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Mumbai: Organic is the way to grow for these

urban farmers
Omkar Gokhale, Hindustan Times Mumbai, October 20, 2014
First Published: 22:11 IST(20/10/2014) | Last Updated: 22:23 IST(20/10/2014)




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With space constraints, creating a garden in Mumbai to grow pesticide-free vegetables and fruits may
seem like a far-fetched idea. But one group of organic farming enthusiasts has shown how growing an
organic kitchen garden in the city is quite an achievable feat.
For the past five years, Urban Leaves India a group of amateur organic farmers has been spreading
awareness about urban farming in Mumbai. The group conducts workshops every Sunday to teach
people how to prepare organically rich soil and become urban farmers.
These gardening enthusiasts do not need a plot of land to exercise their green thumbs; the terrace on
their buildings serves as their backyard garden.

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In 2000, we developed a terrace farm at Ghadiyal Godi (Victoria Dock) of MbPT. The farm has around
100 varieties including spinach, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables, said Preeti Patil, founder,
Urban Leaves India, who has been a catering officer with Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) since 1992.

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Over the years, as the soil improved and the garden grew, urban farming enthusiasts and others began
to visit the site. With security restrictions increasing at MBPT, I felt the need to share the knowledge and
experience to a wider forum, said Patil.
Patil and her group of 500 volunteers decided to replicate the idea in other parts of the city as well. In



Mumbai: Organic is the way to grow for these urban farmers - Hindustan Times

2009, the volunteers decided to name the project Urban Leaves India. The group started their second
project in 2010 with the establishment of a garden at Nana Nani Park, Girgaum Chowpatty.


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Volunteers also have created their own terrace gardens besides initiating garden projects at schools and
colleges such as Don Bosco School, Matunga and Sardar Patel Institute of Technology, Andheri, among

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Every day, for many years, as Patil oversaw the catering for thousands of employees at MbPT, she
thought about the impact of the waste generated and decided to do something useful with it make soil.
Soil created using organic waste is not inert. It is full of microbial life, which can be used to grow organic
food without having to use synthetic fertilisers. The concept is, food should be grown where waste is
generated and being decomposed; this cycle should continue, said Patil.

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Avinash Kubal, deputy director, Maharashtra Nature Park, Mahim, which partnered with Urban Leaves
India, realised the potential of community farms and offered the group space within the park. The group
is spreading the idea of utilising biodegradable kitchen waste instead of sending it to landfills. Of the total
garbage sent to landfills around 8,000 metric tonnes in Mumbai, 40% is organic and can be used as
manure. Terrace farming has set up a model for young citizens for developing environment friendly
technology, said Kubal. The process is cost-effective and low-maintenance. The only requirements are
a lot of patience and perseverance.

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Sessions on growing greens

Urban Leaves India organises workshops on urban community gardens for students, housing societies,
businessmen, professionals and housewives. It teaches:
* Building and using Amrut Mitti (a nutrient-rich soil)
* Seed sowing and transplanting of seedlings
* Pruning for fruits and vegetable plants to create a better canopy and make them more productive
* Building trellises for creepers
* Designing principles for your urban farm like techniques to harvest maximum light and maintain high
biodiversity in farms

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Urban children get a taste of organic foods

In May 2014, Urban Leaves India organised terrace farming workshops for children from around 100
schools across the city at the Maharashtra Nature Park. At the workshop, children were served breakfast
that included seasonal organic food.
Children need to be educated about whatever mother earth gives us, it should be returned to her.
Working in kitchen gardens also provides them with recreation. It will help them understand the
importance of organic food in our life. Being able to smell fresh fruits and vegetables is an added
incentive for children.
- Premila Perera, coordinator of childrens workshop, Urban Leaves India

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Steps for terrace farming

Recycle and reuse: Use plastic bottles, buckets and disused bathtubs to grow vegetables. The containers
can be filled with soil and home compost to grow cabbages, cauliflowers, capsicums, radishes and onions
Prepare your own soil: Produce Amrut Mitti (nutrient-rich soil) by mixing kitchen waste with soil
Mulch your soil: Keep the soil in containers covered with a layer of dry leaves or sugarcane bagasse to
conserve moisture


Mumbai: Organic is the way to grow for these urban farmers - Hindustan Times


Add a dose of amrut jal a liquid solution comprising cow urine, fresh cow dung, organic black jaggery
and water
Organic seeds are sown instead of hybrid varieties. For fruits, grafted saplings are used

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Singh and her husband Rajiv (44),
who are trying to watch their weight
and raise their two children on
pesticide-free produce, are one of
more than 100 families that have
become regular shoppers at
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Mumbai: Organic is the way to grow for these urban farmers - Hindustan Times

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