Halloween has become one of our most popular holidays. It's estimated Americans will spend over $8 billion dollars on candy, decorating, making costumes and having parties. At the center of all this activity is the common pumpkin, so read on if you want to step-up your jack-o'-lantern decorating game.
First, select the right pumpkin. Fruits with a green stem are fresher and will stay firm longer. Next, find one with a flat or slightly rounded side that will be perfect for carving. Instead of cutting open the top to clean out the inside, carve a hole or square in the back of the pumpkin. Leaving the top in tact will help the pumpkin remain structurally sound longer. Before carving, wash the skin with a 10 percent bleach solution to disinfect it.
Plan your carving masterpiece in advance. Draw the design on paper or buy a pumpkin carving kit template. Instead of just using a kitchen knife to carve, use lemon zesters, vegetable peelers and melon ballers. Or break out power tools, drills and saws to carve quickly and decisively. When finished, rub petroleum jelly on the cut surfaces to delay dehydration of your creation.
Now for this week's tip: cut back perennial flowers, even if they're still green, to clean up the garden for fall. Consider leaving the black seed heads of rudbeckia flowers for an interesting winter look.