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Solar Lights for the Garden

Gardeners are already hip to the fact that solar power helps plants grow, so why not use sunlight to help the garden glow?

Gardeners are already hip to the fact that solar power helps plants grow, so why not use sunlight to help the garden glow? Master gardener Paul James helps Virginia Dawson bring solar light to the nighttime in her garden.

Lighting the path. Paul starts with copper-finished solar lights, each with a solar collector on top and LED (light-emitting diode) lights inside (figure A).

These lamps will not only enhance the look of Virginia's path (figure B) but add safety, helping to prevent stumbles along a dark walkway.

The great thing about these and so many other solar products is that installation is a snap. There are no wires or plugs. Simply stab them into the ground.

The solar collectors on top convert sunlight into power and store the energy in a rechargeable battery. At dusk, an internal light sensor automatically switches on the LED, shining light on the pathway. They'll stay lit until the battery runs out of juice or until the sun comes up and starts the process over again.

Lighting other areas

  • A particularly dark corner of the yard has made Virginia nervous. Paul suggests a motion-sensitive solar-powered light (figure C) to attach to the wall. He then places the solar collector where it will get the maximum amount of sunlight during the day. (This also works if you need to light the inside of a shed: Mount the solar collector on the outside, feed the cable through a hole in the hall, and mount the light inside.)

  • Spotlighting is optimally used to highlight an architectural feature or prized plant. In Virginia's garden, Paul spots bamboos, sago palm and bird-of-paradise that deserve the special treatment, and he uses lights that have one solar collector for every two lights.

    "Up-lighting done well can look beautiful," says Paul, "but done poorly, it looks stupid, because after all, light doesn't come from below."

    While the lamps can be located in deep shade, the solar collector needs as much sun as possible, so placement must be thoughtful. Also, the solar panel can be tilted at an angle to catch the most sun (figure D). After all, the more sunlight the collectors get during the day, the longer the lights can burn at night.

    Note: These lamps don't emit enough light to affect the growth of the plants.

    Not solar, but still cool

    It's not all sun power that's going to light Virginia's garden. Paul shows her battery-powered fake rocks that contain a motion detector (figure E). You can adjust them to come on for five, 15 or 30 seconds. Paul and Virginia placed the faux-granite rocks along the walkway and turned the motion sensor toward the path.

    solar path lights (#20485), solar spotlights (#20270) - Front Gate
    solar spotlights (#IMC045) - Solar Light Store
    glowing stone lights (#16769) - Comfort House
    solar light for gate entry ("Hawkeye Sensor Security Light") - Green Culture

  • Resources(Hide)

    • Solar lighting from Solar Light Store
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