Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Light up your life!

April. It’s that time of year again. The garden may have been a little neglected through the winter and indeed you may not have even set foot out there for months but as soon as the sun shines we are out mowing the lawn and trimming the brambles that have crept through from next door. How is it that they have been growing during the cold weather when everything else hasn’t? The plants in pots will need watering, and the daffs will have flowered and faded already. If you lead a busy lifestyle you will have probably missed them. The grass is growing quite quickly now. “Hey, I just cut that. How come I need to do it again?” The garden is tidy, the furniture has been cleaned and if you are really efficient, the patio will have been pressure washed.

It may also be time to consider buying a new barbeque as the grey fur on the blackened grill bars looks a little unattractive. That piece of chicken left there in August is no longer edible. I personally find that the disposable barbeques on an attractive purpose made stand are far better than watching the expensive model turn rusty. They all do eventually. The disposables also reach a usable temperature more quickly. How many of you have cooked the food on the flaming barbie and finished it all off as you then turn to see the charcoal reach a perfect temperature? Then there’s the cleaning of those grill bars!

You may already have installed lighting in your garden and if the more basic sets have been left out over the winter they will probably need new bulbs, repairing or even replacing. The solar powered models aren’t quite as bright as the pictures would have you imagine so you consider a new set. For convenience you may consider a ‘plug and go’ set which has a transformer and 12v lamps attached to low voltage cable. The advantage is convenience but as soon as you try to run a longer cable to reach the far end of the garden, you realise that the lamp the furthest away has little more than a dim yellow glow. This is caused by voltage drop where the voltage at the lamp end of the cable is lower than the voltage at the power source (the transformer) and is due to resistance in the cable. As the supply voltage is quite low (12v) any voltage drop will be quite a high percentage of the supply voltage and the circuit will not operate efficiently. Technically, to reduce this loss the diameter of the cable or the voltage can be increased. For a long run, a cable with a large enough diameter will not be suitable and so the only practical answer is to increase the voltage.

The best method for a long run of lighting is for a qualified electrician to run an armoured mains cable to suitable points in the garden and fit transformers in weather proof enclosures. Low voltage lamps on a short length of low voltage cable can be fitted and positioned where necessary and there will be no appreciable voltage drop. You can have as many lamps as you want, including uplighters or spot lamps, in any position you want without the problem of dim lights and without the risk of electric shock. While you are going to the effort of having the mains cable installed, you can also have suitable connection points fitted for a pond pump or fountain and even illuminated planters. Instead of the usual plant containers with a lamp on a spike stuck in the soil, the very plant container itself will light up! These are mostly suitable for a contemporary garden design and can also be used indoors.


  1. Hi Plantman. Is it true that Bamboo is a grass? If so what type of mower do they use to cut it?