas, access to fresh fruits and vegetables is extremely low.

 

 

 

 

Concretely, in an urban environment, this is a place where there are no food shops within a radius of 1 km. In the rural sector, this threshold is established at 16 km, the use of cars being more common. In some areas of Montreal, citizens have only access to local convenience stores, which offer food that is not very nutritious for health. When there is no food shops for miles around, it is hard to imagine changing the eating habits of the most disadvantaged.

 

Harvest basket of a MicroHabitat vegetable garden

 

Local urban agriculture reduces food deserts. At MicroHabitat, planting vegetable gardens in these areas helps reconnect communities to nature and educates people about the production and consumption of fresh food. The Champlain school garden project, located in the Center-Sud district itself considered a food desert, illustrates the positive impacts of such an initiative. Our educational workshops have mobilized parents and students to learn healthy eating habits. They have also benefited from the harvest of fresh vegetables throughout the season!

 

 

Everyone should have access to fresh and healthy products.

Together, let’s cultivate change.

Would you like to contribute to the dynamic change of an entire community? Contact us to discuss your future urban vegetable garden project!

 

 

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MicroHabitat takes root on the roof of the Eaton Center

A new urban vegetable garden has taken place on the roof of the famous shopping center! This agricultural project, resulting from our collaboration with Ivanhoé Cambridge, contributes to the greening of the city center while supporting local communities.

The real estate company had already established a partnership with Dans La Rue, a non-profit organization helping young homeless people and those at risk. By joining forces with MicroHabitat, we were together able to contribute further to this partnership and multiply the impacts: thanks to our program, all harvests are given to the Bunker, an emergency shelter set up by the community organization.

The vegetable garden is made up of 30 pots of fruits, vegetables and herbs, allowing the production of 100% ecological and local products. Our team of farmers takes care of the entire project, right up to the delivery of the crops: in order to reduce the environmental impact of projects, deliveries and trips are largely made by bicycle, good or bad weather!

In addition, this initiative, like all MicroHabitat projects, helps the Breakfast Club of Canada. For any installation of a MicroHabitat pot, a breakfast is given to the organization, helping a child in need. See how you too can contribute through your purchases on our online store.

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A vegetable garden… in the shade!

Not everyone has an ideal space that receives more than 8 hours of sun per day to create their vegetable garden. But rest assured: that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get crops! Find out how to get a productive shade garden.

 

To be productive, a vegetable garden should ideally be located in a space that receives 6 hours or more of sun; commonly grown varieties, such as tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, require a lot of sun and heat. However, there are varieties that prefer partial shade, and here we share tips for getting good yields in shaded areas.

First, spring and fall varieties, which appreciate freshness, can be grown in partial shade in the hottest regions. Radishes, peas, lettuces and other leafy vegetables also fall into this category and grow very well at the foot of or in between larger vegetables: if you have a sunny garden, such companionship can increase its productivity. Multiply harvests by adding plants suitable for partial shade at the base of larger vegetables.

 

 

Many vegetable plants, including the Brassicaceae family (cabbage family) and other leafy vegetables also appreciate some shade and freshness, especially in the middle of the day. Cabbage (pak choï, kale …), lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard or lovage and onions will produce well with 4 to 6 hours of sun.

The majority of herbs are also grown very well in partial shade. They will be more productive in full sun, but will still grow well with 4 hours or more of sun, and will flower less quickly. Chives, oregano, parsley, cilantro, tarragon and basil fall into this category. Mint can even be grown in the shade but it will be slower to produce, while thyme and rosemary require 6 hours of sun or more.

 

Finally, several edible flowers have their place in shade gardens, whether perennials such as Monarde and Agastache, or annuals such as nasturtium, borage or tagetes, in the sunniest areas that is.

In cases where shade is prevalent, plants grow slower than in the sun. It is therefore better to harvest frequently rather than waiting for the plants or vegetables to reach maturity. For lettuce and other leafy vegetables, young shoots can easily be harvested. This is the case of Mesclun: it is possible to make several sowings during the season and multiply the harvests over weeks. For fruit vegetables, such as zucchini and peppers, harvesting can be done while the fruits are still small or green: the fruits are nevertheless edible and this will force the plant to produce new ones. In the case of herbs, removing a few stems regularly stimulates plant growth and allows crops to be obtained throughout the season.

 

No matter what conditions you have at your disposal, there will always be plants suitable to realize your garden. Check out our other articles for more growing tips, and visit our store to get our professional grade equipment for urban farming.

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MicroHabitat blooms at Manulife Investment Management

We are very proud of this wonderful collaboration! In 2019 and 2020, six urban vegetable gardens took place on the roofs of downtown and Old Montreal, greening otherwise unexploited spaces. This Manulife Investment Management and MicroHabitat initiative has not only reduced the heat islands, but has also nourished local communities.

Vegetation and also provides habitat for local pollinators

 

Over 3,000 plants discreetly overlooked the streets of these busy areas of Montreal. Over the season, these vegetable gardens have produced almost a tonne of fine herbs and fresh, healthy vegetables and greens. These were generously donated to local food banks through our Urban Solidarity Farms program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that installing vegetable gardens on roofs can green – and therefore reduce – heat islands? In addition, it allows the integration of spaces that promote biodiversity. In order to increase action in this direction, certain tenants of the buildings concerned have also received gardening kits. Their involvement greatly contributed to the greening of the city.

#Letscultivatechangetogether

For the realization of this project and within the framework of our Solidarity Gardeners program, our team of urban farmers manages the entire projects, from the installation of vegetable gardens to the delivery of crops to local organizations. An ecological approach, without the use of pesticides, promises the harvest of healthy food without danger to health and biodiversity.

Would you like to take concrete action for the environment and contribute in a similar way to your community? Contact us to develop a project within your organization.

Roof production is not easy, but it can be very abundant if well executed
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How to start an urban vegetable garden

There it is! The beautiful season is finally here and many of you have decided to start a home vegetable garden. Whether it is in extra free time, Covid forces, or simply out of interest to harvest beautiful vegetables all summer long, all reasons are good to green your space with edible plants! Not sure how to do it? Here is a simple guide to properly equip yourself for a worry-free vegetable garden!

 

  1. Seeds: no seeds, no garden! Since May is well underway, it is too late to start most of your sowings indoor. On the other hand, several varieties of seeds can be planted in the outdoor garden directly: visit our site to discover our selection!
  2. Pots: no need for a piece of land or a heavy and imposing structure to make your vegetable garden! In addition to being easily modular, the use of pots made of fabrics, like MicroHabitats’, allows ventilation of the soil and the root system. We have five sizes of pots; some models can be installed on the ground and others are suitable for railings or walls. Ideal for balconies!
  3. Protection membranes: highly recommended if you want to protect your roof or balcony.
  4. Soil: for urban and organic or regular cultivation, as desired.
  5. Compost: having a high content of organic matter, compost stimulates microbial life in soils and helps to prepare your soil for your plants to grow healthy. It is recommended to mix 15 to 30% compost with your potting soil. The quantities of soil required per MicroHabitat pot are indicated in the description of the product on our online store (ex: to fill a 30 gallon pot, use 3 bags of urban soil + 1 bag of compost).
  6. Acti-Sol: it is a versatile organic fertilizer, suitable for all types of plants. Add 1/2 cup Acti-Sol for every 5 gallons to your soil mixture when planting. Also use Acti-Sol throughout the season by applying it to the base of the plants to stimulate vegetable production. Slight advantage: its smell helps repel squirrels!
  7. Watering: If you have a nearby water supply, purchasing an automated irrigation system or a garden hose is highly recommended to facilitate and decrease maintenance time. We offer a complete set of automated irrigation, easy to install, in our online store.

 

And there you go! Starting a vegetable garden is not rocket science; all you need is the right equipment and a bit of willpower! Now it is time to plant. If you are wondering about companionship (which varieties to plant in the same pot), you can get our encyclopedia on ecological urban agriculture in our online store. You will find detailed information on complementary crops and how to grow your favorite varieties in town.

 

Enjoy your gardening!

 

 

 

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Urban Solidarity Farms: helping food banks through urban agriculture

As COVID-19 is disrupting our whole society, food banks and local organizations, those who supports the ones in need, are heavily affected. To help them, MicroHabitat and Le Comité launch the Urban Solidarity Farms program.

With this initiative, we invite companies to take part in the program and to dedicate some of their outdoor spaces to urban agriculture. This will not only optimize the workplace and the environment; it is also an opportunity to feed local communities.

Each project will be managed and operated by MicroHabitat’s farmers. They take care of all the stages, from the installation of the vegetable garden to the delivery of the crops to the organizations. By dedicating one of your spaces to garden production and by donating your harvests, you will help supply local organizations with fresh and healthy food.

When the crisis is over, the crops can go back to the companies so that their employees can benefit.

Since 2017, nine corporate urban vegetable gardens have been created, optimizing outdoor spaces in agricultural production areas. Thanks to the collaboration between our farmers and participating companies, 3 tonnes of food were produced in short circuits: this corresponds to more than 6,500 meals donated to local organizations seasonally.

Does your company have an interest in this type of project? Talk to your organizations and contact us for more information.

Let’s transform our city to develop and nourish our communities.

Together, let’s cultivate change!

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Rethinking the way we feed people

The issue of traditional farming methods

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It is predicted that by 2050, there will be over 9 billion of us on Earth. Traditional agricultural methods will not be able to feed this number of people. So we have to rethink the way we feed people. Urban agriculture is a sustainable alternative.

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It protects virgin land by exploiting vacant urban spaces.

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It gives citizens a chance to see the farming process, to see the plants grow, and to participate.

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The harvests from these cultures are local and could not be fresher.

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The cost of transport on food

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Vitamin and mineral intake is higher when products are consumed within a short time after harvest. Food sold in grocery stores travels an average of 3,000 km before arriving on site. The farther a product comes, the more impact it has on the environment. By setting up a MicroHabitat urban garden, you reduce the number of kilometers travelled between fresh produce and your plate. It’s a simple way to reduce your ecological footprint.

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Alternative to the food industry

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In a world where unhealthy processed foods are everywhere, it is important to find healthy alternatives. By bringing agriculture into the city, the food production process becomes more accessible to the population. MicroHabitat gives citizens the opportunity to take a step towards a food industry focused on sustainable development and the optimization of urban environments.

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Consult the SHOP section to get the tools you need to start your urban agriculture project in the right way.

Don’t hesitate to write to us at info@microhabitat.ca.

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The Environmental Impact of MicroHabitat – Respecting the Ecosystems

All of our projects at MicroHabitat have a direct impact on sustainable development in urban areas. By introducing agriculture in cities, we are changing society’s relationship with nature, and we can quickly see that the benefits are numerous.

Biodiversity

At MicroHabitat, we contribute to the balance of biodiversity

One of our core values is to respect the biodiversity. By definition, it consists of the diversity of biological beings in an environment. From microscopic bacteria to the seagulls that fly over Montreal’s skyscrapers, to our best friends the spiders, we have a responsibility to protect and encourage this diversity of organisms.

All of the produce in our gardens is organic, allowing us to take a holistic approach to the microorganisms in the ecosystem.

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The variety of plants we offer is beneficial to a multitude of insects. In addition to fulfilling a nutritional need, plants provide them with a space to live, protect or reproduce. Gardens allow many species to survive, contributing to the entire food chain. Many birds, mammals, and reptiles need insects for food, they need plants.

By setting up an urban garden, you enter the complex but incredibly charming world of the diversity of biological beings in our environment.

Companionship

Are you familiar with garden companionship?

The technique of companionship is to provide the best environment possible for plants in the garden to optimize their development. This practice is the result of many years of observation by growers, gardeners and horticulturists.

At MicroHabitat, companion planting is found in each pot, respecting the different needs of space, nutrients, light and water of the crops. Plants therefore offer and receive multiple beneficial nutrient contributions!

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What are the main benefits of companionship?

-It limits the use of fertilizer and will save you from applying chemicals, such as pesticides.

– The combination of different species attracts beneficial insects and repels pests.

– Larger plants can provide shade for smaller plants that do not like too much sunlight.

Companionship therefore creates a micro ecosystem, a “MicroHabitat”, which unites a diversity of organisms and plants with different tones and textures. In addition to being aesthetic and productive, our gardens are in harmony with the laws of nature.


“All living things that we pass by can also be respected. »

Boris Presseq

Letting nature take its course

Nature is the main actor in the success of urban agricultural areas. We understand that by respecting the functioning of ecosystems, and by applying the technique of companionship, we can achieve impressive results in terms of harvests.

But what about weeds?

While we tend to eliminate them, they play a crucial role in the balance of the urban ecosystem!

In the video below, botanist Boris Presseq identifies weeds with chalk in the city of Toulouse, France, in order to educate and sensitize citizens about the importance of the nature around them:

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https://www.brut.media/fr/entertainment/toulouse-ce-botaniste-trace-a-la-craie-le-nom-des-plantes-sauvages-f1bbaded-03d9-4f27-9f66-f7bbea25df31


“All large cities, which tend to expand, forget to reserve spaces for wild flora and fauna. »

Boris Presseq

Consult the SHOP section to get the tools you need to start your urban agriculture project in the right way. 

Don’t hesitate to write to us at info@microhabitat.ca.

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The roots of MicroHabitat

MicroHabitat is growing!

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As we are in full preparation for the 2020 season, many of you have joined us, and we want to take the time to introduce ourselves. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be telling you about the company so that you can re-discover the different aspects of MicroHabitat.

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This week, we go back to the roots of the company, and talk about us!

Who’s behind MicroHabitat?

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Orlane and Alexandre, long-time friends, share the same passion for sustainable entrepreneurship and have the will to transform the urban landscape and the habits of citizens. The first steps of the company were taken alongside the beekeeping company Alvéole, while Alexandre created his first garden at Park restaurant. After studying in environmental science at McGill University, Alexandre Ferrari-Roy developed MicroHabitat’s agricultural production techniques and laid the foundations of the company. Orlane Panet, Bachelor of Management and Accounting from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, joined the team in the second year. With the desire to expand the scope of their actions, the two young entrepreneurs established a business model that would quickly appeal to the corporate and institutional sector.

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Together, they create a turnkey offer of ecological urban agriculture through conceptualization, implementation, management and education. Their desire to improve living and working environments in the city is possible through the revitalization of unused spaces and the creation of gardens that nourish biodiversity.

MicroHabitat’s offer is accessible and applies to many sectors. For 5 years now, MicroHabitat’s clientele has been growing steadily. Now made up of businesses, health institutions as well as primary and secondary schools, the project generates a significant quantity of crops. Clients have the opportunity to consume their food or offer it to a local organization. Discover some of our projects here.

MicroHabitat brings together different components. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to learn more about the environmental and social benefits of our projects and what urban agriculture brings to our cities. 🌱

Consult the SHOP section to get the tools you need to start your urban agriculture project in the right way.

Don’t hesitate to write to us at info@microhabitat.ca.

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Closing your garden in 3 steps and crop preservation

That’s it, the first freeze occurred in Montreal last night, a sign that the gardening season is coming to an end. Are you late in your garden closing? Do not panic,we have some simple tips for closing your garden in no time!
Let’s start at the beginning – Why “close” a garden when you could leave everything as is?
Closing a garden means doing the last harvest and preparing the garden for the winter and for next season.

So, in practice, what does that mean?
For us, it’s all about three simple steps:

1) Harvest your fruit, vegetable and herb plants one last time.

2) Once everything is harvested, break up the plants and rest the branches and leaves on the ground to protect and feed the soil during the winter. If you have too much plant matter to handle, you can get rid of them by composting.

3) Be sure to store the water hoses during the winter in a dry, storage area.

And that’s all ! (However, you can take advantage of the closing of the garden to plant garlic in anticipation of next summer.)

In the spring, you will only have to remove the remaining plant debris, compost them and amend your land with compost before restarting the season!

How do you preserve crops?


There are many ways to preserve your surplus crops.
Herbs and edible flowers, for example, can be kept fresh for a few days but can also be dried to make infusions, frozen – as is, in ice cubes of water or oil depending on the type of herbs – to decorate dishes throughout the winter, or preserved in olive oil to create flavoured oils.


Vegetables or fruits can be cooked and canned, marinated, or simply frozen. You can also keep your root vegetables or tubers in the fridge or in sandboxes in a cool room. Remember that you can eat green tomatoes, but only after cooking! Look on the web, there are plenty of good recipes for not wasting them. If you want to discover ways of processing green tomatoes, stay tuned for our next blog post.