When choosing an outdoor barbecue, the first question may be the hardest.
"Charcoal or gas? That's always been the choice," said Chuck White of the Home Depot. "It's personal preference."
Several models offer charcoal and gas in the same unit.
"We even have a trio," said Chris Muller of Hayneedle.com. "The Char-Griller duo has evolved into a threesome. One side has a gas grill, the other is charcoal; they have separate lids. Then, it has a smoker box, too. It has everything you could possibly want. Next year, we'll probably throw in a microwave oven and make it a quad."
But size matters that combo unit is 80 inches long.
So before you go grill shopping, remember to measure your available space.
Said White, "Is it going to stay in one place or roll around? And think about how much grill space you really need."
Most big grills have 450 square inches of grilling space, White noted.
"We have some with six burners and 800 square inches. But they're really huge."
Among the nation's largest barbecue purveyors, the Home Depot keeps about 45 models in stock at stores and offers another 567 models online, White said.
Weber is still the nation's best-seller, particularly its stainless steel Genesis series.
"Weber has been known forever," White said. "The Genesis series is its tried-and-true model."
Many customers shop the big-box stores, but also research online, where they may find more alternatives.
"People are looking to buy the last grill they'll ever need," Muller said. "They want a grill that lasts 20 to 30 years. So, a good warranty is important."
Sear stations, smoke boxes and side burners are among the most popular extras. Backyard chefs also want a unit that can do more than grill.
"Kamado-style cooking is really taking off," Muller said. "It's very flexible; you can bake, smoke, grill all in the same unit. We baked chocolate chip cookies in ours."
Kamado grills popularized by the Big Green Egg brand use hardwood lump charcoal and need no starter fluid.
"It tastes better and it's better for you," Muller added. "And you use less charcoal."
But kamados aren't cheap; most models cost more than $800.
"Traditionally, these all- ceramic grills are very expensive," Muller said. "But within the last year, Char-Griller introduced an alternative (at about $350) with double-metal insulated walls.
"If the Big Green Egg is a Lexus, the Char-Griller is a Chevy. They'll both get you where you want to go, but a lot more people can afford the Char-Griller. It's the cheapest way to do your own wood-fired pizzas."
Make the most of early June weather. There's still time to plant a vegetable garden even if it's just a few tomato plants in pots. Transplant seedlings for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squash. Look for varieties that mature in 75 days or less.
From seed, plant corn, beans, pumpkins, radishes, squash, sunflowers and melons.
Plant flowers for almost- instant summer color. Some to consider: Petunias, marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, asters, celosia and salvia. When choosing seedlings, pick out annuals that haven't yet flowered; they'll put more energy into growing in size before bloom.
In early June, you can also transplant such perennials as coreopsis, rudbeckia, dahlias, coneflowers, astilbe, verbena and columbine.
Feed the roses. After their initial big burst of spring bloom, they've worked up an appetite while depleting a lot of energy. Trim off the spent flowers (this is called "deadheading"), then fertilize with a balanced mix (such as 8-8-8). Make sure to water the bushes well before adding any fertilizer. The application rate for most granular fertilizers is 1/2 cup per bush, worked into the soil lightly in a circle within 18 inches of the trunk.