Opinion piece: Puzzling practice still thriving

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The use of 2 litre plastic bottles in a garden in the Northern Cape. Photo: Supplied
The use of 2 litre plastic bottles in a garden in the Northern Cape. Photo: Supplied

As a child growing up in the Northern Cape, I curiously observed that most gardens in my community had one unique quirk in common: 2 litre bottles filled with water were placed randomly all over the lawn.

I questioned my mother about this practice and she explained that the water-filled bottles served to deter dogs from defecating on the lawn.

That is amazing, I thought to myself, and subsequently always ensured that our grass was proudly littered with 2 litre bottles.

I never thought further about the science or the accuracy of this practice.

During a research trip to Concordia, Springbok and surrounding areas, I realised that this practice has not faded away.

It appears to be a provincial practice, “dit is ’n Noord-Kaap ding”.

As a child of the Northern Cape, the “survival” of this practice made me nostalgic. As a researcher, I grabbed the opportunity to finally learn how this mysterious preventative measure actually works – if it works.

Following conversations with residents of various places in the province, I have discovered that there is general consensus on the intended purpose of the 2 litre bottles on the grass (to discourage dogs from relieving themselves on lawns).

However, no precise explanation was given about how this works.

One woman mentioned that she put water-filled 2 litre bottles on her lawn as it was something she grew up witnessing. So, she is merely copying what her parents did.

One elderly woman honestly admitted that, “Ai my kind, al bêre ’n mens die bottels, die honde mors nog steeds op die gras!”

I learned that there is another use for 2 litre bottles in the garden: They are used for decorative purposes.

This can be done in two ways. The first is to hang 2 litre bottles of different colours from the trees in the garden; and the second is to paint them, or simply use bottles of different colours, and line them up next to each other, upside down, around plants.

In the last instance, the placement is decorative, but also practical, as the 2 litre bottles serve as a verge (the heaped soil typically created around plants to keep water in place during irrigation and to prevent people from stepping on the plants.)

Regardless of the lack of clarity on the cause and effect of water-filled 2 litre bottles and dogs, the practice appears to be “een van daai Noord-Kaap dinge”!

Any comments? Reach out at noordkaapding@gmail.com.

  • Dr Lorato Mokwena (PhD) is a lecturer in the Linguistics Department at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
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