Urban Leaves and their Collaborative Approach to Urban Farming

 

Every Sunday morning, the members of Urban Leaves meet at dawn to tend their edible gardens. Established by Preeti Dehadrai Patil, Urban Leaves is a group of urban farmers that create rooftop gardens that can be enjoyed by all those who help maintain them.

“We are a group of passionate, gardening crazy, food loving friends.” reads their website. “We find joy in growing our own food, sharing farming techniques, cooking recipes, harvesting seeds and helping hands. Each day our stories inspire each other to reach our goal of greening rooftops in Mumbai…. to overcome difficulties and setbacks….to find creative strategies and alternative resources.”

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Preeti and her team and help out with the weekly maintenance of their Bhavans Campus garden located on the rooftop of a university building in Mumbai. I was one of twelve individuals who was pruning, weeding and spreading compost on at least fifteen garden beds that were bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables. Preeti and a few of the more experienced gardeners inspected each plant to ensure that it was healthy and to care for the plants that needed a little TLC.  After the hard work complete, the morning’s harvest was divided between all participants and volunteers. A yield of papayas, peppers, turmeric, mint, lettuce, parsnip and other delights were ours to take home and enjoy – What a treat!  Thank you Urban Leaves for sharing your delicious bounty

 

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Children Often Know Best

Yet another beautiful day in Mumbai and a perfect afternoon to visit Dr. Vijaya Patil’s terrace garden at her family home.  As Dr. Patil shows us her garden she tells my colleagues from Earthoholics and I how a roof top garden has brought joy to her and her children. Seeing seeds grow into plants has amazed them in a way that can only be taught from ‘doing’ rather than ‘teaching’.  This along with the fresh produce that her garden yields on a regular basis are the main reasons why she decided to create this rooftop garden of fruit and vegetables.  Today we have been called to her house to help her with a small pest problem.  Our garden specialist quickly assesses the situation and concocts a liquid of neem oil and liquid soap – Barbie shampoo to be exact!  The children’s youthful presence can obviously be seen in every aspects of this family’s garden.  After treating the infected plants with the neem solution, we then go to work sowing additional seeds in empty pots hoping for more organic produce to grow.  Not only has this garden provided Dr. Patil and her family with fresh produce year round, it has also offered her children the opportunity to learn and understand how food is grown.  As her daughter points out,”Eating a bean that you’ve grown is much tastier that eating a bean that you’ve bought!”  Children often know best.

Urban Farming at an Orphanage for Boys

We paid a visit to the terrace garden at Our Lady’s Home, an orphanage for boys in central Mumbai, where we met Priti and her team from Green Souls. For the past 2 years, Green Souls have been building an edible garden to help educate the children of the orphanage about the gardening process as well as providing them with a space to ‘retreat’ from their everyday lives. Here the boys are learning how to grow and maintain fruit and vegetable gardens. “Being able to see a seed grow into a fruit or vegetable that can be harvested and eaten is a very rewarding experience – especially for these children”, explains Priti. Using mainly donated or found objects, Green Souls have managed to create a lush garden that yields papayas, eggplants, greens, berries and other fruit and vegetables. Old wardrobe doors, cardboard boxes and scavenged pieces of wood are used to create beds that are then filled with soil. The compost is made on site using organic waste from the orphanage and then mixed and added to the garden beds to produce soil that is rich in vital nutrients and minerals. The end result is a magical rooftop forest completely removed from the busy city below – a secluded oasis within a bustling urban centre.

The Importance of Good Soil

Recounting another beautiful afternoon spent gardening in urban Mumbai.  This time we had the opportunity to meet Julius and Priti from GreenSouls, an non-profit organisation supported by volunteers that create organic farms in Mumbai for vulnerable communities. Today we were volunteering at the Cheshire Disability Centre located in the heart of the city. Along with about 8 other voluteers, we set to work building a large garden that would eventually provide residents of the centre with fresh and organic produce. One of the most interesting elements observed was the care taken into using soil that would hold moisture and feed plants for expended periods of time. “We create our own ‘living’ soil,” explains Julius, “by using organic ‘waste’ matter like leaf litter, tree trimmings, branches, weeds, kitchen waste, tender coconut shells etc collected locally, to make ‘compost,’” In addition to using beautifully enriched soil, GreenSouls also make use of the land’s natural topography in the design of their gardens.  In this case, the garden was being built on a slope that directed water down trenches that had been filled with organic matter.  Not only was the water being purifying as it made its way through the leave filled trenches, but was also being directed to the areas of the garden that required the most nourishment.  A truly enlightening day spent with the wonderful people of GreenSouls.

Children’s Hospital Terrace Garden

I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Dr. Hemant Samel and Dr. Smita Samel, both paediatric doctors and founders of the Ashwini Hospital for Children in Nalasopara, India.  Along with showing the Earthoholics team and myself the bountiful garden on the terrace of their hospital, they invited us in for a delicious meal cooked using their homegrown ingredients.  Inspiring people taking initiative to better their lives and the lives of those around them 🙂

Ringing in the New Year in Mumbai

It’s a new year – and after several years of guerrilla gardening in European and North American cities, I decided it was time to get a fresh perspective.  This epiphany has since led me to the busy metropolis of Mumbai in India to see how locals incorporate gardening and environmentalism into their lives.  I have been working with a wonderful group of people from #Earthoholics – following them as they teach city dwellers how to create terrace gardens filled with organic vegetables.  Today we ventured to the suburb of Navi Mumbai to install a new garden at the home of a couple who are eager to discover the joys of urban farming!

Stashed away with my Tic Tacs

Hidden amongst these little white peppermints is the seed pill I plan to sow tonight! #SeedTheRevolution

Look what I found!

Tucked away down one of the side streets near my home, I found these lovely little guerrilla gardens. Keep your eyes peeled folks, covert gardeners are up and active in the streets of London. Let’s #seedtherevolution together!

The Subversive Gardener @BOXPARK

The Subversive Gardener Pop Up is up and running at @BOXPARK in Shoreditch till Sunday July 17th. Come learn about guerrilla gardening and get the latest covert tools!

Gardening in Style

Today has been a beautiful day in London! I’ve been taking advantage of the sunny weather to do some stylish guerrilla gardening. Armed with a nail duster from the Subversive Gardener’s Tools for Her collection, I’ve been sowing seed pills in neglected spaces around London.

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