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Turn garden horror into Halloween fun

The Fremont Community Garden in midtown sports Halloween decorations during a contest last year. Use summer garden remains for your creepy decor. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Old vines, dried leaves, dead flowers become creative decorations

Gnarly vines, crackling dry leaves, decay everywhere; the remains of a summer garden look pretty scary right now.

If decorating for Halloween, those old tomato vines and dried cornstalks make for fast, cheap trimmings. (Just keep them outdoors in case they hide any creepy-crawly bugs. The spiders will be part of the ambiance.)

Add a few Halloween props (such as cardboard headstones) and a holiday display can become an effective little slice of garden variety horror.

Many vines work for this outdoor stagecraft. Besides tomato or squash vines, pruned grapevines (with or without withered leaves) and the appropriately named Virginia creeper look good and scary draped over railings or wrapped around posts (or a witch’s legs).

Put bunches of dead or dried flowers on those temporary gravesites. That’s an extra creepy touch.

Dried cornstalks and fresh pumpkins make a harvest-themed holiday display that can be friendly and festive (and last through Thanksgiving) or a little more foreboding for Halloween night. (But keep any jack-o-lantern candles away from the corn.)

My favorite Halloween touch: A vase of prickly rose stems a la Morticia Addams. No blooms? No problem. Cut off the foliage and any bloom remains, leaving a very thorny bouquet. (I’ve got several blood-thirsty candidates in my yard.)

Besides recycling garden remainders, choose decorations with your garden in mind. Straw bales, for example, do double duty. First, they serve as part of Halloween scenery. After that performance, straw makes excellent mulch for the winter garden.

If using as mulch, make sure it’s straw and not hay – or you will have another kind of horror story in your garden. Hay sprouts.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

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