In the United States, Memorial Day was established to honor those who sacrificed their lives in service to our country. First, people chose May 30 as a day to decorate the graves of those who "gave their all" during the War Between the States, but after World War One, the holiday was expanded to honor all people killed defending America in any war. Many people use Memorial Day as a day to celebrate the lives of all those who have passed on.

The popular interpretation is that Memorial Day is the beginning of summer vacation season. Here in Texas, we have had the air conditioning on full-time for a while now. But here are some tips for gardeners as we ease into the truly "summery" part of the year.

  • The old prohibition about not wearing white except between Memorial Day and Labor Day just doesn't apply any more, especially not for gardens. Bridal Wreath Spirea usually blooms before Memorial Day and Sweet Autumn Clematis almost blooms always after Labor Day (the first Monday in September). Both have dainty small white flowers. And gardeners are wise to wear loose, comfortable clothes in white or light colors, to help stay cool and comfortable. There is no point in being fashionably somber and feeling crummy.

  • Remember to stay hydrated while you're gardening. If it's been a while since you've spent this much time out in the sun, go easy on yourself. Your knees and back aren't getting any younger! Give aging bodies a rest. (And we're all aging.) Plan to drink a glass of liquid every hour; don't wait until you have a headache or feel dizzy! Good old water is best. You'll hear recommendations ranging from 8 ounces (100 ml) every 20 minutes to "whenever you get thirsty." But be aware that exciting, vigorous, sunshine-y gardening is likely to use up more fluid reserves than sitting inside online did.

  • Eat breakfast! Getting up early to beat the heat of the summer sun is a terrific idea, but don't do it on an empty stomach. And remember to stock your freezer with healthy frozen snacks like frozen grapes, frozen blueberries, frozen watermelon cubes, frozen juice pops, or even frozen lemonade cubes to flavor your water. Freeze some fresh mint sprigs or even sage into the ice when you make ice cubes.

  • Water your plants early, as long as you're up! Your plants need to be hydrated too. Water the roots, not the foliage. In fact, set it up so you just flip a switch, and the plants get watered by soaker hoses while you enjoy your whole grain cereal and fruit. We don't want you or your plants to feel like wilting.

  • Make use of lawn chairs and patio umbrellas. Situate them strategically along your route. Use them for your plants, too, if they're suddenly getting too much sun.

  • Save big planting projects for the fall. Most perennials are happier being planted in the autumn.

Now, go pack up your picnic basket for a lovely Memorial Day barbecue, take a trip to the mall for some Memorial Day sales—or plan to decorate some honored graves. That's what Decoration Day--I mean Memorial Day--is all about.