Max Out Mumbai: Urban Gardens

On some days, the world might seem like a daunting place to live in. But you can do your bit (for the world and yourself) by going back to nature. Get your hands dirty. Learn how your food grows. Located in unlikely places across Mumbai, these gardens are lessons in making the most of whatever space you have and are ideal for the curious, eco-conscious traveller.

FLYOVER FARM, MOHAMMAD ALI ROAD
The deafening clamour of the busy streets below takes a back seat when you enter this terrace garden. Sited on the terrace of a building on Mohammad Ali Road, this is a vantage spot for city views. Close up, you’ll see the forgotten dust-covered Art Deco arches of neighbouring buildings, and, in the distance, the harbour that once made the city a major trade hub. You’ll also see tall stalks of an avocado plant that fruits once every five years, and get to bite into sweet pomegranates. Everything from papaya to green tea grows in pots here. You can stop by to select plants for your own garden, volunteer on Sundays, or have the gardener, Ganesh, set up a garden for you (00-91-9833700031; www.facebook.com/pg/freshandlocalindia; Mohamedi Manzil, Mohammad Ali Rd; by appointment only).

GREEN SOULS ORGANIC FOOD GARDEN PROJECT, KHARGHAR
Earn good karma when you volunteer with this organisation. Sited inside the Tata Memorial Centre, this farm’s produce feeds the kids at St Jude India Child Care Centre, a shelter for juvenile cancer patients. Over the last five years, this patch has grown from 6,000sqft to about half an acre. You’ll see suran plants, tendli creepers and brinjal varieties (depending on the season) here. You’ll notice that ladyfingers hang upside-down from branches, that spearmint leaves are very pungent, and that ajwain leaves are hairy. Green Souls holds monthly workshops, a perfect primer to get your hands dirty (00-91-9821327758, 00-91-9870113541; www.greensouls.in, facebook.com/greensoulsmumbai; St Jude Child Care Centre, Tata Hospital [ACTREC], next to Golf Course, Sector 22, Kharghar; next workshop July 23, 2017: 8.30am – 12.30pm; organic kitchen gardening workshop from Rs 1,500; volunteer hours: 9am – 12pm Tues, Thurs & Sat).

URBAN LEAVES, MATUNGA
A visit to this terrace garden will take your gardening goals to a whole new level. Instead of pots, tall plants of lime, custard apple, starfruit, pomegranate and more thrive in foot-high beds bordered by bricks, as the nutrient-rich soil retains moisture. It’s a very well designed space that factors in the way the plants have been growing and the angle of the sunlight over the last three years. The produce goes to the Don Bosco kitchen or to the volunteers. You can also sign up for a workshop on how to grow microgreens and the art of pruning (www.urbanleaves.org; Provincial House, Don Bosco campus; 7.30am – 10.30am Sun; check website for workshop updates).

PIXIE DUST FARM, BANDRA
This farm is one of the newest kids on the block and a lesson in permaculture. When the nuns at St Joseph’s Convent wanted to start composting, Bandra resident and gardening enthusiast Christopher Pereira decided to help out. He set up this thriving farm on a small patch in the convent’s compound. You’ll see millipedes hard at work aerating the soil, butterflies hovering around flowers and you’ll observe the different stages of composting. It’s very inspiring – and you can go back on the weekends to help out. The best part? If you help out regularly, you get dibs on the produce as well (00-91-9820442476; www.facebook.com/pg/PixieDustFarm; St Joseph’s School Convent Grounds, Bandra; 8am – 10am Sat – Sun).

Read the full story here: Urban Gardens

This story was featured in the July 2017 issue of Lonely Planet Magazine India. Max Out is a section in the magazine that aims to enable travellers to discover their own cities with new eyes.