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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Garden and Desert Debris Make Great Holiday Crafts

LAS CRUCES -- Yucca seed pods, tumbleweeds and dried corn leaves can mean extra money for crafty New Mexicans this holiday season. Desert and garden trash can be fashioned into inexpensive and unique holiday gifts.

"Making holiday crafts from leftover garden debris and old seed pods can be profitable," said George Dickerson, horticulture specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "This time of year, many schools and churches host weekend craft fairs -- instant markets for the organic artist."

Floral wire, a glue gun, shellac and imagination are the only tools necessary to get started in the garden trash craft business.

"Wreaths are popular this time of year," Dickerson said. The base of the wreath can be made from old grapevines or Virginia creeper vines. Wheat straw also can be bound together with string or wire to form the base. To decorate, attach dried flowers, chile pods, ornamental popcorn ears, garlic bulbs, pine cones, yucca pods or even dried okra pods.

For a Christmas wreath, Dickerson suggests cutting limbs from pine trees to fashion the base. Attach berries and leaves from holly or nandina plants.

"Chile ristras are also very popular during the holiday season," Dickerson said. "These are often hung on the home's porch light."

To make a ristra, tie red chile pods together by their stems with string or wire. Arrange the pods closely together to cover the wire. A variety of pod shapes and sizes are available. Ristras made with smaller chile pods can be formed into a wreath by tying the top and bottom ends together.

Ornamental corn can be braided into a wreath. "First, soak the leaves in water to make them more pliable," Dickerson said. Individual ears can be strung together into a ladder form with colored twine. "Each ear becomes a rung on the ladder," he said.

For areas without snow, tumbleweed snowmen may be a welcome sight. Select a large tumbleweed for the base and stack two smaller ones on top. Tie the tumbleweeds together with string for stability. "Spray everything with white flocking paint and use your imagination to create the facial features -- maybe use pinecones or gourds for the eyes, nose and mouth," Dickerson said.

Desert gourds can be sanded and painted as Christmas ornaments or as faces for Kachina dolls. Glue feathers to the back and attach ornamental corn cobs and leaves for the arms, legs and body. Another unique doll is the corn husk doll, made from corn leaves with corn silk for hair.

Seed pods of the devil's claw make great birds for craft projects, Dickerson said. Driftwood from arroyos comes in a variety of shapes and textures and can be used to make table decorations.
"With a little imagination, you can create gift items that will sell at farmers' markets or craft shows for $15 to $75," he said.