Bring autumn indoors with themed decorations

OlympianOctober 9, 2013 

Fall is for planting and for autumn decorating. If all you have for an outdoor space is a doorway, you still can celebrate the change of seasons.

Even city dwellers can take a walk in a park and collect a few fallen leaves for an indoor display and a reminder of this glorious season.

Here are some simple ideas for fall decorating:

nArrange a few pinecones, fallen leaves and beautiful stones in a bowl or display on a mantel. Let this be a reminder to enjoy the colors, scents and other changes of the season when you next step outside. A football on display is optional.

nStaple some large fall leaves onto a length of twine or thick yarn. Use this as a garland to outline a doorway or frame an outdoor window.

nPile fallen leaves into a bushel basket, metal wash tub or wheelbarrow. Set pumpkins, gourds and all those overgrown zucchini from your garden on top of the leaves. You’ll have your own cornucopia.

nMake a dirt-cheap scarecrow from old clothing that you stuff with fallen leaves. Use a bucket or pumpkin for the head of your leaf man. Sit him on a bench or against a tree. Creating autumn scarecrows has become quite the art in some parts of the country. You can find scarewomen, scarechildren, scarepets and scarecrows riding bikes, climbing ladders and even stuck out in fields scaring away the crows.

Here are a few reader questions:

Question. I have a lot of large maple leaves that fall onto my lawn. I know I need to rake these up or they will kill the grass, but I do not want a compost pile. I do remember at one time hearing you talk about bagging up fallen leaves to use in the spring. Could you please repeat those instructions? — T.P., Renton


Answer. Ah, the joys of leaf mold will be yours in just a few months if you collect your leaves now. Stuff them into large plastic garbage bags, and remember to do these three things: Add a shovelful of soil to the bag to inoculate the leaves with leaf-chomping soil critters, poke holes into the plastic bag so the decaying leaves can get air, and finally, store the bags out of sight under a shrub or outdoor table, or inside a garage or shed for the winter.

Come spring you’ll have a leafy, moist mulch to spread around trees and shrubs that will smother the spring weeds and seal in moisture for the summer. Large leaves that fall onto the lawn can be mowed into smaller chunks before bagging. Chopping up the leaves always helps them decompose faster.

Q. My neighbor sprayed Roundup on her shrub beds to kill the weeds in the spring. Then this fall she collected the fallen leaves from her maple trees and gave them to me for my compost pile. Are these leaves safe to put into my compost? They were resting on the same soil where she sprayed the Roundup. — O.G., Olympia

A. No worries, and congrats for branching out and collecting organic matter from the neighbors. The autumn foliage that falls from trees will not absorb herbicides from the soil — especially if the soil was treated months ago.

Roundup is a glyphosate soap that quickly breaks down. In the spring, you might even want to share some of your composted leaves so your neighbor can spread a layer over her spring weeds and smother them. A blanket of leaf mold is a whole lot cheaper than an herbicide and will also feed the soil and lower your water bills by sealing in moisture.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at

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