Pumpkins -- easy to find, easy to make into scary decorations.

How to Decorate the Backyard for Halloween for Cheap

by Kris Gleba

Halloween can be a special time of year for you and your family. The days leading up to this kid-friendly holiday are a chance for you all to revel in the spooky, play with the ooky and be completely kooky. When decorating your home for Halloween, look any and everywhere for inexpensive decorations. In fact, those spiderwebs outside that already grace your back stairs and basement window trim aren't dirt -- they're merely one part of a decorating scheme that encompasses not just the house, but the backyard as well.

1. Planning Ahead

Inexpensive home decorating requires time, planning and patience. When you start planning your fall garden in late summer, factor Halloween into the design. Rather than purchasing cheery yellow mums as part of your backyard decorating scheme, buy mums with a reddish hue resembling blood. Take some extra time to plant the seeds of an ornamental millet known as Purple Majesty. This annual will provide eerie foliage to complement pumpkins in their natural shade of orange or in their unnatural, ghostly white hue. Save yourself time, aggravation and money by preparing for Halloween in the summer months. Purchase craft supplies as needed and focus on one project at a time, such as making ghosts or decorative wreaths. As a bonus, it will be quality craft time with the kids when they complain of being bored during summer vacation.

2. Ghostly Apparitions

Create a field of friendly or scary specters with homemade ghosts. Cut old white sheets or old T-shirts, and drape them over foam balls or balloons. Tie them in place, and then hang the ghosts from tree branches. Attach pieces of white tulle under the sheet to create an ethereal layered effect. Use this to your advantage -- tell guests and family members your home and its surroundings are haunted. Up the ante and paste sets of yellow eyes made of construction paper onto the tree trunks.

3. Haunted Picnic

Take advantage of trees devoid of foliage and the rickety picnic table you keep meaning to replace by hosting an evening picnic ... for the dead. Drape the tree branches with cobwebs made of tulle or coffee-stained cheesecloth and, if possible, the twinkle lights you use at Christmas. If you use the table as part of a party, leave the tabletop as is, especially if the wood or metal is visibly worn; but decorate with items you already have on hand, such as candlesticks or votive holders, decorative gourds and jack-o'-lanterns. Keep the latter in place, especially a series of differently decorated pumpkins, when the table is part of the overall holiday design-scape. For tweens, provide dim lighting, but enough lighting so guests feel comfortable moving around the backyard. For younger kids, hold the party close to the house and provide enough seating for them and at least one of their parents.

4. Go Old School

Bust out the flannel shirts or bell bottoms and throw your kids a blast-from-the-past backyard Halloween shindig. Drape the deck or porch railings with crepe paper in shades of black and orange; hang paper lanterns in similar shades from the pergola or awning. Let the kids bob for apples, provided you've cleaned out galvanized metal buckets, and, because they may want more than the natural snack, let them eat donuts you've hung from low-hanging tree branches with string. Once they're sugared up with candy, let the kids go crazy with felt-tip markers for a pumpkin decorating contest. For teenagers, provide an Ouija board or let them do a seance. Place chunky candles in hollowed out squashes with squat bottoms for ominous lighting.

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