Monthly Archives: October 2017

  • Halloween - Give your garden a 'spook-over'

    Give your garden a Halloween ‘spook-over’HalloweenEver wondered how Halloween started? Or how it has evolved into what it is today? We’ve dusted the cobwebs off our history books to find out the story of Halloween.

    And we’ve got some great tips on how you can celebrate 31 October by creating a spooktacular Halloween garden, complete with a perfectly carved pumpkin!

    Halloween history

    Halloween is old, very old! It can best be described as a bringing-together of Celtic, pagan and western Christian festivals.

    The date, 31 October, is the day before All Hallows’ Day, which is also known as All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar. The Christian festival remembers all the saints and martyrs and the name comes from the old English word ‘hallowed’, meaning holy or sanctified. It was on the eve of All Hallows’ Day that Christian churches would hold a vigil before the huge feasts on 1 November.

    The Christian origins of dedicating a day to saints and martyrs appears to date back to the fourth century but it wasn’t until 837AD, when Pope Gregory III extended it to include all the saints and martyrs, that the day was moved from 13 May to 1 November and named the Feast of All Saints.

    Some historians believe the origins aren’t Christian at all, but are rooted in Celtic and pagan traditions. A number of different theories have been put forward. One is that the festival on the original date of 13 May was originally a pagan event to win the favour of the restless sprits of the dead. At some point, the festival was Christianised.

    It seems likely that many Halloween traditions are linked to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was also subsequently Christianised. It was held on 31 October and 1 November to mark the end of the harvest season and the start of winter.

    As part of the rituals, the souls of dead kin would be beckoned to attend the feast table and a place would be set for them. Bad spirits would be placated to ensure those attending and their animals would survive the winter. People would dress up and candles and bonfires would be lit. It’s thought that bobbing for apples also took place as part of the festivities.

    These Celtic and pagan elements can be seen in the way we celebrate Halloween today, and the event is now secular and community-based rather than religious.Halloween - Trick or TreatThe mass immigration of people to America from Ireland – where Samhain was a very strong tradition – popularised Halloween in the US in the 1800s. And guess what? It seems England exported trick-or-treating to America and not the other round. On All Souls’ Day – 2 November, the day after All Saints’ Day – poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called Soul Cakes. In return, the poor people would pray for the families’ dead relatives.

    This ‘going-a-souling’ tradition changed over time so that children would later knock on neighbours’ doors and ask for food or money. Which brings us to today, when Halloween is all about ghosts and ghoulies and trick-or-treating …

    Tips for creating a spooktacular garden for Halloween

    Of course, you could buy all of the following in shops or online, but where’s the fun in that?!

    Make your own graveyard

    Dead easy! Simply make half a dozen or so gravestones out of polystyrene sheets or thick cardboard and paint them. Search the internet for DIY polystyrene gravestones for plenty of tutorials – although cardboard is easier and more environment-friendly.

    Create spiders’ webs

    String or rope is easiest, although cotton wool looks great, especially in amongst the trees. Again, check out the tutorials online.

    Bring some ghosts to the party

    It’s amazing what can be done with some old sheets and a bit of imagination.

    And don’t forget the skeletons

    Just one tip for you here: Search online for ‘how to make a paper plate skeleton’. You’ll be amazed!

    Perfect pumpkin jack-o-lanterns: Here’s how

    Buy your pumpkins as close as you can to Halloween to avoid them going off before the big day. Choose one that’s firm and heavy and has an even, orange colour. Check that it ‘sits’ straight on a flat surface – if it doesn’t, you’ll need to level the bottom by removing a thin slice. Or choose one with a flatter bottom!

    The first job is to slice off the top of the pumpkin using a bread knife and to then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Start with the flesh and seeds in the middle and then the flesh on the inside of the skin. Keep the sides about 2.5cm (1-inch) thick.

    Draw on your face design with a marker pen – three triangles make the eyes and nose (triangle point at the top for the eyes and at the bottom for the nose) – and then carefully, with a small serrated knife, cut all the way through, remembering to always cut away from you.

    For the mouth, cut out the flesh in a straight-ish line about an inch wide, with an upward curve at each end. But don’t forget to carve in a couple of teeth top and bottom in the middle of the mouth. Rubbing Vaseline over the cut edges will preserve your lantern for longer. As these lanterns are for the garden, there’s no need to pierce holes near the top for string handles. For the purposes of safety, use a battery-powered candle inside. Pop the crown back onto the top and you have a perfect pumpkin to go with your Spooktacular garden!

    Happy Halloween!

  • October Garden Jobs

    October Garden Jobs

    October Garden Jobs October Garden Jobs

    I don’t know about you, but I love this time of year. The glorious reds, oranges and yellows of autumn are at their most majestic in October. It’s the month when we get to literally enjoy the fruits of our labour.

    On 21 October, we raise a glass of juice – or cider! – and say ‘Cheers’ as we celebrate Apple Day. Making sure you don’t let your harvest go to waste is one of the top jobs to do in the garden this month.

    Harvest your fruit

    You might have made a start on this in September. If not, get cracking now. It’s possible to store late season apples for several months in the right conditions, so you could have home-grown apples all winter, saving yourself a fortune. If possible, ensure the apples still have their stalks. Store them somewhere that’s cool, dark and has some ventilation – a garage is good. There should be a space between each apple, so make sure they’re in a single layer and not touching each other. Pears and mid-season apples can also last for up to 2-3 months, but pears will need to be checked frequently because they can ripen very suddenly. Remove any fruit that goes off.

    Last chance lawn jobs

    October is last chance saloon for:

    1 – Scarifying, aerating and top-dressing lawns if you live in colder areas of the UK. You can then give your lawn a helping hand by applying an autumn lawn feed.

    2 – Sowing grass seed if you live in milder areas.

    3 – Mowing. Don’t cut too low; the grass needs to be at least 2.5cm (1 inch). This should keep things in order until spring.

    Plant your springtime bulbs

    Even as winter looms large, it’s time to make preparations for better weather in the New Year, by planting bulbs that will welcome in springtime with a riot of colour. Buying in bulk is a good idea. If planting in pots, think in terms of 10s to guarantee a great spring show. If planting on grass or decent sized borders, 100s would look amazing. By planting in October, the bulbs will benefit from the warmer soil before the first frosts, helping the roots to become established. Check the packaging for information on where to site the bulb as some prefer warm spots (such as daffodils and tulips), while others prefer cooler locations in the garden. October is also a good time to plant spring bedding plants in pots or prepared ground, or herbaceous perennials.

    General maintenance

    Getting maximum light onto the lawn will keep it healthy during the winter months, so remember to keep on raking your lawn.

    Give the garden a good tidy-up by cutting back, pruning and dividing perennials.

    Ring the changes by moving or planting trees, shrubs and climbers. And October is perfect timing planting wildlife-friendly hedges.

    Bring tender plants into somewhere that’s nice and warm, such as a greenhouse or conservatory.

    And don’t forget that the clocks go back at 2am on Sunday 29 October, officially marking the end of British Summer Time.

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