Repurposing Fall Decorations


Most gardeners are harvesting their last few armfuls of produce or trying to eke out another week or two of growing time. Not me, I say bring it on! And NOT because of the return of pumpkin spice lattes—sorry if you love ’em, but they make me gag.

I love fall for everything else: The crisp weather, the crunchy leaves, the colors, the smells of cinnamon and apples and hay. Fall is a feast for the senses.

So when we moved into a house with a porch to decorate, I welcome it with pretty much every decoration you can think of—hay bales, cornstalks, hardy mums, pumpkins and a some burlap ribbon.

After seeing all this dumped on our doorstep (before I had a chance to artfully arrange everything), my husband started to get a little nervous.

“Isn’t that kind of a lot? And isn’t it kind of wasteful?”

But I was prepared. Read on for how you, too, can rationalize insane amounts of fall decor around your home to your significant other this season!

Hay Bales

Hay Bales-min

If fall had a perfume, it would smell like hay bales. The smell of it is light and crisp when dry, and rich and earthy when it rains. Not to mention the lovely golden hue and the charming folksiness of it. Who wouldn’t want it on their front porch?

But it’s more than just for looks! When fall has ended and winter rolls in, you take the baling wire off and use the hay as mulch for your garden beds. Especially for things like garlic, onions or strawberries, snuggled up in the ground until spring. Plus, the birds that don’t migrate can use it to line their nests.


Corn Stalks-min

There’s something about cornstalks that adds a sense of grandeur to fall decor. I think it’s their massive height and long, palm-like leaves. Reminds me of navigating through corn mazes when I was a teenager.

When you’re done with them, you can throw the stalks in the compost—but not before removing the corn from the husks for the critters in your yard. Food starts to get pretty scarce as the winter drags on, so they’ll definitely appreciate it. Once the cobs are picked clean, throw them in the compost with the stalks. To help it all compost faster, break them into smaller pieces.



Is there anything prettier in the fall than a big bunch of chrysanthemums, blazing with color? Not in my book. And they’re well worth the price you pay for them—a well-cared for mum lasts for a couple months! This year, I found some gorgeous orange-yellow flame-colored mums, and I fell in love with them on the spot. But what do you do when the season is about to end?

Try harvesting the seeds or making cuttings and growing your own for next year! If you’re going the seed route, know that a lot of mums sold commercially are hybrids, so be prepared for your results to not look exactly like the parent plant. But they’ll still be pretty! Just make sure you start them indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in spring. Chrysanthemums need a long growing season.

Growing mums from cuttings is a faster way to get your blooms going. Well before the mums begin to droop, cut a few 3-inch sections of new growth from the plant using a sharp, clean knife. Gently pull off the leaves from the bottom inch and insert it into a seed-starting mixture, some peat moss, or perlite. Keep the soil evenly moist (a few spritzes with a spray bottle is great), and after a few weeks, you should see roots! Follow repotting and pruning practices like you would for any other plant.



Nothing screams “It’s fall!” quite like a pumpkin. I put mine out on October 1 (earlier if I’m sneaky enough) and use cute little luminary jack-o-lanterns instead of carving the pumpkins. That way I can use the pumpkins for decor all the way through Thanksgiving.

When Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas decorations come out immediately, so those pumpkins have to go. This year, I’m saving the seeds to try growing my own little pumpkin patch, and carving up the rest to go in the compost. I don’t personally keep livestock, but I’ve also read that pigs and cows eat pumpkins. Just make sure the pumpkins are disease free, like you would if you were feeding produce to humans.

So there you go! Perfectly logical, sustainable things to do with your fall decor once the holiday season arrives. Have more ideas? Share please!



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