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How To Get Your Garden Ready For Halloween

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Halloween is a beloved holiday celebrated around the world each year on October 31st. While the tradition has its roots in Celtic cultures of ancient Ireland and England, it is now associated most with North America, where nearly all children trick or treat, going from door to door in fancy dress and collecting sweets and treats.

Today, Halloween is increasingly popular in the UK, and in some regions of the country children trick or treat in numbers that rival the US! Children (and the young at heart) love to dress up as scary characters and enjoy the spookiest day of the year, but most of them don’t know that Halloween’s customs originate with Samhain (pronounced Sow -Wan).

In this ancient Celtic tradition, people attempted to ward off the spirits of the dead and bless the coming year. Druids (Celtic priests) would light massive sacred bonfires, people burned crops, and sacrificed animals to Celtic gods. As they danced around the bonfires, the Celts would wear frightening costumes, consisting of animal pelts and heads.

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III decided to harness the public’s love of Samhain. He dedicated November 1st at a day to honour all of the saints; soon, All Saints Day began to incorporate the customs of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day, October 31st, began to be known as All Hallows Eve – later reduced to Hallowe’en.

All of the same activities beloved on Samhain were soon relegated to the evening of Hallowe’en – including trick or treating, carving pumpkins, wearing costumes, and lighting bonfires. Did you know that the original jack-o-laterns were actually carved turnips?!

Halloween decorating ideas for your garden

Along with Christmas, Halloween is the most common time of year to decorate your garden. It doesn’t need to break the bank – here are some simple and affordable Halloween garden ideas.

Pumpkins are a must!Pumpkins On Stairs

It simply wouldn’t be Halloween without a cluster of spookily carved pumpkins lining your paths and steps. Set groupings of carved pumpkins on windowsills, on both sides of your front steps, and on your garden benches. Pumpkins look especially atmospheric when arranged on tree garden benches, seemingly floating in a circle in mid-air around a gnarled old tree.

Cobwebs give your steps, paths, and garden an eerie feel

Now, you might not want to leave the real thing in place (although they do look extra ominous in the picture above), but you can easily make your own out of cotton batten, or buy them in pound shops.

A horror soundtrack will set the mood

One of the most affordable ways to set the mood in your Halloween garden is to turn your speakers to face out of the windows and blast some horror movie soundtracks or ‘haunted house’ sounds. You can buy these CDs, or you can simply load up some free Halloween audio files.

Scarecrows are good for scaring people, too

Scarecrows are a familiar sight in some gardens and on farms, but with a few additional tweaks you can make them supremely scary for your Halloween garden. Add ghoulish make up, fake blood, and even a noose to make your scarecrow ready for All Hallow’s Eve.

Paper bag or jam jar luminaries are inexpensive and dramatic

While some people choose to make these dramatic lighting decorations by placing real candles inside of stencilled brown paper bags or paper-lined mason jars, we recommend that you use battery powered ‘tea light’ candles instead. This way you don’t have to worry about the potential fire hazard!

Chinese Lanterns

Keep things spooky with ghosts and ghouls

Ghosts are a classic Halloween decoration because they are the thing that so many people fear about the season. After all, this is said to be the night is when the ‘veil’ is at its thinnest between the spirit and human world! Ghost decorations are very easy to make yourself – you can create small ones out of loo roll, and larger ghosts out of white sheets and cloth.

Potential safety issues in your garden during Halloween

With lots of little ghosts and witches running through your garden on Halloween, accidents can happen. Here is how to make sure that everyone stays safe on your property on the scariest night of the year.

Light up your garden to prevent accidents

While lit candles and luminaries add a spooky glow to your garden, do they cast enough light to prevent trips and falls? Assess the lighting levels in your garden, and consider adding some additional strings of fairy lights around the walkways, trees, and fences in front of your home.

Make sure that there is a clear path through your garden

While regular visitors to your home might know about the gnarled root on your walkway or the loose stones on your stoop, trick-or-treaters won’t be able to see these hazards. Repair loose railings and uneven stones, and add lighting (or even a fake ‘crime scene’ with caution tape!) around anything hazardous that can’t be removed.

Clean up your garden

While we might like for our little trick-or-treating guests to politely use our paths and walkways, they are over-stimulated with sugar and filled with excitement! They often run from house to house, potentially trampling past hazards that you thought were ‘out of the way.’ Rake your leaves, dispose of dead branches and clippings, fill in any holes, and stow away pot plants and bikes.

Keep your furry friends contained

While your little furry friend might normally love kids, the constant ringing of your door bell and shouts of glee might be too much for them. Your door will opening and closing all the time, and they can escape, running away or jumping up on children. Keep your dog or cat safely tucked behind a closed door for the evening.

Keep fires and candles contained, and never leave them unattended

A dazzling array of candles look their spooky best on Halloween, but one pumpkin or luminary can start a fire if tipped over. Keep paper decorations away from open flames, and don’t leave any candles unattended. We recommend battery-operated candles – they even flicker like the real thing!

How to get pumpkins ready for Halloween

It simply wouldn’t be Halloween without a plethora of pumpkins dotting your garden. Growing and carving your own is a true spooky delight!

How to grow pumpkins – a step-by-step list

  • When to plant – In order to have your pumpkins ready for the Halloween season, you should start planting them from late April to mid June. If you jump the gun too soon, your pumpkins will be reduced to mush by the time the big day arrives. Big heirloom varieties can take more than 120 days, while smaller ‘cuties’ might only need 90 days.
  • Where to plant – Pumpkins do best in neutral or slightly acidic soil. If you are worried about frost in your region, you can start your seeds indoors for a week or two before sowing them outdoors.
  • When are they ready? – Pumpkins are ready when they have reached the correct orange hue, have thick skin, and have a hollow sound when you tap on them.
  • How to harvest them – To harvest pumpkins, cut them off the vine with shearers or a sharp knife. Handle them carefully (so that you don’t bruise them), and leave approx. 10 cm of stem to preserve your pumpkin. Cure them in the sun for a week, and then store them in a cool and dry place until it’s time to carve them.

Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin and then stored in a cool, dry bedroom, cellar, or root cellar – anywhere around 55ºF.

A step by step list format on how to carve a pumpkin

  • Get ready – Pumpkin carving can be messy business, so get ready in advance. Lay down newspapers on the floor and table, and make sure you have a bowl at hand so that you can remove the ‘guts.’ Be sure to save the seeds for a yummy roasted snack.
  • Clean the exterior – Wipe your pumpkin down with warm water to remove dirt. How to carve a pumpkin:
  • Make a lid – Mark a lid around the stem, and use a sharp knife, ideally serrated, to remove. Some templates and designs include special lid shapes, so keep this in mind. Slice inside at roughly 45 degrees so that you can replace the lid and it won’t fall back in.
  • Remove the seeds and flesh – Scoop them out with a large spoon, taking care to remove all of the stringy bits.
  • Draw your template on the pumpkin – Choose the side of the pumpkin to carve, and then draw or trace your design onto its surface. Here are loads of free pumpkin carving stencils.
  • Time to carve! – Remember, you might need a wide variety of knives and tools to get into the small nooks and crannies of your design. You can buy carving kits at most pound shops this time of year.
  • Light the candle – While you can use a traditional candle to light up your ‘jack o lantern,’ battery powered imitation candles are a lot safer.

 

Tips for cleaning your garden after Halloween

Many people choose to leave their seasonal decorations up until after November 5th (Bonfire Night), but we recommend cleaning no later than the 6th. Otherwise things can start to get smelly (not to mention, your neighbours won’t be pleased if you wait any longer).

  • Dispose of your pumpkins – Rotted, mushy pumpkins get very gross and smelly very quickly, so we recommend disposing of them as soon as possible.
  • Clean up any melted wax – In addition to be heaps safer than the real thing, battery-powered candles leave behind no wax! If you do have to remove some melted wax from your walkways or stairs, you can do so by  chipping it away, or re-melting it with a hair dryer and wiping it up.
  • Deal with any ‘pranks – Sadly, those cute little trick-or-treaters of today can become naughty teens tomorrow! If your home gets targeted by egg-pelting tricksters, remove the goo as soon as possible. An alkaline cleaner, warm water, and a strong garden hose should ‘do the trick.’

Give your Halloween garden one last check

Once you have all of your Halloween garden decorations and safety measures in place, give your garden one last check to ensure everything is safe and spooky. Happy Halloween!

 

 

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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