Homegrown with Heart: Growing Fall

Fall, fall, where are you, fall? In many areas of the country, the fall feeling is sometimes hard to come by, but if you stick to using the sight, smell, taste, and touch method, you’ll be all pumpkin spice in no time!

After a hot, steamy summer, it is refreshing and relaxing to go out to my garden to pick a breath of fall. I start by going out to my cinnamon tree and pick branches to make cinnamon sticks. Yes, I really can do that. If some of the first citrus is ready, I grab a few of those, too. Now I am set to start the “smell” portion of my fall. First of all, I get out my potpourri pot with water or cider to simmer my bounty on the stove. Adding cloves and nutmeg to my slices of orange and cinnamon sticks, the smell softly spreads the fall essence throughout my house.

I live in Florida where you have to do a bit of overreaching to feel like fall is in the air. I find that cooking and baking are some of the best ways to make that happen.  Baking is number one and a pumpkin pie is first and easiest on the list. Lots of you will be able to pick that pumpkin right out of your garden – lucky you! The sight, smell, and taste of your first pumpkin pie of the season will bring lots of jumpy-claps (a phrase I have heard in England and that I absolutely love!) to your entire household.  I am also growing three different types of sunflowers this year.  I can’t wait until they are ready to use in my fall arrangements!

Going for a walk in the fall is to go on a decorating scavenger hunt.  Different size pinecones are one of the first things I look for.  Most areas of the US have some kind of pine tree that is native. Use whatever is indigenous to your area to pile in a big wooden bowl to set on your kitchen counter or coffee table. The texture of your gatherings will bring interest and a cozy feeling to your fall tableau.

Using a few of your found branches is a terrific way to celebrate fall by making a Gratitude Tree. Try sticking a few of interesting branches in a big vase near where you dine.  Every night during dinner, have each member of your family write down something good that happened to them that day, or something that they are grateful for, and write it down on a tag that can be tied to a branch on your Gratitude Tree.  On Thanksgiving Day, you can take them all down and read them aloud, while appreciating what a wonderful fall it has been.

If you are fortunate enough to grow your corn, corn shocks are a welcome fall decorating sight, along with a bale of hay.  My father-in-law was a big wheat farmer back in the day and my mother-in-law would always sneak out to the field and cut a basketful of wheat to use in her fall arrangements.  I was always the lucky recipient of some of that wheat, too!

The main message is to use what you have and what is native to your area, and that does not always mean the Hobby Lobby or Michael’s Craft Store that is around the corner, though I do visit both now and then. I think each season is much more meaningful if it celebrates your personal fall surroundings and things you have grown by hand – homegrown with heart!


A Midwesterner by birth, but a Floridian for the past almost 40 years, Debbi Benedict has been a longtime magazine columnist and an even longer edible landscaping enthusiast. Her definition of an edible landscape is, “Food for myself; the birds, bees, and butterflies; and most importantly, for my soul.” As a young girl, her love of the lore and accessibility of herbs started her on her gardening journey. Upon her move to Florida, her gardening world exploded as she was introduced to the magical tastes of tropical fruit trees and the value of native plants. Now her quarter acre yard, known as Benhaven Farm, flourishes with over 100 fruit trees, shrubs, and vines, and an unknown number of native flowering plants.
Scroll to Top