by Judy Kautz, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Fall has finally arrived, and with it cooler weather! Fall is also the time for pumpkins – to grow, to eat and to use in decorating our homes and landscapes. Pumpkins are really versatile and they have a very interesting history.
For a whimsical look to your landscape, thread several pumpkins at opposite angles onto a small pipe to create a totem. Fill the pumpkins with flowers and top with a scarecrow hat for an eye-catching yard design.
Pumpkins and squash are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas. These early pumpkins were not the traditional round orange upright Jack-O-Lantern fruit we think of today when we say the word pumpkin. They were a crooked neck variety which stored well.
Early Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips over campfires and used them as a food source, long before the arrival of European explorers. Pumpkins helped them to make it through long cold winters. They used the sweet flesh in numerous ways: roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried, and they ate pumpkin seeds and used them as a medicine. The blossoms were added to stews and dried pumpkin could be stored and ground into flour. Also, they dried the shells and used them as bowls and containers to store grain, beans and seeds. And they pounded and dried the pumpkin flesh into strips and wove the strips into mats which they used for trading purposes.
Native Americans introduced pumpkins and squashes to the Pilgrims. Pumpkins were an important food source for the pilgrims, as they stored well, which meant they would have a nutritious food source during the winter months. Did you know that pumpkins were served at the second Thanksgiving celebration? The Pilgrims cut the top off of a pumpkin, scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with cream, honey, eggs and spices. They placed the top back on and carefully buried it in the hot ashes of a cooking fire. When it finished cooking, they scooped the contents out along with the cooked flesh of the shell like a custard. Does this sound like an early pumpkin pie? Yes, without pumpkins many of the early settlers might have died from starvation. Today, pumpkins are symbols of harvest celebrations.
Use skulls with pumpkins to add Halloween flavor to your fall feature.
Pumpkins are very good for you, and they taste good! Nearly every part of the pumpkin can be eaten. The cooked pulp is fabulous in pies, cookies, breads, soups, appetizers, main dishes . . . the list goes on and on! The blossoms are excellent breaded and fried or use as a wrap. The seeds make a great snack.
Of course, pumpkins are wonderful as decorations! A squatty pumpkin makes a surprisingly sophisticated vase. With the top and contents removed, the pumpkin holds water for up to seven days. Or put flower foam, dirt and even a plastic container inside to hold and nourish flowers. Roses, lilies, and poms crowded into the pumpkin’s opening can be stunning!
White or pale orange pumpkins filled with mums, berries, and nuts surrounded by pears and other fall fruits are stunning on a table.
Mix things up and use a white pumpkin this year, sometimes called a fairytale pumpkin. Flowers in yellows, peaches and shades of orange, accented with sprigs of berries complement the white pumpkin shell beautifully. To help extend freshness, coat the cut edges in Vaseline. Or purchase a white foam pumpkin at a craft store and fill it with natural flowers.
Small grapefruit sized pumpkins and even the tiny gourds can hold dry grasses, votive candles and taller candles. Use them to hold flowers in your centerpiece and place a big pumpkin between them. Or try mixing a bud vase with a candle and a small pumpkin on a pedestal. Combinations like these reflect the rich variety of textures available in autumn.
Small pumpkins and gourds are perfect in centerpieces using votive candles in them.
Pumpkins are one of the most versatile vegetables we have, for growing, eating and decorating. Pause a moment to appreciate the beauty of the common pumpkin. Its buttery smooth surface and even lines could round out a Halloween or fall theme in your home. For very little expense, you’re buying an unusual, seasonally appropriate decoration. And you won’t even have to find a place to store it afterwards!
by Courtney DeKalb-Myers, OSU Extension Horticulture Educator
Herbs are an excellent addition to any garden. They’re easy to grow with few pest problems. Seasoned gardeners are accustomed to adding fresh herbs to their meals to create robust, unique flavors. As the growing season comes to an end, preserving herbs can be a way to bring that flavor into the winter season.
Before herbs can be preserved, they need to be harvested in a way that maximizes flavor. Harvest in the morning while the temperatures are still cool. There are more flavor-inducing oils at this time. It’s also best to make sure that the herbs are not flowering. Pinching off flower buds encourages the plant to put more energy into it’s foliage. Use sharp scissors or clippers to harvest herbs. This creates a clean wound that is easy for the plant to heal. After harvesting, gently rinse herbs with cool water and pat dry. When herbs have completely dried, they are ready for preservation.
Photo from University of Illinois Extension
To dry herbs, tie them in bunches and hang upside down. This needs to be done in a dry, well-ventilated area. Herbs will be crackly crisp to the touch when they are completely dry. This will take about two weeks for most herbs. If there are concerns about dust or insects, a paper bag can be placed over hanging herbs. This will add additional drying time though. Dried herbs should stored in tightly close jars.
Photo from The Ohio State University
Some herbs lose their flavor when dried, so freezing is the preferred preservation technique. This is true for cilantro, chives, and mint. Chop herbs and pack them into ice cube trays. Pour water or oil over the packed herbs and place in freezer. After the liquid freezes, pop ice cubes out and place in freezer bags for storage. This can be an easy way to add flavor to sauces, soups, or glasses of iced tea.
Photo from Colorado State University
Vinegars & Oils
Herbal vinegars and herb-infused oils are excellent ways to perk up salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. To make vinegars, heat the vinegar until it is warm. Bruise the herbs and place them in a jar. Pour warm vinegar over the herbs and steep for two weeks in a sunny location. Herb-infused oils are made similarly, but they need to be refrigerated to prevent the development of bacteria. Use oils promptly.
by Judy Kautz, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Since we are expecting a taste of cool Fall weather, don’t you have the desire to get into the spirit by decorating your home, specifically your front door? If you’re sick and tired of putting out the same old jack-o-lantern every single year, then take your front door decor to the next level this season with one of the beautiful and creative ideas shown below. Whether looking to go simple and elegant with a small wreath of autumn leaves or wanting to extend your decorations onto your porch and maybe even down your walkway, there is something here for absolutely everyone.
If you’ve got limited space or are more minimalistic in your decor preferences, then all you really need to make your home cozier and seasonally inspired is something to hang on your front door. This could be a small wreath or some type of floral, harvest corn, and pine-cone arrangement. If hanging something on your door isn’t an option where you live but you’ve got a little bit of porch room, a simple floral arrangement of mums with pumpkins could really go a long way in warming up that space. Alternatively, if you are enthusiastic about decorating this season and want to go all out, you could completely transform the front of your home into an autumn dream. Pumpkins, bales of straw, potted plants, scarecrows, and fall leaves can all be used together to complete the look you desire. Here are some specific ideas.
If you want to go all out this fall, use straw bales, pumpkins, gourds, and mums!
Place a bale of straw on both sides of your largest step with a large pumpkin on each one. Arrange potted mums and gourds around the straw bale and down the steps, keeping both sides symmetrical for a walkway feel. Tie the look together with corn-stalks on both sides of your door and a hanging wreath.
There is also something to be said for sticking with the basics. If you’ve got a small table you can set on your porch, place a bouquet of sunflowers and autumn leaves on it. Surround the flowers with small pumpkins and gourds, and arrange your larger pumpkins around the table.
It’s amazing how much you can transform the front of your home by simply accenting your door frame. A great way to do this is by draping garland made of autumn leaves, pine-cones, and sunflowers around the front double doors. This look works well with matching wreaths.
If you’ve got a cooler-toned or more modern-looking home, a few large pumpkins and some bright yellow mums are a great option for a more classic decor. Scatter them sparsely around your porch and stairs if you’re more minimalistic. An added rocking chair makes this the perfect place to sit on a fall day.
For a simple display, place two potted mums, one yellow and one orange, to the side of your door. Next to them, lay down some brightly-colored leaves underneath a few pumpkins.
If you have limited porch space, hang a small wreath made of muted fall leaves on your front door for a simple yet elegant appearance. Or if the more traditional floral wreath just isn’t for you, try hanging a wreath of cranberries on your front door. This bold pop or color is festive and looks great with a bright yellow bouquet in a distressed and rustic vase. Arrange candles and apples around the display.
If your house has stairs to the front door, line either side of the staircase with varying size pumpkins and dried harvest corn. At the bottom of the stairs, continue the stacked look with bales of straw. Or if you like the idea of floral arrangements in pumpkins, don’t be afraid to experiment with different flowers. Mums and sunflowers aren’t your only options. Try using orange and white pumpkins to display flowers such as warm-colored roses and even chrysanthemums.
If you prefer just flowers, nothing offers more color on your front steps than a variety of striking mums.
To accomplish a stately look this season, use some large stone vases to home mums, ferns, and even large pine-cones. Two simple pumpkins on either side of the door and a hanging straw and pine-cone arrangement pull the look together.
A few bales of straw with bright yellow and purple mums are made even cheerier with a couple of happy scarecrows and gourds. This is a wonderful option for families with children and makes your home appear friendly and welcoming. However, if you’re not into pumpkins, scarecrows, and straw bales, you can brighten up your staircase this fall simply with some potted plants. Leafy ferns, purple flowers, and classic mums are beautiful.
Classic, modern, simple or elaborate, there is an option for everyone when it comes to fall decorating!
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