Urban Leaves India: Grey becomes Green... Vipul's terrace Garden

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grey becomes Green... Vipul's terrace Garden

The beginning of a kitchen terrace garden
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Kitchen Gardens? Chances are, you would conjure up an image of an independent house surrounded by a patch of land, a section of which is filled with veggies. At least, that’s how it was for me. I remembered one of my uncle’s houses, where we had a bit of land behind, where my grandfather enthusiastically planted carrots and cabbages. It was terribly exciting for a city girl like me who had never seen vegetables being grown before, and I spent almost every minute of my holiday peering at the plants and seeing if they had grown yet! I see the same reaction in Samhith every time we visit the Urban Leaves terrace farm at MNP. Yet, the idea of having a kitchen garden in a concrete jungle like Mumbai still seemed a distant dream. While we started our own little one in small plastic containers on our window sills, I wondered how I could possibly make it larger in the small space that we had. However, all it took was a visit to Vipul Sanghavi’s house in Sion to see that where there is a will, there is a way.
Vipul’s house is located at the centre of the city, right behind the bustling Sion Bus Depot. Its proximity to the railway station as well as the hub of BEST buses makes it an extremely desirable place to live in, but also makes it among the most crowded areas. The buildings are all old ones, and the area is a haven in the midst of all the traffic and congestion that is just a road away. As I walked up to his house, I wondered where he had managed to create his terrace garden, considering that the buildings being old, there would be chances of leakage, and other problems. Vipul met me at the door and we proceeded towards his terrace, over the 3rd floor of the building, and I realized that his building was almost the same as mine, and almost in the same condition. And then, as he opened the door to the terrace, the sight almost took my breath away!

Vipul’s terrace can’t really be called a ‘kitchen garden’ yet. He is in the process of making Amrut Mitti in large quantities so that he can start planting sometime by the end of this year. I had heard earlier about the large scale of his project, but I was totally unprepared for the rows and rows of trenches enclosed by bricks filled with Amrut Mitti in different stages of greening!

The bio diversity of seeds sowed for greening

lush and healthy !

Vipul says he started the process in April this year, so it’s been only three months, and there is long way to go before the Amrut Mitti is ready. However, the sight of the lush green colour gives a glimpse of what it is going to be! 
For the greening, Vipul has sowed seeds of all kinds, pulses, grains and oil seeds. They are all mixed up, so it difficult to say which is which, but they are thriving. Many of them are in flowering stages, which lends a dash of colour to the place.

I was surprised to see that there were hardly any worms or insects, but I did see a few mushrooms!

 It was easy to see that Vipul was really enthusiastic about his project. It was already obvious from the fact that he is among the most regular members of Urban Leaves, who rarely misses a Sunday at MNP! But he manages the whole terrace garden at home almost single handed, which says a lot about his dedication to the work. I was amazed to hear that he had collected about 1200 bags of leaves from all over Mumbai to start the project!!

There are still leaves soaked in Amrut Jal being dried before they can be added to the piles….

And there are still two pits of bagasse (the fibrous matter left over from sugarcane after the juice is extracted) he collected, and which he has even sifted to separate the finer ones which he uses as mulch (a protective cover placed over the soil to retain moisture).

Here are some of Vipul’s photos which show the different stages in the development of his terrace garden…..
Raised Beds of Amrut Mitti
Seeds for greening
Greening stages

It was fitting that I visited Vipul’s terrace first, before visiting the other kitchen gardens, because this is, indeed the first stage in the process. Now, I can’t wait to see what it looks like by this time next year! 

Anu Shankar
Urban Leaves