Fly a Flag! 7 Ways to Make the Most of the Long Weekend

Honor our veterans on Memorial Day, and use the extra downtime to rest up or prep for summer

By Laura Gaskill | Courtesy of

Memorial Day is coming up on Monday, May 28, in the U.S., which means it’s time to salute those who died while serving in the armed forces by displaying the flag, visiting a memorial or attending a local parade. It’s also part of a long weekend — and the unofficial start to the summer season. Use your extra time off to get that grill ready for backyard barbecues, spruce up the garden and relax in bed with an extra cup of coffee. Here are seven ideas for your long weekend.


1. Get the grill ready for barbecue season. This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer — and grilling season. Get your grill ready by scraping the grates with a grill brush, checking gas burners for clogs and wiping down the exterior with warm, soapy water. Check your setup and get any tools or supplies you still need, including fuel, heavy-duty oven mitts, tongs, foil and a grilling spatula.


2. Declutter the kitchen counter. Give your counters a fresh start by clearing off all the papers and random items that have accumulated there. Recycle old paper, give mail and keys a dedicated home (a tray, for example), and corral tech devices and chargers in a basket or drawer. When you’re done decluttering, wipe counters clean and set out a small potted plant or a vase of flowers to beautify the space and encourage future neatness.


3. Relax with coffee in bed. Breakfast in bed can be less fun than it sounds (hello, crumbs). But coffee in bed? That’s a winner. Make your weekend morning feel extra special by making yourself up a tray with coffee or tea, reading material and a bud vase of flowers. Even a few extra savored minutes in the morning can really help start the day on a positive note. 

Kids barging in on your morning peace? If they’re old enough, pass out fun reading material like comic books, graphic novels or kids’ magazines. Or put on a kid-friendly story podcast (Circle Round from NPR is a favorite at our house) and let kids listen and draw while you sip and read.


4. Stock your picnic basket. Picnic season is upon us. Is your basket ready? At minimum, a good picnic kit has a blanket or tablecloth, bottle opener, small cutting board and knife, and a few reusable cups and plates. Nice-to-have extras include reusable cutlery, a tiffinfood container, cloth napkins, salt and pepper shakers, and a tray to set drinks on. 

And while you can’t go wrong with a classic wooden picnic basket like the one shown here, a picnic backpack, French market basket or cooler would all work as well.


5. Freshen up mulch — or just add more plants. The right mulch, applied judiciously, can help suppress weeds and add organic matter to the soil. If you use wood chips or shredded wood mulch in your planting beds, chances are a lot of what you applied in the past has broken down or blown away. After weeding, apply a new layer of mulch to freshen up the beds. 

Tired of adding mulch year after year? Instead of switching to inorganic mulch, like river stones, which can absorb and radiate heat, consider planting ground cover. With enough plants covering the area, you may be able to skip the mulch entirely, which may be best for the plants, soil and wildlife.


6. Give your parking strip some TLC. That poor sliver of dirt beside the road gets trampled, splattered with mud and sprayed with road salt. No wonder it’s often called the hell strip. But this little zone is also often the first thing visitors — and you — see when approaching your house, so it’s worth putting some time and effort into making it look good.

How to Design Your Hell Strip

  • Check with your homeowners association or local code enforcers before getting started to learn what is allowed in your area.
  • Incorporate gaps so visitors can exit vehicles without stepping on plants.
  • Add interest with low-growing perennials or soft ornamental grasses.
  • Not sure what to choose? Ask at a local garden center for recommendations on local plants that can stand up to the abuse of a parking strip planting spot.

7. Honor service members. Memorial Day is May 28 this year. Get involved by attending a Memorial Day parade, visiting a cemetery or memorial, or flying a flag. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, if you do choose to fly an American flag on Memorial Day, you should fly it at half-staff from sunrise until noon and then raise it briskly to the top of the staff and keep it there until sunset.