Spice up your Thanksgiving dinner table on the cheap this fall by using what Mother Nature has discarded. Bringing the breathtaking colors of autumn indoors creates a festive atmosphere for the holiday, and the options, as limitless as can be imagined, work well in any home.

Look for fallen leaves from sweet gum, oak and ornamental pear trees to find bright and fresh yellow, red, purple and brown leaves this late in the season, and use them to dress your table. Top a complementing table cloth with your bounty. Then, secure this festive display with a glass or plexiglass table cover. Table covers protect your furniture and table cloths, are easy to clean and lend fall leaves an upscale look while keeping them in place.

Fallen leaves can also be used to create table lanterns. Use Mod Podge® and a sponge brush to affix leaves to clear glass jars. Alternate layered leaves with single leaves and white space to allow light to filter through in different ways. Then, finish the lanterns with raffia, ribbon or burlap bows, or wrap wire around the tops to resemble a handle. Place battery-operated tea light candles inside the jars, and enjoy a flickering golden light show.

If your neighborhood has a shortage of fresh and attractive fallen leaves, do not panic. Faux fall leaves can be used for both the table top and lantern projects, with no decrease in beauty. Some do-it-yourselfers even prefer to work without the real thing. Plus, leaves are not the only outdoor decoration that looks great inside.

Leafless table lanterns can be created by placing acorns, sweetgum seed pods, evergreen trimmings or pinecones in jars. Need indoor lantern-stuffers? Use pantry staples like coffee beans, popcorn kernels or nuts instead. Then, add raffia or burlap bows, battery-operated tea lights and enjoy. Other leaf-free fall decorations include branches, bowls and boughs.

Tie bunches of cut birch, red dogwood, yellow dogwood or willow branches with a bow and place in vases for a sleek fall look. Wooden bowls filled with tree nuts or pomegranates will last on your Thanksgiving table for several weeks, and evergreen boughs can be used to adorn the table with a lush green contrast to fall colors.

Living decorations purchased at pumpkin patches in October, like Indian corn, decorative gourds or pumpkins, also work well in a Thanksgiving theme. Use smaller pumpkins to create candle holders. Trace the outlines of battery-operated tea lights onto your pumpkins with a pencil. Carve along the lines and then clean out the pumpkins. Gently place tea lights in the holes. For particularly bright pumpkin candle holders, use a bristle brush to apply glue to the outsides of pumpkins, and then pour glitter over the wet glue, ensuring all sides of the pumpkin are evenly coated.

However you decorate your Thanksgiving table, using these ideas or others, we want to know! Email us pictures or post them on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/UNCEMasterGardeners.

Andrews, A. 2014, Bring the Outdoors Indoors for Thanksgiving, Reno Gazette-Journal

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