Plan a Fourth of July Garden Party

The Fourth of July garden party has a long and venerable history. In 1778, General George Washington ordered his men to decorate their hats with "green boughs," issued them a double allowance of rum and called for a Fourth of July artillery salute.

Even if your garden isn't abundant this year, you'll find suggestions to make backyard barbecuing a treat. Here are 10 ways to make sure your celebration of America's birthday is a smash!

Make Use of Your Garden
You've worked so hard on your garden -- why not show it off! Pick fresh flowers (have red, white and blue in mind of course), and place them in tubs vases, containers -- anything you can get your hands on. Your guests will savor the smell of freshly cut flowers.

If your garden isn't quite in the blossom phase, try arranging unusual red, white and blue blossoms in your centerpiece. Try red flowers such as red poppies or gerbera daisies, white flowers like begonias and Canadian white phlox, and blue blossoms like blue delphinium and blue flax.

Mosquito Control
To keep the mosquito population down, change the water in birdbaths and drain areas where water collects, such as tree stumps and gutters. Use natural repellents like citronella lamps and candles to help to keep mosquitoes away. This lemon-scented Asian grass can also be found in skin lotions. Hot-pepper-wax repellent is effective for organic protection. Click here for more tips on keeping mosquitoes out of your yard.

Herbal Delight
Try incorporating fresh herbs from your garden, like rosemary, basil and sage, by adding them to oils, marinades and rubs. Also, try placing a sprig of fresh rosemary over your hot coals when cooking fish, chicken or vegetables. It will bring an incredible aroma to the party and will also flavor your food.

Bring on the Veggies!
Your garden party would be bare without the presence of fresh vegetables. Zucchini, onions, summer squash and sweet peppers are all fabulous choices for grilling. If you don't want to use skewers, just place cut vegetables (cut fairly chunky and dipped in olive oil) right on the grill.

Berried Treasures
Summer is the time for berries! With just a little cream here and a sprinkle of sugar there, berries make colorful and mouthwatering Fourth of July treats. Strawberries, raspberries and are delicious with cream, in meringues and mousses, and with ice cream or sorbet. If you're already growing them, grab fresh berries straight from you garden. Your guests will love it! For more fruit dessert ideas, click here.

Preparing the Grill
If the chef's not happy, then the company isn't either. Check out your cookware before you fire up that grill. Is it rusty? Have they been sitting in the same spot since last summer?

Make sure to look at your utensils before you begin cooking. Also, take a look at space. Do you have enough room on the grill for all of the food? A portable grill can really come in handy, especially if the neighbors drop by for a visit.

As American As …
Apple pie is an irresistible Independence Day dessert. Make sure you choose apples that are firm, crisp and richly colored for pie making. Note: Apples will continue to ripen after they are picked. Store them in the refrigerator, and don't rinse until you plan to use them. Which apples make the best pies? Granny Smith apples are in season year round, so they are an especially good choice for a July party and are perfect in pies.

Light up the Night
Don't you just love lanterns that light up a summer's night? String lanterns across an old fence to add a touch of magic to your yard. Use copper torch lights as backdrops -- place a torch light near plants that have height for a more dramatic effect. Also, try perforated, paper-star-shaped lights -- in over-sized, star-shaped designs. These make a great holiday lantern.

Fun for Kids
Have kids make their own special flags with construction paper, tissue paper, glitter and stickers. Kids will also enjoy making wind socks with red, white or blue construction paper -- just roll it into a cone, then glue, tape or staple. Then, simply add string as a handle to one end and colorful streamers to the other end.

Plan Ahead
Be ready to go on with the show even if nature throws a curve ball. Only invite as many guests as will comfortably fit inside your home. A tip on drinking: The rule of thumb is two nonalcoholic drinks per person per hour. If you are serving alcohol you can reduce the number. Remember to have plenty of ice!

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