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Garden Gadgets: Night Lights, from Candle to Solar Power, and How to Use Them

by Nellie Neal

Everybody wants more time in the garden and too often modern lifestyles work against that goal. But whether you want to sit outside or pull a few weeds, entertain guests on the deck, let the kids play outdoors awhile longer each evening, light the way to the back door or show off your best plants, add garden lights to make it happen. 

Light moods

Candlelight sets a romantic mood in the garden to host a party for two or twenty. Use them safely by putting candles in reflective, windproof globes or luminaires placed on patio tables and along paths. Try citronella candles designed for outdoors for their long burning, bug repelling properties. Trim wicks to prolong their life, cover candleholders when not in use to keep out leaves and rain, and always extinguish candles before going indoors.

Torch lights deliver a tropical tone, raising their light with candles or wicks soaked in lamp oil. They can welcome guests, illuminate a buffet table or lead your party out to the gazebo in a conga line of light. Take care to stick their poles firmly into the ground, keep wicks trimmed and do not install torch lights in dense plantings.

Permanent lighting

Low voltage or solar powered garden lights can be simple to install and offer two advantages over candles and torches: safety and security. With a little time and a modest investment, you can light your way through the garden permanently without creating fire hazards.

Solar garden lights have evolved from dim and unreliable to dependably bright as the technology has improved. Small solar collectors trap sunlight during the day and release it at night wherever you want a bright spot in the garden. Youre not limited by the availability of electric outlets, distance or terrain and installation is as simple as placing the fixtures where you want light. And you wont feel their addition on your utility bill sunlight is still free!

Simple and effective

Low voltage lights operate with 12 volts of electricity, compared with 120 volts for most household purposes. They offer economic operation as floods, spots or path lights, and installation is safe and simple to do for most homeowners. A wide variety of attractive fixtures to suit your style can operate on low voltage choose from classic shielded spots, white globes, copper bells, tiffanies and retro lights that look like desk lamps from the 1950s.

Understand what you need for low voltage light systems. Be sure the electrical outlet is weatherproof and protected from short circuiting in damp weather it should be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). And make sure your kit includes a transformer or purchase one to change the 120 volts to 12 volts safely. Since electric wire will connect the fixtures, place them in the garden and thread the wire between them, but dont bury it at first. Its a simple matter of punching the connectors into the wire to set up the system, but once its done, wait for nightfall to check your work. Be sure the lights work, then bury the wire the next day two inches deep in garden soil and mulch is plenty.

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