About us

Campus Crops is a student run urban gardening initiative at McGill University's downtown campus. We want to grow food on campus, by students, for students. We have been running garden behind the School of Environment building at 3534 University since 2007. In 2009 we started a terrace garden behind the James Administration building. We're really excited to keep improving these two spaces, and need lots of helping hands for the summer ahead! Get in touch and get gardening!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gardening hours Summer 2013

Our gardening hours for this summer will be:

Mondays: 4-6pm (followed by a meeting at 6pm)
Wednesdays: 11am-1pm
Saturdays: 2-4pm

No need to commit to a particular gardening time. Join us regularly (or not) in the garden!

For any questions, email us at campuscrops@gmail.com

Saturday, June 8, 2013

For the love of potatoes

You've built your potato box (properly). Your potato seedlings are ready. Then what?

The best time to plant potatoes is from mid-March to mid-May, when the soil has reached a temperature of 16°C. Plant the each potato seedling about 12-14 inches (30-45 cm) apart. If you're working with a potato box, add enough soil to completely bury the potatoes. In a garden, you can dig a trench (or individual holes) about 30 cm deep and put just enough soil to completely bury the potatoes (don't fill the trench or holes to the top yet). In both cases and if working with potato seedlings, make sure the shoots are facing upward, and make sure not to break them while burying the seedings.

Make sure that the potatoes are planted in a full sun area (at least 6 hours of sun a day), and keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. If the soil gets too dry, there will be hollow areas inside the potatoes, but if it's too wet, the potatoes will rot. Potatoes should be planted in a soil with good drainage (sandy to loam, clearly not clay), otherwise they will most certainly rot.

Once the plants have reached about 30 cm in height, add 20-25 cm of soil around the plants, either from between the rows in a garden, or from elsewhere if using a potato box. If in a garden, the initial "hilling" will most likely consist of completely filling back the trench or holes to ground level. Hill again once the plants reach another 20-30 cm in height. Repeat until plants are dead, in September or October when it gets colder (if they die earlier, it may be because the potatoes are rotting).

Potatoes do not compete well with weeds, so keep their environment weed free throughout the season. You may also want to remove any flowers if the plant blossoms.

Here's how our planting went:

Since our potato box will be sitting on concrete all summer, we added some left-over rocks we were using for our containers at the bottom of the potato box. We added about 10 cm. That should not be necessary if the potato box is a few centimeters above the ground, or if it's placed in the garden. In fact, we're not even sure if it was necessary in our case, since our soil is of good quality and should drain easily, but we did it anyway.

Our potato box has been lifted from the ground with bricks in order to keep the wood well aerated and prevent rot. We didn't have anything to keep the soil from touching the ground, though, so that's why we added rocks.

We then added another piece of geotextile over the rock layer and filled the potato box with about 15-20 cm of soil. We'll probably keep on putting geotextile to prevent the soil from touching the wood, as wood-soil contact may accelerate wood decomposition.

Then we dug the holes and placed the seedlings.

And finally filled the holes.

Some of our seedlings seemed to have started developing leaves at the end of some shoots, so we left those sticking out of the ground. It might not have been a good idea, as three days later the leaves seem to be dying. We're not sure if that's because it's been rainy and the soil is too wet, if the quite cold temperature shocked the seedlings and/or the leaves during transplantation, if we should have buried the whole seedlings, or if it doesn't matter. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Step by step how to make your own self-watering container (plastic reservoir method) with pictures!

Because it's good to know, here's one of the multiple ways you can make your own self-watering container. This method has the advantage of being both cheap and homemade, yet doesn't make the container as heavy as with the rock reservoir method.

What's a self-watering container, you ask? Well, self-watering containers do not literally water themselves, but they do help water plants less often.
The principle is quite simple: water is poured down a pipe directly in a water reservoir, sitting under the soil. There, a wick takes the water from the reservoir to the soil. As the plant(s) use the water made available to them in the soil, the wick takes more water from the reservoir to the root zone of the plant(s). In some way, the plants water themselves (but they don't, also, you know).
Source: http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/lifehacker/2009/03/2009-03-30_113406.png

You'll need:

- a plastic container that will offer enough space for a decent-sized water reservoir and the roots of your plant, often at least 30 cm in width, length and depth for vegetable crops; check up the spacing requirement and soil depth needed for the plant(s) you want to grow in your container if you're not sure what size you need
- a sealant (maybe)
- plastic boards
- PVC pipe, about 1 inch diameter
- geotextile, as cheap as you can get
- perlite
- good soil
- compost (maybe)
- something that cuts
- a saw
- a drill or something to pierce a hole through hard plastic

The plastic we use for this model is Coroplast, which you can probably find at your local hardware store, or at your local deputy/MP/whatever office not long after an election period (or in the streets during the election period, but this is not usually recommended and Campus Crops doesn't suggest you do it either oh heeeellll noo!). Other types of plastic can work too, but they need to be both quite rigid, while being soft enough so you can cut them quite easily. 

PVC pipes, geotextile, perlite and soil can all be bought at a hardware store too (don't ask your MP for those, though).

Anywho, let's unleash them pictures.


1) No matter what type of container you use, make sure it's watertight near the bottom, and drill an overflow hole anywhere between 7-15 cm from the bottom of the container, depending on the size of said container (you want as much soil as possible in there, but too much soil for too little water won't help either). If your container is not already watertight, we suggest using this sealant, or any other sealant that works in water, works with plastic, and is not toxic. Extra points if the product description mentions that it's safe for sealing aquariums (aquaria? whatever, if it's good for the fish, it won't poison your vegetables).

2) Cut your plastic into strips that will fit lengthwise and widthwise. For the width of the strips, see step 3. Calculate you'll need a strip every 20-25 cm in both directions (lengthwise and widthwise) at the bottom of your container. Cut slits into the strips where they will intersect with other strips.

3) Arrange the strips into a grid pattern at the bottom of your container. An important thing about the width of the strips is that the grid must be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the overflow hole you pierced in your container. This is to ensure a good airflow in the soil and the reservoir even when the latter is full of water. Otherwise, expect anaerobic conditions, pathogens, diseases, death, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Fits perfectly!

4) Cut another piece of plastic to cover the bottom of your container. Put it over the grid. Voilà! That's your reservoir! 

Some people like to leave the corners uncovered, either to use them at wick (more about this later), or to put the PVC pipe. If you don't want to do that, make sure you cut out a hole somewhere to insert your pipe.

Fits perfectly!
5) Saw your PVC pipe. Make it long enough to stick out of the container by a few inches. Saw an end at an angle, otherwise it may lay flat on the bottom of the container and water will stay stuck in the pipe instead of going into the reservoir. Insert the pipe in a corner or along one side of your container.

6) Make a wick. A wick is something that will get the water from the reservoir to the soil (by capillary action), to make it accessible to the plant. Without a wick, the water would just sit at the bottom of the container and your tomatoes would be like "Meh."

A wick must be 1) about as high as your reservoir, 2) durable, and 3) full of small holes (so the water can get in easily but the wicking material doesn't get out).

7) Cut out a hole for your wick.

8) Cut a geotextile piece that is about 5-10 cm wider and longer than your container. Cut a slit in it and insert your wick. Make sure you cut the slit vis-à-vis the hole for the wick in the container. Put the wick in the hole in the container and lay the geotextile so it extends a bit on each side.

9) Put enough soil in your container to fill your wick. Mix in some perlite (about a fifth of the soil you added).  Dump the mix into the wick. Perlite helps keep the soil light and well aerated, which various macro-organisms normally do in the ground. If perlite and soil are not mixed together before being added to the wick, it can be quite hard to make sure the wick contains a good mixture of both when the container is full. 

If you prefer to mix your soil and perlite before adding them to the container, skip this step.

10) Fill the container with soil and top with perlite. Make sure to keep the geotextile on the sides as you fill the container with soil. Mix thoroughly the soil and perlite. What we're looking for here is the unfamous reversed-color chocolate chip cookie dough mix, where the perlite would be the white chocolate chip and the soil would be the chocolate cookie dough.

If you have "weird" chocolate chip cookie tastes (not sure there's a standard or anything about what is a correct cookie dough-to-chocolate chip ratio), go for 4 parts of soil per part of perlite, or 20% perlite.

Put in the oven at 350F for 20 minutes and enjoy!

Radical Montreal - Urban Farming in Montréal

Here's an awesome list of pretty much all the urban agriculture initiatives in Montréal, made by Sheena from the Radical Montreal blog. The blog is a great resource to stay abreast of all workshops and events of all kinds happening in the city.

Montreal Urban Agriculture Projects


Concordia Greenhouse
-Greens, microgreens production
-Greenhouse plant propogation

Lufa Farms
-Hydroponics/Window Farming/ Weekly CSA program

Santropol Roulant
-Vermicomposting, urban gardens, workshops
-Urban Beekeping
-Rooftop garden 

Alternatives Rooftop Garden Project
-Four active garden projects


City Farm School
-Urban gardening/farming internships

Mackay Gardens
-Downtown raised bed planters

Loyola Campus

Campus Crops
-McGill University campus garden, workshops

UQAM - Crapaud
-Campus community garden, workshops

Edible Campus
 -Campus based gardens
-Urban Beekeeping 


Action Communauterre 
-Community Gardens
-Hosts Seedy Saturdays annually

La Ruche D'art Garden
-demonstration garden

City of Montreal Community Gardens
-Gardens in 18 boroughs for community use
-In some boroughs, a gardening instructor visits the garden regularly to give advice to gardeners. Some boroughs offer adapted gardens for persons with reduced mobility. 
-Materials provided include soil, a water source, tool shed or toolbox, tables, fences, sand, paint and flowers.


-With locations situated throughout Montreal, these local centres offer:
-Annual neighbourhood clean-up
-Distribution of recycling bins, composters, rain-barrel collectors and often plants.
- Education, such as natural pesticides, and environmental sustainability

Montreal Permaculture Guild
-Community group, discussions, fb board

Agriculture Urbaine
-Group hosting events, seminar, discussions 

Le Groupe de travail en agriculture urbaine (GTAU) 
-Official group who hosts events, seminars 

Radical Montreal Urban Homestead Exchange
-Live-in volunteer exchange, garden, workshops

Gardening Network of the Southwest and Verdun
-Community resources, workshops

Agriculture Montreal 

L’arrondissement d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville :

- un jardin collectif en bacs pour les personnes retraitées de la Porte d’Or des Iles PODI,
incredible edible
-French only

Sustainable Montreal
-Local news in urban agriculture

Montreal Urban Ecology Centre
 -La Ville en vert
-Green roofs
-Imagine Milton-Parc
-School for Urban Citizenship

PAUSE: Production Agricole Urbaine Soutenable
-Projects with container planting, mushroom growing, and bee-keeping. French only. 


The Urban Farmer 

Guide to Soil Contamination in the city

If I have missed any URBAN FARMING resources for Montreal, please let me know!

We might add that there is P.A.U.S.E. at the Université de Montréal

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The beds are ready!

Last Saturday was our (last) garden opening day. After working on some containers, we were also able to make all the beds in our soil garden. Here's the result from many angles. Gardening hours to be announced soon!

All the paths are 45 cm wide (18 in.), and most of the beds are 75 cm wide (32 in.). The oval near the middle is 1m by 1.5m and will host our spiral garden. 

From the South. The central path going from the upper center-right to the oval in the middle was designed to facilitate movement with the water hose, which is plugged into the faucet under the stairs, at the upper extreme-right of the picture.