Urban Leaves India: March 2010

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

City Farm at Maharashtra Nature Park -- The first community urban farm in Mumbai

The Mumbai Port Trust terrace Farm which is now 9 years old is a haven for birds, bees, insects hovering around the 150 varieties of plants thereat. However this spot is situated in a restricted area, with high security needs inside the port premises. My efforts to see more green roofs in the city needed the model to be replicated in another location which was more visible, accessible to those interested. 
Urban leaves started conducting workshops in Maharastra Nature Park since June 2009, the venue also became a place for practicals during workshops. Avinash Kubal Dy Director MNP, who has supported us all throughout suggested we take up the initiative to green the concrete space of about 400 sq ft  on the water tank situated at ground level. This could be a replicated model of the farm at MbPT, which would inspire people to take  up urban farming  themselves. 
So the first steps to create a city farm at MNP were taken in September 2009 during a workshop when all participants did their hands on practicals , for making Amrut Mitti ( a nutrient rich soil/compost made from leaf litter and top soil)  heaps.

                                    Making Amrut Mitti heaps --  hands on practicals
                                           Using soaked biomass in Amrut Jal
                                                  Layering with red earth / top soil
                                                        Dancing on heap to compress
This activity became a starting point to meet, interact, watch over the progress of the Amrut Mitti every week. In the process a hand holding measure for participants of workshops evolved, wherein they could come, discuss their difficulties and problems and also volunteer for this work.
Volunteers have thus become a core strength of this farm and Urban Leaves group. In a city like Mumbai where people don't have time for themselves, this hub was created where like minded people meet every week and enjoy an hour of gardening together.

                               The Star fruit in a drum

Now after an interval of six months our two batches of Amrut Mitti heaps are ready and we are eager to plant veggies and herbs in them. We  have also planted Chikoo,( Sapota ) and Star fruit in drums with holes drilled in them from sides.More fruit saplings will be planted this month.
                                                   The infant city farm on a water tank 
To depict what was happening on the spot we needed a banner, and the group came up with a suggestion of getting a Warli painting done on the wall of the tank. Warli painting derives its name from a small tribe inhabiting the remote regions of Maharashtra, India.Folk imagination, beliefs and customs are spontaneously expressed in these monochromatic tribal paintings
The philosophy of a way of life, especially those of tribal societies, is best depicted through colorful images. Trees, birds, men and women collaborate to create a composite whole in Tribal Paintings, and the paintings of the Warli tribe of Maharashtra are the most joyous celebration of that very philosophy. We thought that this was an apt medium for expressing what we had set out to create in an urban world. Sitting together at the park to create the design and theme had us all excited. The artisan from Jawahar, Shri Sunil Kharpade  took up the challenge of depicting an urban scene with a tribal art forms. He did full justice to it.
                                                     A portion of the Warli Painting
So yes, all those of you there who wish to grow their own food, laugh and dirty their hands in soil, feel empowered with knowledge what to eat, when to eat and how to eat are invited to join us at Maharashtra Nature Park.

You may send e-mail to urbanleaves@gmail.com to reach us.

Will keep you posted on future developments shortly.

love and best wishes

for urban Leaves

Sunday, 14 March 2010

My gardening efforts at Chembur

My gardening efforts took off in 2000 when I shifted to ground floor flat with a small empty patch by the side of my flat. Wanting to be a true gardener first i bought all the tools and started digging the land. Planted few flowering plants like Anant, Jaswandi, Sonchafa Sadafuli so also Kadipatta and Tulsi. As the days passed I realised that growing plants gave me a feeling of growing children and i started observing them, taking care of them and loving them.
Last year when I tried to grow Bottle gourd, Okra and Palak, for my project, my first attempt to grow vegetables, I realised that I dont know the right way of growing them organically except adding dried cow dung to the red soil. The need to know about organic farming made me surf the net and I came to know about Preeti's terrace garden. The flowers, fruiting trees and variety of vegetables grown in just 3000 sq ft motivated me to know about her techniques which is Natueco Farming.
After attending 7th June 09 workshop I was eager to make Amrut Mitti myself. For me procuring cow dung, cow urine and biomass was a challenge initially but when there is a will there is a way. I tied up with a lady outside a temple to provide cow dung and cow urine and started picking biomass from the nearest municipal public garden. I also procured two plastic drums one to prepare Amrut jal and second to store heaps of biomass. The only difficult factor for me was to really wait for 100 days to get perfect matured soil

After I made the first heap in July, I could hardly wait for 30 days and planted a drumstick plant in the semi decomposed biomass. After that I must have made the heaps 4/5 times but i dont remember the dates and used it all for my already existing plants like banana, amla, bamboo, sonchafa, arvi, neem, lemon and few more. Amla has already started fruiting and sonchafa has started bearing beautiful flowers (both 3 yrs old). Arvi leaves, my mum-in -law has cooked thrice so far and I have cooked drumstick leaves for one time vegetable and what can I say......its a great feeling to cook and eat home made vegetable. drumstick plant has started flowering in Feb, now I am waiting for fruiting of Banana and lemon tree.
It will really take me some more time to observe and note the change Amrut Mitti has made (in terms of yield) to the above plants compared to normal soil mix i used. Neverthless I have noticed the improvement in their

In October ie 30 days after 27 Sep workshop, we, Urban Leaves volunteers with Preeti's guidance started this Community Gardening activity at Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP), Dharavi. Meeting every Sunday and learning the concepts practically like mulching, sowing seeds for 100 day process and finally the concept of companion planting for growing vegetables has enriched me as a novice city farmer. I learnt how to plant a fruiting tree when we planted chikoo and kamarak (star fruit) on 07 march at mnp. Community activity not only gives a chance to know plants but to interact with like minded people from whom you can learn so much.

Using the knowledge I gained, I have decided to grow vegetables myself.
I have made three heaps :
- one on 5th December in 3x3x1 ft brick pit (50 ltrs of amrut jal)

- second on 25 December in 3x4x1 brick pit (50 ltrs of amrut jal)

- third on 22 January in well aerated plastic drum

The greening process started in January for the first two heaps did not show good results and so I have sown seeds in all three heaps on 27 feb.I will share the results as and when the heaps would start showing magic with the help of mother nature.

Hope to write very soon.