Autumn is such a great time of year. Nature is really at its peak with bold and rustic colors and it makes for beautiful surroundings that you can use as inspiration. Pumpkins, gourds, ornamental corn and other fruits and vegetables make gorgeous fall decorations. But instead of buying them, have you ever thought about growing your own fall harvest decor?
Harvest Your Own Decor
Fall is such a happy season to decorate for! And growing your own fall harvest decorations can be a fun experience, and you can even be a beginning gardener to successfully grow your own pumpkins, gourds, squash, and corn. Here are some tips for growing ornamental vegetables that are perfect for your fall table, mantel, entryway and more!
Pumpkins, Gourds, and Squash: The Jewels of Fall Harvest
Pumpkins, gourds, and squash are the quintessential fall decoration. They are great for everything from Halloween to Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to buy them, you can grow your own. And it’s not that hard as long as you know what to do.
Pumpkins, gourds, and squash all grow similarly as they are cousins of sorts. They require quite a bit of space, at minimum a 10-foot by10-foot garden. The plants produce long, rambling vines that can range from 6-20 feet long. Although smaller varieties will grow up trellises if trained to, but heavier gourds will sprawl across your garden.
Pumpkins and gourds are warm-season plants. They need warm air and soil to germinate. They grow best in well-drained soil with access to lots of sunshine. Summer squash are too soft for using as decoration so you need to stick to the winter varieties like acorn, butternut and delicata.
Plant 4-6 gourd/pumpkin seeds an inch deep in mounds of soil. Leave six feet between each seed mound. Pumpkins, gourds and squash need plenty of water, sun and fertilizer for healthy plants. Once the seedlings sprout and begin to grown, choose two or three of the strongest plants and remove the others to allow for ideal growth. After 3-4 months, your pumpkins will be ready to harvest. The rind will be hard and their color even all the way around.
Ornamental gourds must ripen fully on the vine. When the fruit is so hard that you cannot pierce the rind with your thumbnail, it is ready to harvest. Never harvest your gourds early. Leave a stub of stem on the gourd to ensure they last as long as possible. Be sure to harvest your gourds and pumpkins prior to the first hard frost.
Once you pick them, clean ornamental pumpkins and gourds with warm soapy water. Make sure they dry completely before using as decorations. Gourds should be cured (or dried) for a couple of weeks, shaded from direct sun and away from moisture, before they are truly “done.” Store in a room at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 50-75% humidity. In proper storage, pumpkins, squash and gourds will last for up to 3 months. You can also shellac them for a shiny appearance after they are cured.
Fall Harvest Superstar: Ornamental Corn
You can’t have a fall harvest display without including some ornamental corn. There are so many great ways to use the variety of corn and the myriad colors it comes in. From garland to door swag to a table centerpiece, ornamental corn is a great addition to any fall harvest decor. And the best part about it, you can grow it yourself without too much work and its a wonderful companion plant to many garden vegetables.
Ornamental corn, no matter the variety, grows just like sweet corn does. Select flat, well-drained soil for your corn crop. For optimal germination, plant in a square rather than rows. Plant one seed every four inches. Corn will cross-pollinate so it should be isolated. Therefore, if you wish to plant more than one variety of ornamental corn or sweet corn, you have to plant all varieties 250 feet apart and plant varieties with a maturation date that is at least two weeks different. If you have a small space, stick with one variety per year.
Most corn will mature in 80 to 120 days. Leave the ornamental corn to dry on the stalk. Do not harvest until the husks turn brown, dry and papery. Test a kernel with your fingernail to ensure it is solid. To harvest, break the ears off of the stalk with a quick downward motion, leaving the husk on. Allow to dry another week before using in your fall harvest decor.
Are You Ready to Grow Your Own Fall Harvest Decorations?
The biggest hurdles to growing your own fall harvest decorations are space and time. If you want a crop to decorate with come fall, plant in early summer to allow your ornamental vegetables enough time to grow and ripen, and to allow enough time for drying. While you are waiting for the bountiful harvest, you have time to plan out what you are going to do with your crops. Now that you have the tips to grow your own decor, what will you so with squash, pumpkins, gourds and corn for fall harvest decorations? Share in the comments below!