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I love fall.
The moment there is the slightest chill in the air, I go full throttle autumn fairy, prancing around in boots and oversized sweaters with steaming mugs of tea. I bully my boyfriend into lighting the fire pit, I start baking and making soups, and last but certainly not least I start aggressively hoarding miniature pumpkins with wild abandon.
Decorating my home and crafting is my way of celebrating the season, which can cause a unique set of issues for someone aspiring to a zero waste lifestyle. The miniature pumpkins at least are compostable but a stroll through any craft store is a lesson in the excesses of plastic packaging.
I was desperately craving an autumnal craft one day while face first in the fridge (this is where I do all my best thinking, don’t judge me), when it hit me: why not do an all-natural, biodegradable garland to suit the season?
Popcorn garlands drive me nuts to make, though they’re gorgeous. I hate the way the popcorn can crumble as you try to push the needle through and fresh cranberries seem like the world’s fastest way to attract what the South lovingly calls palmetto bugs - aka FLYING COCKROACHES FROM HELL. Dried orange slices make me anxious for the same reason. Once you’ve had a cockroach drop off the ceiling onto your head, you get real squirrelly about moist, sugary food items sitting out.
So what sort of biodegradable fall garland could I make that wouldn’t require floral wire, would be colorful, pretty, and easy to throw together for my zero waste Thanksgiving decor?
A DIY Fall Garland Made From Root Vegetables
How to Make A Fall Garland Made From Root Vegetables
What You’ll Need
Assorted root vegetables such as beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, or potatoes (More on this below. Read through the entire DIY before you start!) Look for ones that are wider in diameter. The number of vegetables you’ll need depends entirely on how long you choose to make your garland, how you choose to string them, and which vegetables you choose.)
Cotton or biodegradable embroidery thread (not sewing thread, it won’t hold)
Food dehydrator (I use my food dehydrator all the time, this is a worthwhile purchase!)
DIY Fall Garland Made From Root Vegetables for Zero Waste Thanksgiving Decor
Select your vegetables. Consider how long you’d like your garland to be and how you’d like to string it together. I wanted a long garland but didn’t want to buy 85 pounds of root veggies to make it happen. So I selected colorful vegetables that were wider in diameter and chose to put two holes in some of them to string them lengthwise to maximize space. I ended up using 1 parsnip, 1 purple potato, 2 purple beets, 2 daikon radishes, and 3 carrots… but frankly this garland was waaaay longer than it needed to be.
The moisture level of your vegetables will affect how they dry. Potatoes won’t lose much of their bulk or curl. Carrots will take on a lovely ruffled form while daikon radishes gain a delightful lined pattern. Yellow beets lose a significant amount of their color, so I didn’t end up using any.
Select your embroidery thread color with the awareness that it WILL SHOW if you decide to string your dried vegetable slices lengthwise, as shown in photos.
Slice your veggies to approximately 1/4 of an inch, erring on the side of thicker for harder vegetables such as carrots or potatoes.
Use the sharp end of your meat thermometer to gently make your holes in your vegetables for stringing - you may need to use a screwing motion in harder vegetables - if desired. You can also do this once the vegetables have dried, but I tend to stab myself while sewing so I did it before using my dehydrator. Your vegetables (other than your potatoes) will still be somewhat pliable once dried, so if you’re struggling with this step while they’re raw it’s ok to move on and revisit with your needle once they’re dry. Finally, carrots make lovely “spacers” due to their curly texture.
Once you’ve sliced your vegetables, arrange them on the racks of your dehydrator in single layers without overlap. Set dehydrator to high, leave until vegetables are thoroughly dry but not burned. (Radishes, beets, and carrots will be flexible, but parsnips and potatoes will dry relatively solid.) This took almost full day for me.
Double or triple knot your thread. String vegetables in whatever pattern or form suits you. Hang garland indoors and enjoy!
Discard garland when vegetables begin to lose their luster. Compost or bury, as all components are biodegradable. Note: This garland was actually over a week old before I got a chance to photograph it!
I really can’t believe how well this came out or how absolutely adorable my dried root veggie garland is next to some baby pumpkins! I’m smitten!
The possibilities are endless. Nature has provided so many gorgeous forms and colors to play with, and this DIY gave me even more appreciation of my food. There’s something so satisfying about completing a project that’s completely biodegradable. And if you’re not into DIYs, you should buy this beautiful orange zest garland off Etsy and let me live vicariously through you.
Give it a whirl! If you need me, I’ll be sashaying around in scarves I don’t need to wear (it’s still warm here in Charleston) and leaving a trail of cinnamon and nutmeg in my wake.