Urban Leaves India: 2013

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Amrut Mitti making session at Don Bosco Provincial House terrace community farm

Seasons have changed and winter is knocking on our doors again. Trees have started to shed their leaves. It's the right time now to start the process  of making Amrut Mitti. 

The Urban Leaves - Don Bosco Provincial House  terrace community farm which was initiated on 5th May 2013 is slowly taking shape: from a barren terrace to a green zone. Have a look at the transformation below:

We will be making Amrut Mitti beds for this season on Sunday 8th December 2013 at Don Bosco. You are welcome to join us, do hands on work and learn along with us. There is no registration involved. 

Please do note that this is not a formal workshop. We have workshops lined up from the month of January 2014.

Join us for an hands on experience on making Amrut Mitti beds. After the session please contribute/donate whatever your heart tells you to carry this green movement forward.

Do carry a cap, water bottle and napkin. Wear loose comfortable clothes and lastly don't forget to bring loads of enthusiasm :-).

Join us and learn along with us.

Sunday 8th December 2013

7:30AM onwards till about 10:00AM

Don Bosco Provincial House Terrace,
Don Bosco High School Campus,
Matunga, Mumbai

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Experience sharing by Gaurang Barrot (Foundation for Environment Conservation, India)

आधी बीज एकलें   
बीज अंकुरलें रोप वाढलें.
एका बीजापोटीं, तरु कोटी कोटी
जन्म घेती, सुमनें फळें.
व्यापुनि जगता तूंहि अनंता
बहुविध रूपें घेसी, घेसी
परि अंती, ब्रम्ह एकलें.

In the beginning there was the seed all alone,
The seed sprouted and  the plant grew
From the womb of one seed, millions of trees
are born, along with flowers and fruits.
You pervade the entire world o Almighty,
in multitude of forms and shapes,
but in the end, there is only one eternal Truth.

The unity and diversity of all beings has being captured in this beautiful Abhang (devotional poem/song) written by Shantaram Athavale from the film Sant Tukaram. It beautifully captures the importance of a seed: all alone in the beginning  and then giving rise to many.

The seed contains the blueprint of the plant. The seed is responsible for propagating life.
 When the proper conditions become available the seed germinates bringing forth the life that was lying dormant in it.. On maturity the plant (a flowering plant) gives rise to the seed and the cycle continues.

The importance of seeds for  all of us cannot be stressed enough. Most of the food that we eat today has its origins in seeds. Pulses, fruits, vegetables you name it most of them if not all start their lives from the humble seed. As urban gardeners it is vitally important that  we understand the seed and the process of seed saving . In today's modern world where genetic modifications are carried out in the labs and seeds are being patented by the multinationals, it becomes our responsibility to save the indigenous varieties of seeds before we lose them for ever.

So join us in an introductory workshop on Seed Saving which will show you some of the simplest  methods of saving seeds of common vegetables and plants, for personal use. 

Gaurang Barrot (Foundation for EnvironmentConservation, India)
The workshop will be conducted by Gaurang Barrot (some of you may have attended his seed saving session at MNP on World Kitchen Garden day) who will share his experience and knowledge about saving seeds. Please note that this is not a rigorous technical workshop. Gaurang will share his experience, observations and knowledge gathered from work on his farm and share basic seed saving techniques.

Some of the topics that will be covered are:
  • What is organic all about?
  • What are seeds?
  • Why do we need to save them?
  • GM/Hybrid , native seeds
  • Type of plants with respect to seed saving
  • Thumb rules for collecting seeds
  • General methods of saving seeds.
  • Storage of seeds/ Dormancy period
  • Sources of native seeds.

DATE: Sunday 20th October 2013

TIME: 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM

VENUE: Provincial House AV Hall, Ground Floor, Don Bonsco High School, Matunga.

CONTRIBUTION350/- This minimum contribution covers our expenses towards breakfast, venue charges, hiring charges for audio and visual aids etc. You are welcome to contribute more if you can. Having said that concession is also available to those who really need it. If you need financial support, please write to us on urbanleaves at gmail dot com, share your situation with us. We will consider the requests on a case by case basis and will get back to you.

Please draw a cheque in favor of  "VIDYA VAARIDHI TRUST" and courier to:

Vardhaman Plastochem Pvt. Ltd.,
Kasturi Bldg, Sanghavi Corporate Park,
Behind USV Ltd. , Off Govandi Station Road,
Govandi (E),
Mumbai - 400088

Please write the Participants name (in case the cheque is sent by someone else), registration number and contact number on the back of the cheque
Please mention the following on the envelope:

State Bank of Hyderabad
IFSC Code of Bank:
Address of the Branch:
1st Road, Near M-Ward Office, Chembur Mumbai 400071
Account Name:  
Type of Bank A/c:
Saving Account No:
PAN Number of Trust:
Please send us the details of the transfer by email


Cash can be deposited with Urban Leaves volunteers located in various parts of Mumbai. Please select the desired location in the registration form. You will be emailed the details of the Urban Leaves volunteer to contact for depositing the contribution.

Please fill the form at the link below to register for the workshop. 
Please ensure that you fill in your proper email address as further communication from us will be sent to this address.


REF:Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Azy3W4V_-Dk
REF:Image: http://www.clker.com/clipart-world-in-our-hands-1.html

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Mumbai celebrates World Kitchen Garden Day 2013

An irony that the World Kitchen Garden Day needs to be celebrated indoors every year in Mumbai due to heavy rains. But that does not stop the crowd of more than 200 spirited gardeners from having a gala time!
Check out at leisure about how Mumbai celebrated this Day. 

"I was sitting on a fence post, slapping on my left knee

chewing on my bubblegum, CHOMP!.. CHOMP!..CHOMP!..CHOMP!
playing with my YO-YO, DOO-WOP!.. DOO -WOP!, DOO-WOP!
And watching the birds fly by and then along came HERMAN THE WORM..."

The World Kitchen Garden Day's ice breaking session started with the participants moving to the beats of this song . The AV hall at Maharashtra Nature Park rang with the sounds of laughter as  the participants  lead by Mirabelle D'chunha danced to this song. Young and old all joined in the fun as we tried to get people to connect.

This was followed by a beautiful song sung and written  by our very own Swati Barve
People from all over Mumbai had converged on to the Maharashtra Nature Park, Mahim to join the World Kitchen Garden day celebrations. This was first time that all urban farming groups in Mumbai came together to celebrate. Mumbai is a huge city and the objective of the celebration was to provide a platform to kitchen gardeners to connect with other like minded people and kitchen gardening groups in their local areas to take the movement forward.
All participants gathered at the Maharashtra Nature Park
The principles of open space
It was the first time that an Urban Leaves event was  based on a format inspired by the Open spaces philosophy. We had multiple sessions offered by participants running in parallel at various spaces in the spirit of "Giftivism". Participants had the freedom to attend any session that interested them. Since this was our maiden attempt at this format or unFormat it was challenging for the organizing team us as well as for the participants.
The first half of the event was a little chaotic with participants tried to first understand the format as well as tried to reach a decision about which workshop to attend. The choices were so enticing that it was difficult for many to reach a decision. 
It was  vibrant a "Mela" (Fair) of people moving around like bees  trying to gather the honey of knowledge from various flowers. 
Monisha Narke from RUR : explaining composting
Purvita Kapadia and Vipul Sanghavi teaching Amrut Mitti and building trellises
We had workshops/discussions  hosted by Blooms, Green Souls, Urban Leaves, RUR happening simultaneously  in various spaces. We had Square Foot Gardening (Prakash Shetty), Window sill gardening ( Priyanka ) Home composting (Monisha Narke) , Agnihotra (Vidya Didwania) , a biodiversity walk (Aristo Mendes), Introduction to Bees (Anand Manjrekar) , Compost tea (Nitya Anand), Children's activities (Mrunalini Gole) running in parallel in the first half of the event.
All about Bee Keeping
Mrunalini Gole with kids
Prakash Shetty and his demo on sq ft gardening.
Saroj Chaudhary and Abha Gupta wowed the participants with recipes made from fresh and seasonal produce like palak (Spinach), shewga (moringa) leaves, paan (betel e)leaves. Who would have thought that the humble palak will taste so heavenly as a roll, or that we can make laddu's out of pan leaves or a chatpata chat could be made with these seasonal vegetables.
Nitya Anand and her compost Tea

Saroj Choudhary and her healthy delicious recipes
Abha Gupta taking a session on healthy recipes

Art from waste by Kala Ponnuri
Post lunch we had sessions on Seed saving (Gaurang Barrot) , Designing a food forest (Preeti Patil), Making toys from recyclable items  at home (Kala Ponnuri), Amrut jal and Amrut Mitti (Purvita Kapadia), Trellis making (Vipul Sanghavi).
A delicious Lunch by The Health Awareness Center delighted everyone with their mouth watering healthy specialties.  While all activities were happening we had a steady stream of visitors to the "Do nothing tapari" for a sip of the refreshing herbal tea along with jhal mudhi(a puffed rice bhel snack). This was last minute addition provided by Shammi Nanda to enable participants to just chill out in a corner and connect over a cup of hot herbal tea. Shammi also guided us throughout organising the open space unformat of the event.
Ingredients for herbal Tea

A special feature during the day was a session conducted by him on the lines of Non Violent Communication. A problem that we all encounter in our urban areas is that of our housing societies disallowing members to plant kitchen gardens. Shammi's session focused on how to deal with such societies and convince them. There were many takers for this session too.

An important session by Tejal Vishweshwar regarding the threat of GMO'S in our food called Need, Weed,Seed highlighted the importance of kitchen gardeners and farmers and consumers taking the step  to ensure food safety. And how one could ensure self sufficiency and learning through activities like kitchen gardening.

Herman or rather Herman-jeet the worm once again made the participants sway to his tune in the closing circle.
Our behind the scenes hard working team.
All this would not have been possible without our behind the scenes volunteers who strove before, during and after the event to make it a success. Neesha Noronha thank you for giving shape to the unformat chart through your creative inputs. Amit Malgaonkar, Kavita and Hemant Khosla, Bhagyashree Kelkar, Hemali Mehta, Joslyn Almeida, Prema Aiyer, Sheetal Sanghvi, Ashfaq Ahmed thank you for being there and providing your support.  A special thank you to Prajakta Patil, Trisha Basu and Samir Jain for covering the event through their lenses. The beautiful photographs of the event are the fruits of their efforts. The feedback that we received from the participants  post the event is positive and encouraging with valuable suggestions for improvement. Many commented that it was difficult for them to make a choice regarding which workshop they should attend as there were so many to choose from. 
This is true especially for a society which is so used to having things decided for them. Having  freedom to make a decision for self learning is something we all are not used to, as this natural instinct is stifled in our current schools and in our society. 
Our learnings from the events were many: We learnt that people need to understand and be prepared for a little chaos in the beginning. 
Although we had announced the format on our blog and our networks, had requested participants to connect prior to event, many had not read or seen these posts and were therefore unaware of what would be involved. We hope as years go by we will be able to help people understand this format better and get involved more deeply.
We also learnt that this unFormat has something to offer to everyone right from a  novice to people already on the path of urban gardening. It also makes people think and take a conscious decision and focus on what they currently need, (there's a world of difference in what we want and what we need and in life) to move on with their work. For those who haven't started on, it gives a chance to explore and  experience. 
Thank you all for making this event such an eventful one. There was learning in it for all of us, from un-Organizing to hosting workshops and discussion in open spaces. To those who felt a little disappointed at not being able to take it all, we would like to share that we have noted your feedback and hope to help you understand the process of open spaces a little better. The highlight of the event as we experienced it was the opportunity that so many of us got to showcase what we were doing in this field of kitchen gardening.  New talents emerged. New friendships were made. Focus this year was to facilitate networking and new friendships.

For more detailed photos of the event, CLICK HERE.
Garlands made from kitchen waste adorn our necks and delight our hearts!
Wishing everyone a great year ahead for growing their kitchen gardens and selves
Team Urban Leaves

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Share Seeds, Saplings, Experiences, Stories, Harvest and Smiles on World Kitchen Garden Day - 25th August 2013

Once again it is time to celebrate doing what we love to do. Gardening! Growing our own food! What better way than to come together and share seeds, saplings, experiences, stories, harvests and smiles.....to relive those joyous moments of growing our own food, the challenges we faced and how we overcame those . 

While all this has been happening in many small pockets around the country and the world, at a macro level our food and farming are under threat from many sides. Pesticides, genetic modification and adulterants threaten our food and well being on one hand while farmers are suffering at the other. So our learning and work to grow our own food takes on a new urgency and is becoming increasingly relevant and critical to the well being of one and all. 

For the last four years the expanding community of Urban Leaves members from diverse backgrounds has been growing some of their food on their window sills, balconies, terraces and open spaces and within community gardens. The group has discovered acres of land to grow food in this space starved Mumbai City. While doing this we have forged new friendships, shared creative tips and learnt the importance of building a socially aware, supportive communities. 

Mumbai urban farming groups have now come  together  this  year   to co-create an interactive gardening event . Urban  Leaves, Green Souls, Fresh and Local,  Blooms, Earthoholics  we hope the bandwagon grows.... It will be a daylong event from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm.

This year we invite schools and housing societies to join us.Schools can sow the seeds of a urban farming in the young minds of children and housing societies can carry forward the initiative at a community level. The idea is that World Kitchen Garden day can serve as a platform for schools and housing societies to interact and initiate new projects  with groups working in their areas. These new relationships will play a pivotal role in taking this movement forward. 

We all have attended conferences and seminars. We have listened to wonderful and inspiring speakers and have been motivated by them. However it is often the very simple solutions offered across discussions /personal exchanges that have helped us in our day to day lives. This is precisely the kind of exchange we wish takes place on the World Kitchen Garden Day. 

Since the movement began there are so many of our friends who have evolved as gardeners, gained experience in growing food, dealing with waste, starting new community gardens and found creative ways of dialogue with our neighbors to bring in new ways of thinking. Sharing these experiences is what will enrich all of us- learning from each other! 

A few members attended the Learning Societies Unconference  this year and are inspired to try the same format or un-format on World Kitchen Garden day.

What is an un-Conference?
We will have small parallel workshops, informal gatherings where people will share their knowledge with each other in smaller more intimate settings with a deeper level of sharing. There are no keynote speakers or rigid agendas, the participants themselves co-create the structure, share and connect resulting in one of the simplest, most brilliant combinations of order and chaos.

How can you get involved? 
Suggest topics for workshops and discussions:
The topics already suggested are listed below. Review them, send more suggestions!
The topics range from:
  • Waste recycling/kitchen waste composting
  • Window sill / balcony gardening
  • Composting, urban farming by Housing Societies
  • Terrace gardens - designing and converting to productive spaces like a food forest
  • Saving seeds
  • More on Amrut Mitti ( although we can’t make this in monsoon)
  • Gardening tips (mulching, pruning, building trellises, grafting... etc...)
  • Exchange recipes and tips on cooking healthy meals with produce grown in our gardens

Offer workshops / share experiences on any relevant topic they may wish to and /contribute to this list.
Participants can offer these exchanges through gift workshops. We hope kitchen gardeners will come forward to gift and exchange/share experiences. This can be pre-decided and discussed and any one of you willing to share may please write to us @ urbanleaves at gmail dot com.

Register for the World Kitchen Garden Day And join the discussion  through our exchanges on the World Kitchen Day Group page on FB
As you register, you can become a member of our Facebook group WKG Day and start interacting with participants. This continued interaction will evolve into the final structure of the World Kitchen Garden Day which will be shared with everyone by the 21st of August.  So come share your ideas so that together we can shape the events of this day and in this process forge new friendships and bonds.

Let us together LEARN UNLEARN and RELEARN. (Alvin Toffler)

In case of any doubts please refer to our set of FAQs HERE.

For Registration Information CLICK HERE

Team Urban Leaves

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Think before you eat and help save our environment! This is the theme put forward by UN this year for World Environment Day, which falls on June 5, 2013.

When I saw this, I was reminded of an incident long ago, our son, who was and is a food lover, was found gorging on cheese slices (a novelty which was introduced by Amul at that time). He could down a few of them without a thought. We told him, “You should think of how this will impact your health, before you eat so much of this”; the 12 year old famously responded, “You think, I eat”.

Our son who said that years back, today does think about his food; about its health impacts and maybe also its environmental impacts but not as much as we, his parents, do. We have become, since the last decade, very conscious about our food (adverse health impacts, low nutritional content, lack of taste)and its food print (toxin load, food miles, food wastage, fair prices for farmers, loss of agro-biodiversity due to narrow choice of foods, corporate control) on the environment  and society. Therefore we decided a few years back to opt for organic (certified and non-certified), local and seasonal. We have managed fairly well.

While evangelising about this, we encounter objections about price, availability and opinions about it being a fad. To that our response is  let us pause a moment and think about how much we are willing to do for our children, their health, their careers, their future, why is it that  their fundamental need  for healthy, toxin free food is neglected? Why can’t we invest some time and money in it? Yes, it is an investment, not an expense. In addition, through this process of eating local, seasonal, organic (natural), the environment benefits, and that will be our biggest contribution to our children’s future- much more than the education, opportunities and wealth that we will give them.

We have personally only succeeded in buying local; the next move for us is to grow our food. Growing food is one of the simplest and most effective ways of reducing our foodprint on the planet. Urban Leaves, through its community gardens, is providing that precious skill; empowering us to grow our food naturally. It is also one of the ways to combat toxins and pesticides in food. Another important facet of this is to reduce food wastage in our homes.

At this juncture I can’t but bring up the issue of genetically modified (GM) foods, which is the other serious threat to our food safety and sovereignty. Even though no GM food crops have been approved in India, many of the refined oils that we consume today contain cotton seed oil (and cotton seed oil is also sold directly); almost 95% of cotton in India is Bt cotton. It would be terrible if we jump from the cauldron of pesticides into the fire of GMOs!

Three years back Indians opposed Bt brinjal and let the government know that we want to be GM free. But currently a bill has been tabled in the Parliament , during the last session, called the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI)  Bill , which if passed, would create a single window mechanism for clearing GM crops without taking into account public opposition or opposition even from state governments. One of the fundamental flaws in the bill is that the regulatory authority will be housed with the Ministry of Science & Technology whose mandate is to promote GM crops. The Bill has provisions that would curtail disclosure of information, restrict contesting the decisions of the BRAI, almost no avenue for public participation and diluted legal liability

Our governments (state and centre) and politicians need to hear from us loud and clear that we do not need GM foods and we do not want this BRAI bill! We also want a ban on toxins in our food. Let us act at a personal and collective level to bring about this change- by eating right, reducing food waste, growing food and speaking up. So on this World Environment Day, let us Think, Eat, Save and Act to protect our food and seed sovereignty, and environment.

Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty

Devi is one of the founding members of Urban Leaves 

Friday, 26 April 2013


“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare “

---- William Henry Davies

Doesn't this poem which we all learnt in our school days ring true to our ears today? In the fast paced lives we live today we have lost our bond with Mother Nature.  We long for long lost gardens and green spaces in the concrete jungles of Mumbai, we long for pure and safe food for us and our loved ones, we long for the pure and unadulterated joy of playing with  soil……

Do you want to be a part of a dream which envisions green food forests and farms on terraces and spaces spread all across Mumbai? Do you want learn the magic of transforming this Grey

INTO this Green?


Then join us to give wings to our dreams and be a part of this transformation which will not only transform spaces but will also transform you……

Urban Leaves is laying the foundations of  community farms spread across Mumbai.  The details of the project  initiatives  are as follows:

Gopal's Garden High School
Borivali (East), Mumbai
 27th April 2013
 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Bhavan's Nature & Adventure Center   
Andheri(West), Mumbai
 1st May 2013
 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM
ISKCON Temple,
Babulnath, Mumbai 
 4th May 2013
 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Don Bosco High School,
Matunga(East), Mumbai 
 5th May 2013
 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM

For more details check the calendar .

(There’s another proposed project by Mumbai Port Trust at Sagar Upwan (MbPT Garden, Colaba), please keep track of the calendar for details.)

There will be regular weekly volunteer opportunities where u can volunteer with like minded urban farmers and learn the art. For logistics purposes those coming, please use this form where you can opt for the events that you are planning to attend. Please fill in your name and email and select the events that you plan to attend

You can drop us an email with your choices at:  urbanleaves@gmail.com

To Many more happy gardening times together

Amit Malgaonkar

Team Urban Leaves