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  1. Before you begin, you'll need these tools:Flat-head screwdriver (the kind with a tip that’s a straight line)Phillips-head screwdriver (the X-tip kind)Electrical tapeNeedle-nose pliersWire stripperRed wire nutsDimmer switchMatching cover plateTip: Don’t use a dimmer on a circuit that includes an outlet. You could damage such products as vacuums and electronic devices if they’re plugged into a dimmed outlet.
  2. Turn off the large main switch at the electrical panel (the metal box of switches or fuses that distributes electricity throughout the house).
  3. Take out the two screws holding the cover plate, then unfasten the two screws holding the existing switch in its box.
  4. Loosen the screws that hold the connecting wires in place, freeing the switch. The remaining box should resemble this diagram.
  5. Each black house wire connects to a brass screw on the new switch. The exposed copper wire (if there is one) goes on the green screw. To make a connection, use needle-nose pliers to straighten the tips of the house wires. Loosen a contact screw, wrap exposed ends of a house wire clockwise around its shank, then tighten the screw head to hold the wire in place.
  6. Each black house wire joins up with a wire from the dimmer (called a pigtail). The exposed copper wire (if there is one) goes on the green screw. To make a connection, use needle-nose pliers to straighten the tips of the house wires. Align a black house wire with one of the pigtails. Using the pliers, twist them clockwise twice. Place a red wire nut over the joined wires and twist it clockwise until it locks.
  7. Fold the wires into a zigzag pattern as you push the new switch into the box. Attach it using the provided screws and a Phillips-head screwdriver. (Your switch may not look like the one illustrated here.)
  8. Attach the new cover plate using a flat-head screwdriver. Flip the main electrical-panel switch back on and test your switch. Now dim the lights and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
  9. Bonus tip: Every dimmer is rated for a certain wattage. To determine which dimmer you need, add up the total wattage of the lightbulbs it will control. It’s fine if the switch is rated equal to or higher than that total number, but it must not be lower. For example, a chandelier holding eight 60-watt bulbs uses 480 watts, so it requires at least a standard 600-watt dimmer.
  10. First off, learn your ideal planting date by punching your zip code into the Growing Calendar at burpee.com, which uses data from the USDA plant hardiness zone map, based on your location and the type of crop.    
  11. If you've ever made the mistake of overcrowding your plants—and then watching them wither—you know that organizing your space can save you time and money. Use the Kitchen Garden Planner tool at gardeners.com to help maximize your vegetable yield, without crowding the beds. And don't forget to note on your calendar when it's time to introduce different plants throughout the season.  
  12. Instead of paying more later in the spring for plants that are already grown, buy bulbs and seeds for a fraction of the cost early. Pick up a seed-starter kit at your local hardware store, and start germinating in your home about a month in advance. In four to six weeks, the sprouts should be hardy enough to transplant outside. Learn everything you need to know with our helpful guide to seed starting.  
  13. Before moving your seedlings outside, make sure the soil is dry enough to work with because disrupting wet ground can cause it to compact, which stunts plant growth. Grab a handful of soil and give it a squeeze. If it sticks together in a ball, it's too wet. If it crumbles when gently poked, you're ready to go. Rake out debris and add organic matter, like compost or aged manure, to loosen and turn over the soil.  
  14. Start warm-weather seeds inside, but sow more durable cool-weather seeds outdoors. Cool-weather vegetables include broccoli, English peas, radishes and spinach. Warm-weather varieties include beans, peppers and squash.   Boost your savings! Don't lose your crop to late-season cold snaps. On evenings when you know the temperature is going to drop, cover your garden with an old sheet and secure it with heavy rocks to trap heat.