Urban Leaves India: July 2010

Thursday 15 July 2010

City Kids In A City Garden

A hefty bunch of children from Kid’s Domain (an after-school) woke up early morning on Sunday July 11, 2010. Some of them even as early as 4 a.m., too excited to start the day. They hopped in a bus at Borivali which took them to Mahim Nature Park in drizzling rain. It was time to see the Urban Leaves’ garden there and get a hands-on experience of farming!

Preeti, Julius and Purvita introduced children to the variety of plants at the garden. The children got to see Mint, Pumpkin vine, Chowli pods, Chickoo tree and even two small baby Guavas. During this stroll in the garden they also met some farmer’s friends such as Earthworms, Slugs and Millipedes. However, many kids did not perceive them to be very friendly going by the looks of these creatures. Slowly some kids started to touch them curiously when a brave little girl excitedly put an earthworm in her palm. Her amused look was so precious!

From the garden they all went in the MNPS building to do some group activities and learn some more about farming.

Here, Nisha told them their favorite pizza’s journey. Little by little by the way of small skits, they learnt that their pizza originates from a farmer who grows vegetables. From there the truckwallas take it to wholesale shops. People buy these vegetables from shops and then they are taken to the kitchen where they are cooked and served. All the garbage generated in the process is picked up by garbage collectors and taken to local dump. The idea of this exercise was to explain kids the complex process by which the food ends up in our plate every day. We do not know where it has been grown, what has been added to it and what removed. Rather than eating food this way, why not grow your own veggies and be a city farmer?

After this activity they all saw difference between normal soil and Amrut Mitti and what would be a better way to do that than stick your hands in mud and feel it! Later they all had a chance to see various butterfly and moth caterpillars growing on plants. By this time, with all the action, kids were hungry, so after a quick chow break the activities were resumed.

The kids were divided in groups again and each group was provided with mitti, sugarcane pulp, ash, netted containers and plants. Each group had an experienced person from Urban Leaves to show children how to do the planting. Soon, kids had plants like spinach and Bhindi to take away and grow. They were also given small containers with soil and a few seeds to plant at home.
The day ended on a beautiful note as the children got to see a Tailor bird in nest on a small tree. This was a perfect way to know that a single plant has so many other creatures connected to it, including humans. Kids went back home already waiting for the seeds to sprout and the Kid’s Domain teachers with a plan to grow a nice little garden in their premises.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Updates on Monsoon Magic

The rains have washed all plants! And the city Farm at MNP looks cleans and beautiful.The baby saplings have just taken their first steps and are sprouting first new leaves after planting and transplanting!
Seeds of Pumpkin have sprouted and HOW !
The bean creeper is Growing! 
and so are the beans on them!
The Okra saplings  have look happy  too! 
The Yam is beautiful!
Custard Apple
Awaiting Cherries!
The drums surrounded by grass and weeds which have grown below the water tank! They are harvesting all the sunlight, and busy making nutrients.... for us to use later! Grass growing in rains to make hay while sun shines! : )

Keep watching and join us to plant more veggies!

Friday 2 July 2010

Making of Amrut Mitti heaps at MNP

The first most important step in Natueco is the building of nutrient rich soil, which we call 'Amrut Mitti'. So the foundations of the city farm on this 400 sq ft area , on the water tank at MNP were laid with building this nutrient rich soil. We believe, the short cuts do not work.They will show up in the form of one problem or another.Hence the trouble of building this soil is worth it! In fact it becomes a very enriching experience as during this journey a kind of bond is established with the soil organisms who are the real heroes!

Amrut Mitti  is full of all nutrients needed by plants, is very rich in variety of microbes, has the right pH, has high carbon content, has excellent water holding capacity. This reflects in the health of plants.

At MNP, volunteers have taken lot of efforts to build the same. Our special thanks to Cassie Moran, a volunteer and now a dear friend from Australia who braved the travel in the city and made daily trips to the park to build Amrut Mitti. It is because of her initiative that a momentum was reached in getting the work done. Thanks Cassie. We eagerly await your next visit to Mumbai!

                                             Mixing Cow dung , cow urine and jaggery 
Cassie,Jyoti,Anoop  Immersing dry bio mass
 in Amrut Jal kept in drums
Building layers of heaps. One layer of soaked biomass,
 sprinkled with top soil/red earth.
Turning the heap after seven days for aeration. Sometimes the heaps gets compacted with too much water and this step is necessary, or else it causes anaerobic conditions in the heap.
Volunteers turning heap. 
A special thanks to Shirish Bhave who has always
 silently supported and lent a hand with our activities
After thirty days of initial composting seeds of different varieties/families like chana, til, methi,dhania,mirchi,variyali are soaked in Amrut Jal for 5 hours and then sprinkled on the heap for greening.
The sprouted greens after 21 days. 
25% of these greens were cut , dried, and put back in the heap.
This task is repeated on 42nd and 63rd day.

The entire procedure for making Amrut Mitti along with the silent features is detailed in

We hope that the terrace farm  models at MbPT terrace and MNP inspire people to take up this initiative. Especially on terraces,open areas  which receive lots of sunlight.