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Your garden expands your house to include the yard. Look at it as, essentially, another room (or even several rooms) to your home. Outdoor living most definitely includes barbequing and eating in the garden.

Planning Stage Checklist for a Barbeque

The principles of landscape design and kitchen layout converge here. A few questions can give clarity when planning for a barbeque area. Do you want a permanent barbeque? This means, do you have room for one or do you want to take up the space with something so rigidly defined? The alternative is to take in and out (and store and clean) a portable unit. In between is a fire pit, which can have a grate put over it for cooking and when not in use can have a cover, like a tabletop or tree round. This makes it useful at all times.

Think carefully about where you would put the barbeque. Here are a few factors that will make things much easier:

Close to the kitchen. You want to do the major food preparation in the kitchen with the cooking being done at the grill. That means a lot of running back and forth - the shorter the distance, the better.

Close to where you would eat. The hot foot should go right to the table with as little travel time as possible. No stairs means less possibility of accidents (read as: dropped food). No one wants the heartbreak of a burger down or the ignominy of having to rinse off a grass-covered steak.

Near a source of water. Water is the perfect companion for your grill. The many uses could include hand washing, cleanup, and fire extinguishing.

Convenient to an electric outlet. Electricity is just one of those incredibly useful aspects of today's lifestyles. Night lighting for cooking, dining, or cleanup makes things much easier. Perhaps an electric rotisserie. And there are all those electric perks from a little mood music to an electric bug zapper. (Be sure to place the zapper far enough from food and people so the sound or the falling bits mare not a problem.)

Shade. For the benefit of the cook, you want to put the grill in a place that has afternoon shade. Keep in mind the sun is pretty much over head (as opposed to tilted to the south) in the barbequing months.

Watch the Wind. Smoke goes where the wind blows. Be aware of your prevailing winds and breezes and make sure smoke from your barbeque goes away from the house, laundry line, and your outdoor table. By the same token, be sure the trash area, compost heap, sacks of manure or whatever are not going to waft an unpleasant surprise to your nostrils. As always, the rule is that awareness before you act can avoid a lot of potential unpleasantness.

Safety First

The wind is also a factor in carrying sparks. Safety first! There should be no overhanging tree limbs near the fire. Even if they will not catch fire, the rising heat can damage or kill branches above. A handy hose is always a good insurance policy.

Warning! Attack of the Killer Barbeque Smoke

Some plants are poisonous and definitely do not go together with a barbeque. Dried wood is, of course, a basic fuel for cooking, and prunings, branches or even logs from the home garden can be used. However, a bit of caution and forethought is called for. The liquids or sap that are drawn from the wood by the fire can be very problematic. The smoke from poison ivy or poison oak can cause a terrible reaction, whether inhaled, through skin or eye contact, or simply eaten as an unintended part of the barbequed flavor.

Perhaps more dangerous is oleander, that oh-so-popular flowering shrub

Of zone 8 and warmer. It is in the dogbane family and quite toxic, containing cardiac glycosides (heart drugs you do NOT want to take by mistake).


Oleander (Nerium oleander) is easily identified by the pinwheel flowers and leaves with a strong mid-rib in whorls of three.

Don't burn that one in your fire, even if you are not cooking with it. Even more insidious is the unfortunate occurrence where those nice straight oleander sticks are stripped of leaves and used to conveniently cook impaled hot dogs. The fire can draw the poison from the fresh wood into the food and the backyard chef has unwittingly prepared some very dangerous dogs. Be wary of this happening also on camping trips, where plants like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac are more commonly encountered.

Much commercial wood, especially for use outdoors, is treated with things you do not want to eat. A light greenish color to outdoor lumber could mean it contains sodium arsenate - an arsenic compound that prevents rot, but is not to be eaten at all. Creosote treated wood is also a bad scene.

Some woods may not be poisonous, but will give an undesirable flavor to the food. Pine, fir, and other evergreens with a lot of pitch or sap can impart a strong unwanted flavor. And I would think it fairly obvious that plywood with its glued layers or anything overlaid with Formica or enamel paint should be avoided.

Hey, don't get discouraged. Barbequing is fun and easy, not to mention delicious. Close your eyes and imagine the smell of grilling meats. Makes my mouth water to think of it. Fire up the coals and let's go! How about some marinade recipes?

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