Keep your little monsters busy with some autumn projects, says Katherine Miller

We are lucky enough to have a big tree in our garden, but with it comes the job of clearing up a lot of leaves each autumn to keep the lawn alive over winter.

Since we have had children we have realised that if you rake up leaves into a huge pile, then it is almost compulsory to run through them, lay in them and throw them all over the place. So we do, and next door’s cat joins in too. During this mayhem we try to fill as many bags as possible to make leaf mould, which is like gold to any gardener.

Autumn leaves - gardening jobs for children

Clearing leaves is an essential part of our garden maintenance, but the kids love ‘helping’. We collect our leaves in black bags (with drainage holes) and store them to make leaf mould. It takes 1-2 years, but it is great conditioner for our heavy clay soil. Find out more about leaf mould and other jobs for autumn here.

We are so proud of our home-grown pumpkins, which have required little maintenance since May, when my 3-year-old haphazardly planted the seeds. We have ended up with four excellent specimens which we will carve for Halloween as well as eat. We don’t generally go in for much celebration on 31 October, but annoyingly the shops are full of spooky merchandise from August onwards. My only purchase has been some battery operated tea lights, so that I can allow the children to assemble their pumpkin lanterns safely on their own.

I’m a real misery, so unless by prior arrangement, I don’t open the door to trick-or-treaters. I might be persuaded to wear a witch’s hat (my husband will say that’s nothing new!), but it’s worth noting that if you display a pumpkin in the window, or in your front garden, then you can expect monsters at your door. I’ve got two of my own leaf-throwing horrors to trick me, without encouraging any more…

Pumpkin growing and carving - great autumn projects for kids

We made a bed of straw for our pumpkins to prevent them from rotting, but with little rain and an extended summer, they were ready by mid-September.

Pumpkin growing and carving - great autumn projects for kids

The children drew faces on them with a white board marker, which they rubbed out and corrected until they were happy. I carved the pumpkins when the boys were not around so that nobody tried to copy me!