The real Farmville is in Mahim

Your very own terrace garden is just two short learning sessions away. Volunteer group Urban Leaves teaches you how to turn kitchen waste into fresh green veggies at their community garden

Unlike most city folk who are used to complaining about the lack of greenery around them, Preeti Patil decided to find a solution. She realised that kitchen waste could be put to better use by investing it in a terrace farm. You can grow your own basil, celery and herbs, vegetables like brinjal, ladyfinger, spinach, mint, lettuce and even fruits like guava, chickoo and starfruit, she explains.

Hemanta enjoys the ready to eat harvested veggie

After trying it out in her balcony, Patil took the idea to volunteer group Urban Leaves that conducts regular workshops every month and maintains community farms at Maharashtra Nature Park, Mahim and Nana Nani Park, Girgaum chowpatty. The first Urban Gardening seminar was held in Bengaluru and was attended by 110 people. The group also holds special half-day workshops for children to learn about pollination, cross-pollination, composting and growing their own plants. The produce grown at the 2,000 sq feet community farm at Mahim is shared by the volunteers of Urban Leaves.

Preeti Patil holds up a Kolrabi grown in the balcony at her home

 "Urban gardening is the need of the hour. Mumbai is an island with dumping grounds at the end of the city. As the city grows, dumping grounds become the centre of the city. In transporting garbage, a lot of energy is wasted and it is hazardous when burnt. It is better to recycle this waste and it is a good idea to consume local produce," explains Patil.

In the two day seminar, participants will learn from speaker Clea Chandmal, a Permaculture practitioner, how to design sustainable agricultural farms keeping in mind factors like sunlight, air, water, plants, bugs and surrounding areas. Kusum Dahivelkar, an expert on medicinal plants, will talk about how they can be grown in urban gardens and used for home remedies while Anju Venkat, who runs a health centre in the city, will give a talk about the best way to consume food with special attention to how it affects our environment.

"In our kitchens, 90 per cent of waste can be recycled. At present, in our terrace, we have 2 kg ginger, about seven dozen chickoo, 35-40 custard apples and nine kilos of papaya. We have even grown rice and done away with the notion that rice needs flooded fields to grow," explains Patil.

The seminar will also include a brief talk by Dr C M Pandit, a practitioner of Natueco on Prof Dabholkar's methodology of farming through a process of soil-building that works on the principle of how a forest works. While it would take 500 years to create top soil in nature, with the help of science, this can be achieved in five months.

The seminar will continue on the third day though this is optional for those who have an interest in the same. The schedule will include how to set up a Natueco City Farm and will introduce participants to the concept of Amrut Mitti, a nutrient rich soil that doesn't need external fertiliser.

Registration fee: Rs 2,000 When: Every month. The seminar will cover all the aspects of urban gardening, from composting, companion planting, growing and harvesting. The Amrut Mitti workshop will be held on  December 12.
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