DIY Halloween Decorations: Using Items in Your Home and Backyard

Halloween decor door

Image from the I Heart Shabby Chic blog

One of our favorite parts about Halloween is decorating our home and garden. While we love store-bought decorations such as rubber bats and plastic skulls, this year we’ve renewed our commitment to be kinder to the Earth and use less plastic. So instead of rushing out to purchase Halloween decorations that are both made of and packaged in plastic, we’ll be creating our own super cool decorations from items we can find in our house and our backyard. After all aren’t real, natural and earthy elements just more scary looking than an inflatable ghost anyway? We think so.

Green Halloween Decorating Ideas

Cicada exoskeleton 1. Spooky Skeletons. You know what’s spookier than some store bought bones made of cardboard or plastic? Real ones! Try looking around your backyard for exo-skeletons of cicadas. Because cicadas molt, they leave behind a “skin” that is an exact replica of their body. You are likely to find them along wooden fence posts, or clinging to the bark of trees in your backyard or in wooded areas. The exo-skeletons can easily be hooked onto the petals of a flower arrangement to make it ultra creepy.

You can also preserve and display other skeletons such as chicken bones and crab shells. To thoroughly clean them, soak them for one week in a solution of Dawn dish soap and water. Drain them, then soak them in a solution of 50% water and 50% hydrogen peroxide. (Do this in a garage or laundry room because it’s a bit stinky.) Remove the bones and let them air dry for 24 hours. The bones will then be clean, degreased, and white washed. They’ll look totally spooky arranged in a tall, clear vase on a fireplace mantle.

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Fall’s the Time to Plant Spring-flowering Bulbs

Image from the International Flower Bulb Centre

Many people may think of fall as being the end of the growing season. But a lot of plants actually prefer to be planted and get their start in the cooler temperatures of the autumn season. This is because the chillier air allows young plants to establish their beginnings without the stress of extreme heat. It also allows ample time for the bulbs to become rooted in the warm soil before the winter cold sets in. What we really love about planting bulbs in the fall is that you can basically bury them and forget about them. Then comes spring and–bam!– you have gobs of gorgeous, colorful blossoms popping up!

Our Favorite Spring-flowering Bulbs

Snow Crocus Crocus.Crocus flowers are so resilient, they sometimes even emerge through the snow! They are such cheery little harbingers of spring. Plus, deer don’t care for them much, so they are a good choice if you have deer with the munchies in your area. Crocus flowers only grow to a height of about 4 inches, and they spread quite easily, so this makes them a nice groundcover. Crocus flowers thrive in full sun to partial shade, and can be planted in zones 3 through 9.

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Do-It-Yourself Infused Olive Oils

Specialty food shops would like to have us think that infusing olive oil with aromatic herbs, fruits and spices is a mystical and complicated process. This would explain why their decorative clear glass bottles of oil, with bright red peppers and white cloves of garlic floating around in them like globules in a lava lamp, cost such a pretty penny. But infusing olive oil is a process that is neither complicated nor expensive. It is an easy and fun thing for anyone to do at home in the kitchen.

Why infuse olive oil?

Roost Oil and Vinegar CruetInfused olive oil can be used in a variety of delicious ways. Our two favorite ways are to use our homemade flavored olive oil as a salad dressing, and as a dipping oil for chunks of bread. Plus, homemade oils and vinegars really go hand in hand with parties and entertaining. The next time you are invited to a dinner party, offer to bring a salad of fresh, crisp veggies from your garden. Then create your own custom olive oil blend with cuttings from your herb garden, and pair it with a nice balsamic in the Roost Oil & Vinegar Cruets. Everyone will be so impressed with your homemade salad dressing, and you can leave the beautiful cruets as a hostess gift. Perfect!

Simple Salad Dressing from ECurry

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil from ECurry

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary from your garden
  • A few pinches of dry crushed red pepper, to suit your taste
  • ¾ to 1 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Wash and thoroughly dry the rosemary sprigs — make sure there is no water left on them.  Pour your olive oil into a sauce pan and heat it over a low heat until it is just warm, for only 1-2 minutes. Let the oil cool to room temperature for about 5 minutes. This gentle heating process allows the allow to take on the flavors of the rosemary more quickly.

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Create Instant Art with Decorative Floral Frogs

Flower frogs are simple structures, traditionally made of glass, metal or ceramic materials, to support single flower arrangements. If you are quick to envision the common craft fair find– a spiky metal platform surrounded by earth-toned ceramic– we have something more stylish in mind for you. Before we discovered Roost’s Flower Frogs and Glass Vases, we thought frogs were tacky, with no place in the modern home. But the Roost Flower Frogs actually feature the metal architectural supports and geometric shapes that are often found in modern designs. Regardless of your style, floral frogs make arranging flowers fun and simple. Anyone can use one!

Flowers to Use for a Frog Arrangement

You can use any kind of cut flowers you like for a floral frog arrangement. You may also want to gather some greens, depending on what you want the overall look to be. Some great autumn flowers that we like are:

  • cleome
  • gerbera daisies
  • chrysanthemums
  • black eyed Susans
  • sunflowers
  • zinnias
  • asters
  • queen Anne’s lace
  • asters
  • ornamental grasses
  • What tools do I need to arrange flowers in a frog?

    You will need your frog, of course! We would recommend selecting one of the Roost Flower Frog and Glass Vase sets, because this way you will know for sure that the frog will fit your glass vase perfectly. Plus, you can choose from four shapes: large square, medium cylinder, small cylinder, or small square. The only other tool you will need is a pair of sharp shears or a knife to cut the flower stems. It is important that the blade is nice and sharp so that you do not damage or crush the flower stems.

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    Set the Mood For Autumn: Transitioning Your Decor From Summer to Fall

    Fall inspired decor

    Image source: theLENNOXX

    Every year there is an obvious change that occurs outside in our gardens and backyards during the early fall season. Seed pods and berries are starting to emerge on flowers and shrubs, while pumpkins and squash are nearly ready for harvest. The air is tinged with coolness, and the days are growing significantly shorter as the birds begin to migrate South. As your outdoor garden and patio space naturally makes this transition, your indoor decor and entertaining scheme should shift as well. The fall home is about warmth and coziness; we think of spicy aromas and dim, ambient lighting.

    Transition Your Home Decor from Summer to Fall

    Recycled Bottle Lanterns Add mood lighting: With the daylight hours turning shorter and shorter every day, it’s time to strategically place some nice ambient lighting around the house. Mood lighting is the easiest and most effective way to cast a certain warm, friendly tone in your home, whether it is for you alone or for guests, or even a large dinner party. For a small space, such as a bathroom sink or a fireplace mantel, we love the Roost Pinecone Tealights. They’re easy to place and quite cute. For a larger space, such as a dining table centerpiece or an end table, we choose the Roost Recycled Bottle Lanterns. This fall, we are going to place a cluster of the lanterns inside our fireplace and fill them with white votive candles for a romantic glow.
    Colors of fall Savor some autumn scents: Conventional aerosol air fresheners can be filled with all sorts of chemicals and synthetic fragrances. Blech. For a nice, cozy autumn scent that fills your home, try an easy and natural home fragrance instead. Place a small saucepan on your stove with a cup of apple cider and a cup of water. Toss in a tablespoon of ground cinnamon and a few cloves, and bring this to a simmer on your stove. As it simmers, it will fill your home with a warm, spicy apple pie scent.
    Earth tones are easy: (Anyone get the 80s movie title reference there? Bonus points if you do!) During the summer, we are all inclined to fill our homes with breezy fabrics such as lightweight cotton and silk, and bright colors such as yellow, coral and turquoise. For fall, replace these home accents with darker earth toned ones. For example, if you have a neutral colored couch, add throw pillows in dark orange, olive green and deep aubergine. If your summer white curtains are still hanging, replace them with heavier, thermal ones in a dark clay red or earthy brown. Check out these photos from Hooked on Houses to see how a few strategically placed fall earth tones can really work well with any interior decorating scheme. Still feeling unsure of how to change a room’s color scheme to reflect the season? Watch this quick video from Apartment Therapy on Easily Changeable Color.
    Decorate with natural accents Decorate with natural accents: There are so many cool and interesting things you can find outdoors in the fall to decorate your home. Take a leisurely stroll around your block or in a local park to go for a little treasure hunt. A basket or galvanized tub filled with twigs and firewood looks pretty in an entryway or next to the fireplace. A ceramic bowl or vase can be piled high with branches of colorful leaves, or guards and pumpkins. Long stems of pussywillows or goldenrod would look gorgeous clustered in a Roost Copenhagen Carafe & Terrarium.
    fall table decor Prepare your dining room for dinner parties: During the summer, your most frequently used dining area is probably the patio and the grill, while your kitchen and your dining room take a hiatus. Now it’s time to bring some life back into your dining room and get it ready for fall dinner parties. Add cushioned seat covers to your dining room chairs in order to soften the look of the room, and a tablecloth or table runner. For a look that says “welcome, come sit down” definitely add your mood lighting to this room, and “stage” the table with your favorite serving dishes. For more ideas on how to transition your dining room from summer to fall, look to House Dressing and Centsational Girl for inspiration.

    Tips for Preparing Your Garden for Fall

    Image by Uwe Hermann

    Although it may not feel like autumn just yet in most corners of the country, we know that we are right on the cusp of it. The classic signs of impending fall weather are everywhere: back-to-school commercials are dominating air time, farmers’ markets are chock full of beautiful late summer veggies, and clothing stores are filling their racks with scarves and boots instead of bathing suits and flip flops. Yes, fall is most certainly on its way, beginning with its unofficial start on Labor Day. And since Labor Day means an extra day off of work, this makes it an excellent time to spend a day in your garden, preparing it for cooler weather.

    Your Official Labor Day Garden To-do List

    Irrigate: As in the hot summer months, you will want to continue to irrigate your plants. Watering in the morning rather than at midday reduces evaporation and really allows you to reap the maximum benefit. As the weather starts to cool off, you can reduce the frequency of waterings accordingly.

    Minimize Fall Pruning: Fall is when plants slow in growth, harden off and prepare themselves for winters ahead. When you cut woody plants, you run the risk of stimulating tender, new growth. Prompting a lot of fresh, tender growth during a time when growth should be hardening for winter, you run the risk of damaging that new growth (and thereby the entire plant) in a freeze. And many plants that bloom in winter and spring have already set up their flower buds. If you prune them in fall, odds are you’ll cut off most of the flowering buds. Learn more pruning tips from Robin Haglud, a Seattle-based garden mentor and writer.

    Add compost: After a summer of supporting vigorous growth, your soil will need a little bit if TLC in order to replenish its nutrients. That means that this is a good time to add compost and mulch to all of your garden beds. If you still have large chunks that are breaking down in your compost heap, that’s okay. Just use an old piece of screen to sift out the broken down parts that are ready to use. The small, indistinguishable bits go into your garden, and the large chunks that still need to break down can go back in your heap.

    Mulch on top: Mulch is an excellent natural protector for all of your plants, and this is a good time to add it to all of your gardens, as well as around the base of trees. Make sure to fluff up your mulch with a steel rake in order to let water penetrate deeply. And leave a little bit of room between your mulch and the base of the plant or tree; don’t mound it up like a volcano, as this will lead to plant stress. As my co-author states in Garden Rules, “only virgins should be sacrificed to volcanoes.”

    Fill in your landscape: Labor Day is not too late to plant new things. In fact, it is a great time to plant fall crops such as green onions, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. You can also plant flowers that give lovely seasonal color such as pansies, asters and mums.

    Prepare your potted plants: It will very soon be too cold for all of your tropical plants to survive outside, so bring them indoors and let them be houseplants for the fall and winter. If you have potted perennials, this is a good time to give them a little trim and then transplant them into your garden. Potted herbs start to look a bit wild towards the end of the summer, so harvest what you can, and then either freeze or dry them.

    Clean out your garage or storage shed: The end of summer is the perfect time to make sure your garden tools are clean and properly stored, and to clean any debris out of your storage areas. Check all of the expiration dates on products such as beneficial fungi. Many natural fertilizers and fungicides are very heat and cold sensitive, so they may not store well though fall and winter. If you have anything that will expire before next spring, dispose of it responsibly.

    Have for fall tips to add to our to-do list? Submit a comment below.

    Outdoor Lighting For Your Late Summer Garden Party

    Outdoor Dining

    Image from Sunset Magazine

    If you read our recent post about what to do with summer garden glut, you no doubt have some great ideas for how to use your bountiful August harvest. But there is one important way to enjoy your fruits, veggies and herbs that we forgot to mention…throw a party! We just adore the idea of inviting over some pals on a warm summer evening to relax and savor the fruits of your labor. After all, isn’t just about anything more fun when you can share it with close friends?

    For a late summer garden party, there is no need to stress over complicated recipes and decorations. It’s best to let your garden harvest speak for itself, and to find unfussy ways to let the fresh flavors shine through. Same goes for decor; your aim should be to keep it subtle and simple. And we think one of the easiest and least expensive ways to add ambiance to an outdoor space is with lighting– the right lighting certainly does make an impact and cast a memorable glow.

    Three Simple Outdoor Lighting Options for Your Garden, Deck, or Patio

    Lucie Hanging Votives (1) The Roost Lucie Hanging Votives: The unpretentious yet uncommon glass and metal design of the Lucie Hanging Votives is just right for complimenting an outdoor gathering. Just place a tealight or votive candle in each one, then hang them from the branches of a tree or the beams of an overhead garden arbor for a twinkling, starry look.

    To use your patio umbrella for something other than shade, string the hanging votives underneath the open umbrella. For maximum effect, hang the votives together in clusters, or use them to create an overhead candle chandelier like they did here at MarthaStewart.com. You can choose your favorite design, or mix and match them: flare, tulip, or votive.

    modern solar lanterns(2) Modern Solar Lanterns: We, of course, think the Soji Modern Solar Lanterns are cool. Really, really ridiculously cool. Why? Because they sort of fool the eye a little bit by appearing to be delicately folded paper lanterns, while in fact they are actually made of durable sheeted plastic. You can leave them hanging outside over your deck, garden, or patio, even in the rain!

    Another bonus is that if you are looking for super easy no-maintenance outdoor lighting, this is it. All you have to do is hang them in a spot where they will receive direct sunlight during the day so that they can charge up. You don’t need to wire anything and you don’t need an outlet. They’ll then be ready to twinkle all evening from a tree branch or trellis. You can also consider hanging a solar lantern in a spot you want to call attention to during your garden party, such as over in an otherwise dark corner of the yard, where you have a pretty garden bench or bistro table.

    More lighting options button

    Recycled Bottle Lanterns(3) Roost Recycled Bottle Lanterns: The Recycled Bottle Lanterns are a new product that we are super excited about. They are awesome for both indoor and outdoor use. Like the hanging votives, they have a simple glass and metal design, which means they will match just about anything. Outdoors, the tealight will be protected from the summer breeze by the lantern’s recycled glass beer bottle body, and will make a great centerpiece for your picnic table.

    Indoors, the lantern will add just the right balance of earthiness and glimmer to any room’s decor. Take a look at these photos at Once Upon a Tea Time to see how metal lanterns add a special to touch to both indoor and outdoor festivities. And don’t you love this living room design from Pure Green Magazine? See how the glass accents on the coffee table add just the right touch of sophistication to the room’s calm, clean appearance? Try grouping your recycled bottle lanterns with a Roost Glass Reed Vase filled with fresh cut China Asters for a similar look in your own living room.

    Garden Rules Book

    Plant Cool Season Crops for Fall Harvest

    Fresh vegetables

    Image source: OregonLive.com

    Because we have the tendency to think of spring as planting time, it is easy to forget that this is not the only time to plant edibles. Mid to late summer is an excellent time to plant cool season crops that will then be ready to harvest and enjoy in the fall.

    What to plant

    Beets: If you’ve always been turned off by the odor and flavor of pickled beets, try these fresh Detroit Dark Red Beets instead. They are a whole different taste experience- we promise! You can eat the superbly healthy iron-packed greens, too. For beets that can be direct sown and are ready to harvest in no time, try Early Wonder Beets.

    Kale: If you’re looking to add more healthy greens to your diet, then we would definitely recommend planting Red Winter Kale. We like this particular variety because the leaves are tender are sweet, making them a great addition to salads. Plus, its purple and green leaves look really pretty in the garden!

    PeasPeas: Cool temperatures in the fall help peas to grow extra sweet. We love picking and eating  Oregon Sugar Pea Pods right off the vine. They are stringless, which is so convenient because it eliminates the annoying task of removing strings from the pods. These pea pods freeze super easily, too. If you prefer a plumper pod, as opposed to a flat one, try Sugar Snap Peas.

    Lettuce: There are many different great types of head and leaf lettuce that may be planted in the late summer for fall harvest. Most types, such as the Red Sails Leaf variety, can be sown outdoors up to two weeks before the first fall frost. If you’ve had a particularly hot summer, (as many areas have) you may wish to start your seeds indoors, as the soil can be too hot for the seeds to germinate. Otherwise, lettuce can be direct sown.

    Spinach: There are lots of spinach varieties out there, but in our humble opinion the best is Tyee Spinach. It’s disease resistant, and bolt resistant, which makes it very easy to grow. Plus, its tender leaves are just right for just about every recipe and application. If you want to, you can even mulch this spinach liberally, and grow it throughout the whole winter!

    swiss chard Swiss Chard: Unlike collard greens, you can actually eat the thick stems of Ruby Red Swiss Chard. This is a great bonus, because the stems have a nice, crunchy texture and an earthy flavor kind of like asparagus. To extend your swiss chard harvest throughout the entire fall, harvest the outer leaves by cutting them 2 inches above the base. New leaves will grow in their place.

    Radishes: We often refer to radishes as “instant gratification” veggies, because they can go from sowing to harvest in only 30 days. They are quick! We particularly like the Easter Egg Blend because of its lovely variety of colors. They look beautiful on a relish tray or sliced into a salad.

    When to start

    There’s a trick to planting crops that will be harvested in the fall: you need to add a little more time to the normal maturation period of the vegetable. Because temperatures start to cool down and the soil will therefore be colder, fall crops take a little longer to grow. We recommend adding 14 days to the normal growth period. So, for example, if your packet of beet seeds says that they will take 60 days from planting ’til harvest, plan on 74 days instead. Count 74 days back from when you usually receive your first frost, and this is when you should plant your beets.

    Remember that it’s still summer

    Although your crops will be harvested in the fall, it is important to remember that when you sow your seeds (or transplant your seedlings) that it is late summer, and probably still very hot. You may wish to plant seeds near tall, mature plants such as corn or tomatoes to protect them from the hot mid-afternoon summer sun. Make sure to check the soil daily while the seeds are germinating, because you will need to make sure that it stays moist.

    What To Do With Summer Garden Glut

    Cherry TomatoesIn the spring time, when you are patiently starting your seeds, hardening off the seedlings, then transplanting them, a bountiful garden harvest can seem like a far off and distant mirage. But here it is midsummer already, and all of your hard work has paid off! You have fresh, delicious veggies galore. But what to do when your 2 ripe zucchini squash turns into 5, then 8, then 12, and even your neighbors don’t want anymore free zucchini? Here are some creative ways to use the fresh veggies from your summer vegetable garden, even when you have more than you think you can handle.

    Creative ways to use your summer vegetable harvest

    Zucchini cupcakes

    Zucchini cupcakes. Yum!

    Search Out New Veggie Recipes

    There are plenty of ways to use summer vegetables that are easy and do not require a lot of fuss. And don’t forget, nearly any vegetable can be steamed and frozen.

    • Zucchini. Zucchini is a fabulously versatile vegetable because it works in a variety of different sweet and savory dishes. Next time your kids are craving french fries, fry up some zucchini spears instead. They taste just as yummy with ketchup. Zucchini ribbons can be added to nearly any type of salad or pasta dish. To ribbon a zucchini, simply use a vegetable peeler to cut along a zucchini length-wise. Grated zucchini also makes an excellent addition to baked goods, such as these beautiful zucchini cupcakes from I Am Baker.
    • Kale. Every time we find ourselves with bountiful bunches of kale, we sit and ponder ways to use it. Then we recently realized — we’re kind of over-thinking it here. You don’t even really need a recipe to use kale. Just tear it up and throw it in to any soup or stew, layer it in lasagna, mix it into pasta sauce, or bake it into a pot pie to add a wicked dose of healthy greens to any recipe. Kale also works great thrown into your breakfast fruit smoothie; you won’t even taste it in there. Trust us!
    • Tomatoes. One idea that we just love for a glut of fresh garden tomatoes is some homemade Tomato Marmalade, a recipe that we found here at Sunset’s Fresh Dirt blog. You need 30 tomatoes just to make 3 cups of the marmalade mixture, so it really is a great way to use those ripe red beauties. If it is simply too hot to slave over the stove, try this super easy gazpacho recipe from Real Simple Magazine.

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    Native Plants: Why They Matter

    Corky Stem Passion Vine

    The corky stem passion vine is native to Florida.

    Our gardens are like mini wildlife preserves, even though you may not think of yours as such. In most areas of North America, plants and animals have come to depend on human-dominated landscapes just to exist. So while you may think of wildlife preserves as existing in a public park, or an open field or wooded lot, your own garden and neighborhood are preserving nature’s biodiversity, too. Natural Heritage Centers have estimated that as many as 33,000 species of plants and animals in the U.S. are now imperiled – meaning that they are too rare to perform their role in their ecosystem. Functionally, they are already extinct. Plus, 1/3 of our nation’s birds are endangered, according to a study that was commissioned by former president Bush.

    Your garden plays a vital role in helping these disappearing plants and birds to continue to exist. One of the most important keys to giving our local animals what they need to survive and reproduce is native plants. For over 100 years we have commonly been planting species from China and Europe in our gardens. This would be fine if all plants were the same – but they’re not! An insect from Ohio, for example, is unlikely to be able to eat a plant from China. Then a bird will be unable to eat the insect. For the natural delicate balance of plants, insects, and animals to thrive, and for each one to fulfill its role within the food web, we must plant native plants.

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