Tired of insects and pests damaging your plants?

18th June 2014 by

Tired of insects infestation on your hard grown plants. Well, here are some of the simplest ways it can be tackled. 

  • Always use clean pots properly before repotting or starting a new one.
  • Check on the plants frequently to find signs of insects i.e. slimy fluid on plants means a snail.
  • Isolate insect affected plants from the healthy plants so that it does not spread.
  • Every now and then use a magnifying glass to look for mites.

Another way to protect your plants is with garlic garden spray.

Garlic spray is one of the easiest way of looking after your plants against snails, aphids, cabbage moth, caterpillars and mosquitoes, when it is used with 2 weekly interval success arises promptly and rapidly. Follow this instructions to make the garlic spray.garlic spray


85 (3oz) (about 3 big knobs) garlic not peeled

6 tablespoons medicinal paraffin oil

1 tablespoon oil-based soup, grated

0.5 L (1 pint ) Hot water

The first step is to roughly chop the garlic, put into the blender with paraffin oil and pulverise. Scrape resulting pulp into a bowl, cover and leave for 48 hours. Stir the grated soup into hot water until melted. Stir soup and water into garlic mixture. When the garlic mixture has cool down, strain into screw-top jars and store in refrigerator. For spraying in the garden or plants, use 2 tablespoon of garlic solution to 2L (4 pints ) water.








Delicious Vegan Jollof rice

9th June 2014 by

Farhana joined our Branch Out group at Made in Hackney, where they’ve been learning to cook delicious, vegan, locally sourced, organic food – inspired by food from around the world. Last time they were cooking Vegan Jollof rice – check out the recipe below!


225 grams of long grain brown rice

2 Onions

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 red peppers

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

4 tablespoons tomato puree

1 pinch pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable stock

1 tin tomatoes

1 cup water



The very first step is to wash the rice thoroughly in a sieve with cold water. Then chop the onions into small cubes, chop the peppers into thin slices. Heat the oil in a medium pan and heat over a medium heat. After that add the onions, pepper, pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, paprika, black pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the vegetable stock and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato puree and ketchup, then add the tinned tomatoes. Fill the empty tomato can with water and add to pan. Bring to a simmer (gentle cook) and stir to get the spices up from the bottom, fold in the rice and bring to a simmer again. Cover pan with tin foil and lid and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the liquid has absorbed and the rice cooked. Do not stir. Leave to stand for 2 minutes with the lid on. To add something to the side of Jellof rice you can cook plantains or stew, and a mango salad dressing.

Lastly stir and serve

photo 4-2











15th May 2014 by

Did you know that this week is Real Bread week? A time to celebrate slowly fermented bread, made with nutritious flour, that’s good for you, and good for the planet! We hope you’re doing something to celebrate – whether you’re baking bread, eating it, or sharing it here are a few ideas of things you could do:

Okay, so it sounds like a good idea, but how do I make it? And doesn’t it take a really long time? Well, yes and no. As sandwichyou might have seen on the other links, sourdough needs time – it’s a fundamental ingredient, and time will hugely improve yeasted bread too. But the good thing is, you don’t have to be there all the time. I make sourdough bread every week, lots of it and I definitely end up spending a lot longer washing up, and clearing up a fine coating of flour across half the kitchen than tending to the loaves… (every time I promise myself I’ll be a bit tidier next time).

  • If you want a good place to start why not try Do Sourdough – a little book helping you fit real bread making into busy lives! Last night I went to the book launch and was also treated to a fascinating talk about bread and its making from Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters, as well as some delicious bread and beer. Thank you!
  • Spread sourdough - join the Bread Matters Fungal Network! (I’ve got some sourdough if anyone wants some!)
  • Make your loaves more sustainable. Choose flour that’s organic, and as locally sourced as possible. Why not bake lots of bread at once to minimise oven usage, or bake with friends? In Germany there are some really cool, old baking houses, traditionally fired up on certain days where all the village can take their bread to bake.
  • If you don’t want to bake, it doesn’t mean you can’t have real bread: you can still eat good quality, healthy, and more sustainable loaves. The Real Bread Campaign have a Real Bread finder! Yum!


Branch Out Sides with the Seeds

16th May 2013 by

Nathan and TilthPhil updates us on what’s been happening down in the garden…

It has been a few weeks since my introduction to tilth and soil preparation. I have had plenty of practice in my own allotment when my first batch of rhubarb and leeks were promoted from humble crop to vibrant ingredients for roasts, soups and deserts. After a terminally cold winter the soil needed a serious working over, re-nourishing, re-hydrating and good dousing of sun-induced sweat from my brow. With my raised beds eager to welcome the incumbent class of vegetable goodies, Branch Out’s next session at St Mary’s Secret Garden on sowing seeds was a timely return to the tutelage of Liam.

The Branch Out team had recently completed our first assessment and we were ready for the next stage. We gathered around a raised bed and Liam told us to pull up a chair. The lesson was off to a laid back start. Perched on our seats, we peered into the bed, whereupon Liam instructed to work our magic to prepare the soil. It was a far more civilised affair being a sedentary gardener. We had our miniature forks and rakes, and fortunately the tilth only required the odd prod and poke, a pluck of some nuisance weeds and stones, and a little persuasion to level the final soil.

Branch Out Carrots

Our demonstration began with stakes connected by string bridging the width of the bed, demarcating our drill. Liam used a trowel to open out a V-shaped trench about an inch deep along the string, before filling it with a drenching of water. The water rapidly seeped through, leaving a moist mould; perfect preparation for the seeds to be sown. These were duly and carefully dropped in. The first technique was a continuous line of closely spaced individual seeds. The alternative was stationing, a peppering of 4 or 5 seeds at a single point with larger intermediary spaces. The drill was covered and given a generous watering, thus completing a simple but crucial process that gives the plants the best chance at flourishing. We were ready to try it for ourselves and we managed to fill an entire bed with Rothild, Yellowstone and Nantes 2 carrot types. Hopefully when we return next, a squadron of emerging carrot tops will be at attention on our arrival.

Carrot SquadronThe Branch Out team has also been very busy working on other projects. We have been helping Cre8 Arc, a centre of opportunities in sport, media, a variety of arts in Hackney, with the construction of their new eco-walkway. We have also spent a fantastic day with the team at Streetscape based in Myatt’s Field, Lambeth. They do a lot of work in design, landscaping and garden maintenance, and are actively involved in providing training for young people in acquiring these types of skills. We attended their taster day and were graced with scorching sunshine as we helped with their mass composting, fixing a fence, clearing the secluded shaded walkway and cleaning the pond. The whole team, including the directors of the Branch Out Programme, Tamsin and Cecily, got stuck in and had an amazing day.


Building Garden small

Tartan Trail – The Finale

27th September 2011 by

The long feared cycling day proved to be wet and challenging from the start- perhaps due to the tail-end of a certain hurricane (cheers America).  We lost Colin very early due to an exploded tyre (don’t worry, we found him again!) as we headed over the mountainous moors in gale force winds and driving rain. It was hard to keep eyes open in the rain, however we managed to keep our spirits high by singing silly songs (ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIIIIIFE!) and making impromptu and secret stops to tea rooms. Luckily, no-one was swept away in a cyclone and we all made it, limbs intact, to the Allanton Peace Sanctuary just outside of Dumfries.

Looking rather wet and bedraggled we chanced upon the lovely Glenda, and later on Uma, who ran the Peace Sanctuary. Taking pity upon us Glenda ushered us into the Sanctuary’s rather lovely mansion and very very very kindly gave us all beds in dormitory rooms usually housing groups coming to work on various social, environmental and philosophical aspects of peace. She later told us she wouldn’t have been able to sleep if we were all out camping in the hurricane! Equally exciting we were given the use of a really homely kitchen and dining room and… showers and a washing machine. So much luxury I almost cried. Our time in Dumfries was spent doing the usual Otesha activities – we performed at a primary school, and did workshops at a secondary school. This proved to be a bit scary as teenagers tended to have grumpy faces on, but we all agreed that the workshops were of utmost importance as the pupils were our target audience and tended to understand the themes a bit better, even if they seemed less engaged. We also had the honour of volunteering as marshals with the first stage of the ‘Tour of Britain’, a cycling race similar to the Tour de France. Despite a cold and wet wait certain people really enjoyed watching some rather fine pairs of legs whizzing past!! At the same time there were questions about whether the amount of support vehicles (30 vehicles for 90 riders plus whole police cavalcade) was wholly necessary.

We were all very sad to leave Glenda, Uma and all the others at Allanton Peace Sanctuary, but good times must come to end and we mounted our faithful steeds for our last cycle ride as a group (sniff sniff). And what a final ride it was! After leaving Dumfries we cycled south down the bird filled river and along the wild looking estuary. Long flat stretches provided gentle rides for some and racing tracks for others! After passing the infamous town of Gretna (no- there weren’t any Otesha marriages I’m afraid) we reluctantly passed into England and headed to Carlisle.

We arrived in high spirits to the tranquil organic farm belonging to the determined farmer Susan Aglionby, which was to be our final destination- a field to camp in, and a classroom in which to meet and cook. Susan runs the farm with the help of intern Emma, producing both cattle and lamb (which I’m told are very tasty from Colin, Arthur and Andres) but also runs environmental education and support work with young and vulnerable people.

The next morning we spent a lovely time in the local school. We decided to go all out in our finale performance, which resulted in numerous onstage giggles. Despite this the messages definitely came across and we all had A LOT of fun in the process!!! After the wonderful time in the school we returned to base for a walk around the farm with Susan. Despite some conflicting views on vegetarianism the whole group was very impressed by the amount of work she puts in to her organic venture. In return for her generous hospitality we did some work weeding her yard, aided by Colin’s music and discussions about how best to change people’s behaviour. That night many of us patronised the local pub to sample ale and take part in Mike’s pub quiz, quite unsuccessfully.

And so, the final day had arrived. A big sadness hung over the group, but I think everyone was looking forward to the future, whether it was seeing family and friends, starting new jobs, going on foreign adventures or getting back to their beloved rugby club. Iona from the Otesha office arrived to help us wrap up, giving feedback, sharing our experiences of tour and talking about our futures. That night the cooking team excelled themselves with a 3 course meal from around the world. Everyone dressed up in their finest exotic finery, played games and exchanged secret friend gifts, and reveled in each others company for the last time. The next day we all exchanged sad goodbyes, promises to stay in touch and all boarded trains to pastures new.

So here we are, it’s all over. I’m sitting in my parents’ warm and dry kitchen in Wales reminiscing about the amazing adventure we all went on. Of course there were low points – group conflicts, punctures, rain and boredom of porridge. However the highs far outweigh these. Lifelong friendships have been made, and experiences and lessons have been learnt. Thinking about the young people we have reached is phenomenal – hundreds of kids heard our messages about how little actions can have massive impacts in the world and will hopefully think about this as they grow up. Not only that but I think many in our group will really address the same issues in their own lives, whether it be eating organic food, obtaining recycled and second hand goods and clothes or buying fairtrade bananas. I’m just off now to catch up with some old friends so I shall have to leave it here. Will I be borrowing the car to drive the 2 miles to town like I usually do? Hell no! I’m gonna get on my faithful bike and cycle with the wind in my hair, reminiscing about all my two-wheeled adventures!

Thanks for following our blog! Love, Peace and Bicycle Grease! Over and out.

Luciana (Goose), on behalf on the Tartan Trail massive- Colin (Coljop), Dina Dino, Jenny Tree, Jenny A, Catherine (Hunter Gatherer), Kimberley (Eco), Zoe (Zo-ane), Leah (L-pop), Arthur (Arty), Andres and Lucy Colbizzle xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Many thanks to the Postcode Trust for their generous support of this project which has enabled us to reach over 1000 children and young people across Scotland.



Tartan Trail Adventures: part two

23rd August 2011 by

Hello hello hello

Warm welcomes to the second installment of Otesha’s Tartan Trail adventure!  What a whirlwind training we had at the wonderful Whitmuir Organic Farm... Flooded out of our field within the first few days we relocated to our new home – a big dry barn, camped up near the pigs and later joined by an army of baby turkeys, who we’d helped herd into the neighbouring barn to tweet to us through the night.

We had a varied programme, from our first read through of the script, to conflict resolution workshops, to bike maintenance, to writing up our food mandate: what to eat and where to buy as agreed by the team.  Tartan Trailers will abide by a “flexigan” – flexible vegan – diet, buying as locally and organically as feasibly possible!

There was a whole lot of laughter and new friendships were made – including jolly moments jamming with guitars, a tambourine and our new friend Doug (a charming bloke in charge of Whitmuir’s livestock).

A highlight of the week was our first excursion with the trailers – off we tootled to Penicuik where we indulged in long hot showers (the first in FIVE days!).  Well… let’s make this an honest blog… two thirds of us indulged in cleanliness whilst the remaining four continued to delight us with their “natural” odours since bike repairs took priority. We certainly were smelly but happy campers.

Training week concluded with a magical day with Calu, Edd, and Iona who organised an impromptu treasure hunt, which had us running across fields, scouring chicken sheds, and creeping into a teepee, until we discovered an antique treasure chest filled with delicious fairtrade chocolate and a mysterious invitation to don our glad rags for a delightful dinner party, accompanied by instructions to bring along bike lights…

It is important to note at this point that the Tartan Trailers’ “glad rags” include face glitter, underwear over muddy trousers, “dresses” created from sarongs and many other exciting bits such as ….wait for it…a CLEAN shirt.

…De de dah….  and our team were bestowed with our upcycled Otesha t-shirts in an array of colours, followed by a jolly knees up and our very first one minute bike light disco!!!

Phewee – what a week! It was then a farewell to Edd and Iona, and a day off before the big pack up and goodbye to Whitmuir farm as we mounted our two wheeled steeds and swooped towards Edinburgh with our first performance at the Fringe in sight!

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