Honour Nelson Mandela by spending 67 minutes making positive changes in a public park or a community food, school or therapy garden – or make your own verge more water wise
On July 18, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, give the gift of your time, just 67 minutes – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – to make an impact and help change the world around you.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead,” Mandela said.
1 Improve your verge
Eliminate lawn and high-maintenance plants on verges and choose drought-tolerant plants to attract pollinating bees and butterflies that are at risk of losing their natural habitats.
Simple flowers with easy access to pollen and nectar are preferable to double flowers.
Flat-topped red, yellow, lavender and pink flowers act as landing platforms for butterflies, while blue, yellow and mauve lavender, thyme, rosemary, strelitzia, bulbine, euryops daisy, agapanthus, scabious, Tulbaghia violacea, verbena and Limonium perezii attract bees.
2 Clean local playgrounds and parks
Open spaces in cities have an important role in the community, providing grassed areas, shady trees, benches and play areas. There are parks where office workers can relax at lunchtime, where people can walk their dogs and where family and friends can picnic, braai and enjoy open-air concerts.
Choose a time that suits the local community and, with the necessary permission from authorities, organise a work party with friends to spend 67 minutes (or more) cleaning up playgrounds and parks. People should wear protective gloves and closed shoes. Bins will be needed to collect refuse and arrangements will have to be made for these to be emptied.
End with a bring-and-share lunch, a way of making new friends and getting to know neighbours.
3 Donate and plant a tree at a local school
Play your part in greening South Africa by planting one or more trees that will, in time, provide shade for pupils in summer.
Select a tree that grows well in your area and give it a good start by digging a hole deep enough to take the root ball, and two to three times as wide, incorporating compost and a handful of superphosphate.
The day before planting, pour a couple of buckets of water into the hole and water the tree in its container. Water well immediately after planting. Stake securely to avoid wind damage to new roots and protection from soccer balls and games.
4 Support a sustainable community food garden
During his imprisonment on Robben Island, Mandela found gardening had a healing effect and helped restore hope. Madiba’s garden was made under difficult conditions in shallow soil in the shadow of a prison wall but he proved with courage and determination it was possible to cultivate a vegetable garden and to share its harvest with inmates and staff.
With similar courage and determination, poor communities can lease vacant land to grow and harvest vegetables to provide nutrition for their families and indigent members. Any surplus vegetables can be sold. Support these worthwhile projects by providing tools, compost, seedlings, seeds and water tanks.
5 Volunteer to remove alien and invasive weeds
Remove all alien invader plants in your garden. Make sure your garden is not harbouring some of the worst invaders – bugweed, lantana, cat’s claw creeper, pampas grass, fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), castor-oil plant and balloon vine. These include groundcovers Vinca minor and Vinca major, wild strawberry (Duchesnea indica) and green and purple-leafed tradescantia.
Water lettuce and water hyacinth are invading our streams, rivers and vleis. Remove and destroy any growing in your garden pond and replace with indigenous water lilies.
6 Support hospice and special-needs homes
A therapeutic garden is a place of peace and a refuge for the weary; a place where people can go to heal their sadness or simply sit in the shelter of a tree and observe nature.
Colour provides visual stimulation. Bright colours raise levels of joy, and for those with limited vision, large blocks of strongly coloured flowers can act as markers and beacons in the garden. Cool colours have a calming and restful effect.
For Alzheimer’s patients, plants can provide a positive experience that might help to improve their quality of life and reduce agitation. A garden of vegetables and scented old-fashioned flowers might help recapture some of their past life and stimulate the senses. Paths should be continuous, as dead ends can cause frustration.
Brighten entrances and recreation and staff rooms with pot plants. Volunteer to plant, water, weed and help maintain the gardens.
Check first to see what is needed, such as plants and compost. Take your own gardening tools and gloves.