Ideas for Halloween Yard Decorations

List of Supplies Needed, Design Principles to Keep in Mind

Image of pumpkins displayed at a roadside stand.
With pumpkins on hand, all things are possible when it comes to creating fall displays. David Beaulieu

Below is a list of supplies you may need to create a display of Halloween yard decorations. While hardly exhaustive, the list is intended to steer you in the right direction in assembling the materials needed to compose a creative display and make a strong statement in the autumn landscape, especially if you're mainly interested in fall decorations with a harvest theme.

Of course, if you have children who wish to have bragging rights to the spookiest lawn in town, you'll have to shop for additional supplies.

Nylon inflatables have become increasingly popular, for instance. For spooky accessories such as realistic monsters oozing with blood, you may need to shop for supplies at a store that specializes in the novel and the gruesome. For some ideas, check out my scary Halloween pictures. Those of you who'd rather keep things on the light-hearted side will prefer to browse my funny Halloween pictures.

Here's my list of basic supplies it pays to have on hand when you're decorating the fall landscape:

Design Principles and Halloween Yard Decorations

Your decor will be most effective when deployed with a sense for design. Some of the design principles used in arranging plants on a landscape are also applicable when setting up your Halloween yard decorations.

For instance, while I would encourage you to dress up multiple areas of your property, for the best display it's important to establish one focal point that will receive the most attention.

Effective focal points separate merely good designs from truly eye-catching designs. If you're using a nylon inflatable, you'll have to make this your focal point: these figures are so big and colorful that nothing else can compete successfully with them. If you're concentrating on a spooky theme, make the most gruesome element your focal point, and make sure the rest of your Halloween yard decorations are understated (so you don't siphon off attention from the focal point).

If you prefer a more traditional, rustic decor, you may wish to make a scarecrow as your focal point. Stuff an old shirt and old pair of pants with straw (or leaves that you've raked) and fasten them together at the waist. It doesn't have to be fancy: after all, scarecrows are supposed to look raggedy. For the head, if you don't have the traditional burlap or cloth bag to stuff, a cheap plastic jack-o'-lantern will look just fine. Drill holes in the bottom, pass twine through the holes and tie the head to the scarecrow's shirt collar. Furnish your scarecrow with a straw hat to complete the look.

But there are as many ways to create a scarecrow as there are ways to, well, scare off the crows. Here are two photo galleries to thumb through that are chock-a-block full of ideas for designing a scarecrow that will have the neighbors gawking:

When you're done with your creation, drive a tall stake into the ground and tie the scarecrow to it. To draw even more attention to your focal point, you can borrow another landscape design principle: namely, that a mass of something is most effective at catching one's eye. If you have several pumpkins at your disposal, put some of that color to its best use by grouping three large pumpkins (preferably, of differing heights) near the scarecrow.

Provide cornstalks as a backdrop, and dress them up with indian corn. As with the pumpkins, remember the impact of a mass display when using cornstalks: don't skimp!

Repetition is another landscape design principle that can be employed in this project. Repeating the use of an item in a few places on a property ties the whole landscape together, giving it unity. In arranging Halloween yard decorations, you could, for example, repeat an item such as the cornstalks. In addition to their use in the focal point, frame the driveway entrance with cornstalks, as well as the front door.

Plants and Halloween Yard Decorations

Just because some of the plants in the garden have seen better days by the time October arrives, don't think that plants have no role to play in Halloween yard decorations. Chrysanthemums, the colorful perennials that have become an autumn icon, are often arranged (whether planted or in containers) amidst Halloween yard decorations.

Annuals can also offer an important burst of color. But the challenge is to keep your annuals in good enough shape for use in autumn, which is the subject of my article on fall flowers.

It requires more foresight, but you can also use trees and shrubs to play a central role in your display. Being larger plants, trees and shrubs obviously take a longer time to mature. But with patience and good selections, they will eventually form the true backbone of your landscape design. Halloween yard decorations will look twice as good in a landscape graced by the fall foliage offered by trees such as those I mention in my index to fall foliage trees and shrubs like those in my Top 5 list of shrubs for fall. I discuss additional plants that can round out your autumn decor on the second page of my article on the origin of Halloween.

On Page 2 of the present article we'll look at some more plant material and see how you can supplement the above Halloween yard decorations with creative crafts ....

Halloween crafts can supplement the yard decorations we've discussed on Page 1. The following Halloween crafts are based on plants that you can grow on your own property. They can adorn your front door, porch, deck, gazebo, storage shed, arbor, etc.

 

Gourds for Halloween Crafts

 

Carving pumpkins is fun, but isn't it sad when you're really satisfied with the carving you've done on a jack-o'-lantern, only to have it begin rotting on you?

Well, there is a better way: don't use a pumpkin for Halloween crafts, use a hardshell gourd, instead! The hardshell gourd with which most people are familiar is the type often used in making birdhouses. But there are other types that come in different shapes, including one type that has the same rounded shape pumpkins have -- making them perfect for jack-o'-lanterns. They're called "bushel" gourds.

Properly dried hardshell gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) are permanent, so they can be used year in and year out for Halloween crafts. For outdoor use, protect them from the elements with shellac or a similar coating. In fact, a bushel gourd could also serve as the head for the scarecrow we discussed on Page 1. Just drill holes in the bottom, pass twine through the holes and tie the gourd to the scarecrow's shirt collar. You can read all about these novel pumpkin-substitutes in my Halloween crafts article on making Halloween jack-o'-lanterns from gourds.

But do let your hardshell gourds dry fully before carving them (if you carve while the gourd is still wet, you'll introduce bacteria that may harm the gourd).

You may wonder why I specified "hardshell" gourds above. Well, I did so to distinguish them from the smaller and more common "ornamental" gourds (Cucurbita pepo).

Of the two types of gourds, the hardshell variety can be used in a wider array of Halloween crafts.

Not that I have anything against the ornamental gourds. Far from it. In fact, they were one of my first loves as a child. Their odd shapes and textures and harvest colors make them a staple of fall displays. Because they are small, they must be massed together to have any impact. For outdoor displays, they can be effective in wreaths, including grapevine wreaths.

 

More Halloween Crafts: Wreaths

 

A large, thick, tightly wound grapevine wreath is preferable for this Halloween craft idea. They're simple enough to make. Just wind the vines into a hoop-shape and tie it off with twine. If you don't feel like making your own grapevine wreath you can purchase one already made at a store that sells Halloween crafts. Massed together in a wreath, ornamental gourds can be quite striking. Simply drill holes in their bottoms and insert floral sticks in these holes, leaving at least 3" of stick hanging out. Wedge the other end of the stick into the grapevine wreath. Shellacking the gourds will help preserve their color and give them a shine. Complete the wreath with an orange bow.

Grapevines are not the only material that makes for a good wreath-base for Halloween crafts.

Bittersweet vines (Celastrus scandens) are another favorite for enthusiasts of Halloween crafts, and they are so colorful in and of themselves that they require little or no ornamentation! Pick bittersweet vines while their berries are still green, and form them into wreaths immediately. If you wait until the berries have matured to their fall colors, they will probably drop their attractive husk while you're working with them. Fashion the wreath as above for the grapevine wreath. The husk of bittersweet berries is a golden-yellow, which goes beautifully with the orangey-red of the mature berry. A bow is all you need now to complete your classic bittersweet wreath.