Urban Leaves India: July 2011

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

5 herbs on your Windowsill, Balcony

Tulsi, (Holy Basil)
If you have fever
If you have cough
Come to me, I am full of holy stuff
I am worshipped for over decades now
I'll serve you through thick and thin
Use me, I'am simply WOW!

The age old wisdom of growing Tulsi,where it was once upon a time seen in every front yard. Most of us wish to grow Tulsi in our homes, but just as it is very easy to grow, it also doesn't grow so easily.I have heard many a complaints that Tulsi gets 'burnt' up!To stop feeling sorry, always harvest a good dose of seeds, handy for sowing for a new plant!

Fill a nursery pot with good potting soil covered with coco peat.Lightly scatter seeds on the surface and lightly cover them with soil.Pat it down gently and give it gentle misting of water.
Set your seeded pot in an area which receives maximum amount of sunlight everyday. Keep it moist.

Thin seedlings 1 inch apart when they are 1 inch tall.Transplant seedlings when they are 3 inches tall. Keep in area with maximum sunlight.

Pinch off flowering tops when they appear.(You can use them in making tea.) This will encourage your plant to bush out and flower which are the best part of the plant in making tea or tinctures.

Dry or freeze flowering tops at the end of growing season.

Haldi/Amba Haldi

I am yellow,I am antiseptic
Flavouring your food,saving you from being sick
I am a native herb
All your wounds I can curb

When the root  of Haldi develops an "eye" from where a small root emerges, it is time to sow it for propagation. You may source it from your local vegetable supplier/grocer.It takes about nine months to grow Haldi.

At the end of the cycle,the leaves start to dry , turning yellow. Allow them to dry completely and then harvest the Haldi. This enhances its flavour. Always save part of produce for next crop.In fact as you wait for next planting season, this 'eye' of the stored Haldi develops a root, perfectly when its time to sow it!

Lemon Grass

I am used in your Herbal Tea, in your Thai food you will see
Also found in creams to keep mosquitoes away
And so can I keep headaches at bay.

A staple of Thai and Asian cuisine, lemongrass has a refreshing citrus scent and yet a delicate tangy flavour.This versatile herb can be cut, crushed or sliced and used in soups, stews, salads and teas.Lemon grass is not difficult to grow indoors, outdoors.By following some simple guidelines you can grow pots of lemon grass brightening your window sill.

Place end of lemon grass in cup full of water.Set it in warm sunny place. Roots will begin to emerge within 10 days.
Trim or peel exterior leaves from lemon grass stalk,leaving behind the central stalk and white rhizome.
Fill a pot with rich potting mixture.Plant the lemon grass in the pot with root completely covered.Keep soil moist but not completely wet.Keep on windowsill, in good sunlight. Harvest by cutting leaves from outside.

Italian Basil

You will find me in salads and soups
In places where there isn't much 'dhoop'
You can use me in pastas and pesto
Once in your home, you won't let me go!

Basil is an annual warm season herb
Its is relatively easy to grow and makes a great addition to your vegetable garden.Grow Basil next to your tomatoes,peppers.Basil is said to improve flavours of its neighbouring plants.It also repels flies and mosquitoes.

Basil prefers warm weather, less water and can be planted in pots or in garden.Should be propagated by seed.Basil must be pinched as it starts to flower, as once it starts to flower it loses its flavour.Pruning flowers will also help to make it bushier.

Start seeds inside and transplant when few inches taller.Leaves should be cut in morning after dew has dried.
 Basil leaves ,loose their flavour when washed.


This aromatic herb is unbelievably 3000 years old
Seeds, stem and leaves, many a benefit they hold
In soups, salads and other recipes I am used
Overweight and obese, be happy for many a kilos I will help you loose!

Celery requires good amount of sun. Plant it in a container 8 inches deep. Apply lots of mulch.Celery is a water lover.
While growing from seeds, sprinkle seeds over soil/coco peat in a seed container and cover with cling wrap to keep it moist. Once the seeds sprout and leaves emerge, remove the wrap. Thin seedlings out and plant the strongest ones in a container.
While it grows stronger, keep harvesting the stalks to use as flavoring for your soups and salads!


I am used in your pani puri
For curing gas in tummy I am the key
In chutneys,chicken and teas you will find my flavour
Even my juice you will savour!

Mint likes to grow in shade.
Mint has shallow creeping roots which can be broken off,and planted directly in potting soil.
Mulching mint will keep it very happy.Remove flowers as they appear.There is very little else to do except enjoy it.

For ref : Garden Action

Hope you all can enjoy these herbs in your kitchen gardens soon.

Smiles and best wishes

Urban Leaves

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

5 types of containers to begin with

A bottle cast away, makes an ardent plea
"Make a self watering can devise out of me"

"I may have cracked and to hold water may fail,
But I can still hold plants well", says the battered pail.

"Donot discard me as useless, Oh dear man!
Sow seeds of joy in me" urges the disposed can!

"I've been used enough for washing!" cries the weathered tub,
"Now make me a part of the Urban Leaves Club!"

Earthen pots and thermocol cups and plastic throw-aways are we,
Use us judiciously and some amazing results you will see!

                                                                                        Swati Barve ( my dearest little sis )

To start off a kitchen garden, you dont really have to go out, buy expensive pots and containers.
Have fun with your creativity, give a thought to reusing and recycling stuff around you and you will be surprised at what can be achieved!
Self watering can!

These can be made from recycled Bisleri 1 liter bottles or slightly larger jars.

  •         Take any plastic bottle.
  •          Cut it into half
  •          Drill a hole in the cork
  •          Pass a coir rope or nadi (used to tie pajamas, petticoats)/ rope cut out from old hosiery material through the cork
  •          Invert and place the top half of bottle into the lower half and fill the lower one with water
  •         One end of the rope should come out from top and one end immersed in water.
  •          Fill up the upper part with good nutrient soil and plant saplings like Basil, Tulsi, ginger, garlic, mint ….
Why are these bottles useful?

Plants need moisture and not water. Most of the pests’ attacks on plants, even after using good soil are due to excess watering. When we put too much water it fills up all the air gaps in soil, making it difficult for microbes and soil organisms to breathe and they die. This affects the health of soil and plant as most nutrients from soil are made available to plants by microbes.
Using self watering cans helps us in many ways. 

·         It enables the plant to take in only as much moisture that it needs.
·         It helps conserve water, otherwise wasted due to over watering.
Observe the difference between plants in regular pots and those in self watering cans. Draw your observations and share with friends!

What can be planted in such bottles?

 To name a few.
·         Basil
·         Lemon grass
·         Chillies
·         Garlic
·         Ginger
·         Kadipatta
·         Mint
·         Celery
·         Spinach

Experiment with what you like and use in your food.

Take any plastic bottle              
Cut it into half

drill a hole in the cork
 Pass a coir rope or nadi (used to tie pajamas, petticoats)/
 rope cut out from old hosiery material through the cork
Pass a chord or nadi or coir rope through it
Invert and place the top half of bottle into the lower
half and fill the lower one with water

One end of the rope should come out from top and one end immersed in water
 Fill up the upper part with good nutrient soil and plant saplings 
like Basil, Tulsi, ginger, garlic, mint ….

Other recycled containers

Old buckets are best for larger plant varieties like Brinjal, raddish.
Radish in a bucket gets good depth required

Brinjal in a bucket
Spinach in a biscuit tin. You can also grow Pudina and Mint in it.
Pudina sticks bought from the market can be 
grown again after harvesting leaves.

And last but not least.. here is something I found very fascinating...

A pallet Garden.
From the blog: Life on a Balcony 

Read on about how to make a pallet garden HERE.

There are always ways to learn and share. Not having place to garden is no more true. If one watches and observes in nature there are plants everywhere... in nooks and corners, in between rocks and bricks. 

So lets get started and green our surroundings!

Urban Leaves

Friday, 15 July 2011

Urban Leaves Story - The beginning

The Urban leaves Story

Preeti, a catering officer with Mumbai Port trust, did not stop with her job of catering for the multitudes working in BPT; she thought about the impact of the food, the waste generated and began exploring ways to deal with it. She identified the space, the terrace over the kitchen, and began experimenting with various methods of organic farming using kitchen waste. This was in 2003, through trials and error she found her urban food garden equilibrium in a combination of using Amrut mitti and  pulverized kitchen waste. Slowly the garden blossomed from a handful of drums to numerous  drums and beds with vegetable plants and trees and herbs all swaying in the sea wind, holding up against it and flowering and fruiting! As the garden grew, so did its fame and urban farming enthusiasts and others begin trooping to BPT to see this garden

Once the garden began reaching its potential Preeti also grew confident and felt a need to share this knowledge and experience with as many people as she could. She began thinking about how to take this to people, how to involve different segments of society and how to take the learning from this urban farming project and turn it into a movement. 

Along with a good friend Sabrina, who came up with the name Urban Leaves,  Preeti started thinking about forming a small urban farming group. 

Devi was involved with the urban food and sustainable agriculture movement while in the US. When she and her husband decided to move to Mumbai she contacted Preeti seeking an opportunity to volunteer at the BPT terrace farm, little knowing that outsiders could not work on the terrace farm and to just be able to visit it is the best one could do. Devi and Preeti met, first at an event at Rachna Sansad (where Preeti was giving a talk), then at the ‘Poison on the Platter’ screening, then at the Sprouts World environment day event. It is then Preeti said that she wanted to go ahead with creating a volunteer group for urban farming.

Uday, long standing friend and Vedanta teacher who Preeti relied on was always supportive of the urban farming idea and wanted Preeti to spread the word.

 Jyoti, an urban farming enthusiast, along with a few friends met Preeti, thanks to the BPT terrace farm, the word about which was spreading. The visit and a follow up thank you visit paved the way for a wonderful friendship and association and Preeti asked Jyoti if she would like to be part of Urban Leaves. Obviously the answer was a resounding yes!

What all of us had/have in common is our passion and conviction about urban farming and about agriculture which is nature friendly, capable of producing safe food and incorporating natural ways of recycling waste in the urban setting. Each of us has a pet theme, Preeti swears by Amrut Mitti , Jyoti wants to grow her food and trees, Devi wants to keep food and agriculture GMO and pesticide free and Uday believed that this all led to joy and oneness !

Finally on a not too warm April evening in  2009  , we decided to meet at Preeti’s home to finally give shape to this nebulous dream that all of us had begun carrying around- thinking and talking about! Uday, Devi, Preeti, her niece Nupur, Mr.Mohanachandran from BPT and Sunil, Preeti’s husband attended the delicious dinner-cum-meeting. Jyoti was unable to come due to some personal commitments. Across Preeti’s dining table replete with delicious food, Urban Leaves was formally born. Ideas flew across the table while everybody dipped into the yummy dessert, vision and mission discussed, plans for workshops drawn out, notes written, laughter boomed and Sunil’s cautious voice kept our feet on the ground!

We reluctantly parted late in the night with promises to meet regularly ; with our heads full of ideas ; hearts full of hope and visions of hands full of greens from terraces, balconies, yards and community gardens !
In the meantime Preeti was already in conversation with Mr Avinash Kubal Dy. Director of Maharashtra Nature Park (MNP) in Mahim, about allowing us to use a small space within the park for an urban community food garden and for conducting urban farming workshops, paving way for our community food garden and the sprouting roots and leaves for our dreams and ideas!

Today many of the dreams have turned into reality; many new friends, committed to the cause,  two community food gardens, at MNP & NNP ,  school project at AB Petiti High School, regular meetings of urban food gardeners here, greens and veggies and fruits from terraces and gardens, young and old volunteers ,  food and herb gardens grown by volunteers at home, schools and colleges coming forward to create more gardens…..and we all continue to dream and hope! 

Sreedevi Laxmi Kutty
Founder member Urban Leaves

Monday, 11 July 2011

Gearing up for the World Kitchen Garden Day

Can a concrete jungle be converted to a farm? Going by the looks of these pictures, yes! 
In just less than a year.
After six months of hard work and making
 Amrut Mitti the results are awesome!
We have planted lots of corn to be ready for harvest on 
World Kitchen Garden Day on 28th of August. 
Yee.... Are 'nt we all excited? The Urban Leaves Family invites you all to join us on 
World Kitchen Garden Day to harvest our produce at Nana Nani Park 
( Sunday 28th August 7.30 am- 8.30 am) 
                                                  and Maharashtra Nature Park ( 8.30 am - 1.pm.)

Samhith  the snails lover is a regular volunteer these days 
joining us after he got hooked on post the Children's Summer Camp!
In reality we all become little children
once we are at the Community Farm.

This little patch of Amrut Mitti kept for greening , gave a 
surprise bounty of sweet, delicious beans.

                      These drumstick plants planted as little saplings
                      on 5th June.... Have shot up and become trees....

Drumstick in a months time!

That's Mavis hugging her tree.
The papdi another variety of beans........
These two little saplings have grown! in two months and how!

Mr Singh happy with the creeper... waiting for the beans, 
which are now flowering profusely...

Flowers of beans
The jowar sowed by Vipul  for greening stage dominated all plants and was therefore  retained  without cutting after every 21 days. This growth is not really for harvest , but will be cut and recycled back into the Mitti to enrich it further.

The sight of jowar growing on a concrete is not easy to resist... 

The okra / lady finger / Bhindi

Our blog posts of 5 little baby steps to start your kitchen 
garden has received wonderful  response!
Dont go by the meager Facebook Likes to our Urban Leaves Page! 
It was hands on and very Real!From little children to grandmothers and grandfathers.
Like! Like! Like! this Reality any day..... 
Nirmala aunty  started a class spontaneously!
Vipul joined in with total confidence!

The surprise students were two grannies who had undergone
 leg operations recently! They won our hearts with their enthusiasm.
The rains didn't stop us!

The demo by Vipul,Nirmala Aunty, and Mavis continued .....

We shifted to a drier location, for an interaction and wonderful treat 
of oil free veg pancakes and vegan  mango pudding brought by Saroj. 

Samhith shared that he was worried about his spinach being eaten by his pet snail! : D
Any message or tips for him?

Barfis... and 
a  treat of oil free veg pancakes and vegan  mango pudding brought by Saroj. 
Thanks Saroj... for all your pampering.

 All smiles for the group photo...

I am thrilled. I discovered two up coming urban leaves trainers... Nirmala and Vipul in addition to Purvita
especially for Gujrati special! What say when should we have it?

Till we meet again for a heart warming Sunday morning!

Photo courtesy: Anu shankar , Nimita Khandelwal.

Love and lots of smiles
Preeti &
Urban Leaves