This month, Handy Girl keeps her eyes—and her handy self—out­side, answering your ques­tions about messy garages, out-of-con­trol water bills, and more.


Ready to or­ga­nize your garage? Need help with pesky yard ver­min? Handy Girl is here to help.


We had an al­most un­bear­able heat wave last year—re­sult­ing in an al­most un­bear­able water bill from wa­ter­ing. What can I do to trim it?


I feel your pain, re­ally, but I’m here to say it’s not as hard as you think to cut your out­door water use in mea­sur­able ways and still have a beau­ti­ful yard. Some ideas are old-school and some in­volve a tool or two. Here’s how:

1 WATCH THE SUN. If you’re wa­ter­ing when the sun is high, you’re los­ing mois­ture to evap­o­ra­tion. In­stead, water be­fore 6 a.m. or af­ter the sun sets. Timers that hook di­rectly to an out­door faucet are help­ful for this.

2 GET A RAIN GAUGE. My par­ents al­ways had one—a ba­sic plas­tic type—and my mom du­ti­fully recorded ev­ery drop of rain. I never un­der­stood the habit un­til a gar­den ed­i­tor friend told me that an inch a week is all you need to keep most plants in good health. Set yours up away from the house—say, in a gar­den bed—and opt for one with a lit­tle whimsy (if that’s your thing) to add some flair.

3 KNOW THAT NOT ALL PLANTS ARE CRE­ATED EQUAL. By that I mean some are su­per fussy about water and place­ment and they take a lot of ef­fort. Are they worth it? Maybe not, when you add up the time and money you’re in­vest­ing.

4 UP­DATE YOUR GEAR. A leaky hose or sprin­kler head can waste a whole lot of water—up to 6,300 gal­lons a month. Be a stick­ler if you see any pool­ing water and fix the prob­lem. While you’re at it, in­vest in soil mois­ture sensors and WaterSense­la­beled prod­ucts: They use 20 per­cent less water, and you can even con­tact a WaterSense-cer­ti­fied pro­fes­sional to help with your needs. Or switch to a drip ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem—a per­fect DIY project that de­liv­ers mi­cro amounts of mois­ture to plants to help min­i­mize wast­ing water.

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