Rooftop garden in full bloom

An Oak Bay's Chris Hildreth is using rooftop space to grow a food garden for local restaurants

Chris Hildreth picks arugula from one of the region’s first urban commercial rooftop gardens.

Chris Hildreth picks arugula from one of the region’s first urban commercial rooftop gardens.

By Kenda Wong

An Oak Bay resident is hoping to increase the amount of locally produced food through a new pilot project that’s proving the sky is the limit.

Chris Hildreth, a recent University of Victoria grad who studied environmental studies and sociology, recently launched Topsoil, one of the first urban commercial rooftop gardens on 1001 Blanshard St.

On the roof he grows fresh produce that is then delivered to Fiamo Italian Kitchen to use in their dishes.

“I wanted to provide restaurants with the highest quality of fresh local produce as possible, but in a quantity that they can really be using on a consistent basis, not just a couple of sprigs of basil on their salad,” said Hildreth, who came up with the idea in a food and society class.

“I want everything from that salad to be from the rooftop.”

In the 500-square-foot garden, 20 beds are growing kale, arugula, ruby streaks, mixed lettuce, two different types of tomatoes, red and green peppers, jalapeno and cayenne peppers, rosemary and thyme as well as edible flowers in large quantities.

The soil, made from peat moss and compost, is watered with a timed irrigation system that goes off every morning for about five minutes.

Once a week, Hildreth harvests roughly 20 pounds of leafy greens and other produce, boxes and delivers it to Fiamo’s kitchen, just a seven-minute walk away from the garden.

James Avila, chef at Fiamo, said he uses the arugula on pizzas, flowers and basil as garnishes, lettuces in salads and grills the kale.

“You can taste the difference right away. You can taste arugula grown outside Victoria and the arugula that we have from him and it’s 100 per cent better quality, taste and experience out of his product,” said Avila.

For Hildreth, it’s now about expanding the project — something that has already garnered a lot of interest.

“I’ve Google Earthed the entire city and there’s acres and acres of rooftop space. No pun intended, but the sky is the limit for doing this,” he said, adding that he has rooftops in mind to build more gardens and has more than a dozen local restaurants interested in getting on board.