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Turn pumpkins into planters for fall decorations

Terra cotta orange and yellow planters full of greenery and flowers on a brick patio. In the forefront, an orange pumpkin serves for a planter for small succulent plants.
bluehill75/Getty Images/iStockphoto
When you are carving pumpkins for fall decorations, try using one as a planter for small aloe, green tails or other annual plants.

Pumpkins, gourds and winter squash are in abundance from recent harvests and they look great when used as part of autumn outdoor decorations.

This month, as you cut into them to create traditional Jack-o-lanterns, try another fun decoration that utilizes the squash as a planter.

First, gather up your pumpkins, gourds and squash of differing sizes. Then make a stop at your local garden center to purchase a few annuals. Cut off the tops of the pumpkin or squash just as you would if you were going to carve it, and scoop out the insides.

Next, instead of carving a face or design, just fill the cavity with potting soil and pop different plants inside. Different small plants can even look like hairstyles on your pumpkin planter!

Try scallions or green onions for spiky-haired look, or mini petunias and calibrachoa for floppy hair. You can draw or paint a face on your pumpkin or squash and enjoy its eclectic, living hairstyle.

Flowering kale and cabbagealong with pansies can also look great in your pumpkin planter to place on your front step. And take it further next month, by purchasing a few mini pumpkins and smaller gourds to create indoor table centerpieces.

Just like the prior process to make a larger planter, cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds and add a bit of potting soil. Then add small succulents, like aloes or echevaria in each one. Keep the mini planters indoors in a sunny spot in a cool room and use them as centerpieces and decorations for fall holidays.

Q: I live on the upper floor of a very old south-facing duplex. I get the occasional squirrel that seems to enjoy dining on my plants on my balcony. Two summers ago, I tried to mix of neem oil and water to deter outdoor critters. It really stinks so I'm not sure I want to use that unless it's the only option. I was reading that cinnamon is a good deterrent for all kinds of critters. I wonder if you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts. - Tamara, in Montreal

A: In a city setting like Montreal, squirrels who find outdoor planters might be very difficult to get rid of! Once they have located balcony and all the tasty plants there, deterring them will be challenging.

Some things to try include sprays that have strong scents or tastes, like cayenne pepper, garlice or even rotten eggs. Cinnamon also has a strong flavor and scent, so you might give that a try to deter them.

Next year, think about putting some wire caging over your plants or some kind of material that will block the entrance for the squirrels so they don't get in there in the first place.

Q: I'm in the Hudson Quebec Garden Club. They're looking for some good new gardening films to show at an end-of-season event. Do you have any suggestions? - Margaret, Hudson, QC, CA

An older British film called, "Green Fingers" from 2000, might make a good choice. It's kind of a comedy about prisoners who become gardeners and then create beautiful gardens for the Queen. There are many "The Secret Garden," films, all based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

And if you're into television programs about gardening, you can actually watch a few of theMonty Don series. He is a famous British gardener and TV personality and he has a show called, "Gardeners World" which features his house and what he's doing in his gardens.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes.

You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition with Vermont Public host Mary Williams Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublic. We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.