Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off barbecue season. According to the Propane Education and Research Council, four out of five American families own grills. More than half will barbecue at least once a week this summer.
In California, outdoor grilling isn't limited to summer, but firing up the barbecue becomes a lot more common as the mercury rises. So do barbecue-related home fires.
Besides a good set of tongs, a recommended tool for outdoor cooks is a home fire extinguisher, but many grill owners don't have one. In a recent study by BRK Brands (maker of First Alert products), 27 percent of Americans reported that their homes are not equipped with fire extinguishers.
To prevent accidents before they happen, the National Fire Protection Association offers these safe-grilling tips:
Location matters. Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
Stay out of play. Place the grill at a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
Create a "safe zone." Keep children and pets away from the grill area by declaring a 3-foot area off-limits around the barbecue.
A clean grill is safer. Before lighting the barbecue, remove all grease or fat build-ups from the grills and the trays below the grill.
Don't get burned. Use long-handled grilling tools to provide plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers or tending other food.
For more tips, click on www.firstalert.com.
There's still time to plant a summer vegetable garden, but do it now. Choose varieties that need the least time to mature, preferably under 75 days.
From seed, plant beans, radishes, corn, pumpkins and squash (both summer and winter). Also plant basil and other annual herbs.
To speed up your garden's production, plant seedlings for cucumber, pepper, eggplant and tomatoes.
Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.
Plant seeds for sunflowers, asters, cosmos, salvia and zinnias.
Don't forget to water! It's important to keep those transplants hydrated. Seeds need consistently moist (not soggy) soil to sprout; don't let them dry out.
As spring-flowering shrubs finish blooming, give them a little pruning to shape, removing old and dead wood. Lightly trim azaleas, fuchsias and marguerites for bushier plants.