Finally! Cooler temperatures tend to get Tucsonans into the autumn spirit. So does home and yard decorating with the fruits - and foliage - of gardeners' labors.

Foothills resident Kristina Green does this every year in and around her home.

"Living in the hot, brown desert, I try to bring in color as fall is known in other states," says Green.

Her father's midtown home garden provides the fodder for her decorating efforts. In September she pulled up green corn stalks, roots and all, tied them together and set them alongside the old church pew at her entry. They have gradually dried to blond with tinges of green.

Grapevines from the garden, a store-bought straw bale and pumpkins round out the outdoor vignette.

Indoors, Green grouped colorful gourds, again from the garden, under her antique French server with French linens for a colorful fall setting.

Indian corn tied together with ribbon serves as a dining-table centerpiece.

More stalks paired with gourds and artificial pumpkins provide a harvest feel in the foyer.

Landscape designer Diana Turner also turns out her home for the season. She uses her experience with winter squash to offer these decorating ideas:

• Harvest squash with as much of the twisty tendrils on the stem as possible. "It gives a more decorative top to the squash," says Turner, owner of Turner Design.

• Use the front door area to create a fall vignette using different colors and shapes of squash. Turner likes to use the native squash known by the O'odham as ha:l.

• Add more interest to outdoor decor by setting out multicolored squash on steps or on top of fence posts.

• Decorate the Thanksgiving table by cutting a small squash in half and using the bottom to hold a votive candle. It won't last long, but adds a festive touch.

• Turner uses ha:l and other native squash as a cooking and serving bowl. Cut off the top and scoop out the seeds to create a bowl. Put in veggies or meat - she cooks a chicken curry - into the bottom and bake. Before serving in the squash bowl, scrape off the cooked squash as you stir it into the veggies or meat you cooked with it.

Pumpkin Pickin'

Jack-o'-lanterns are the the iconic decor for autumn. An unripe pumpkin makes the best jack-o'-lantern, says James Wallace, executive chef at Westward Look Resort.

You'll need firm flesh so the jack-o'-lantern won't collapse, he says.

Beyond firmness, Wallace looks through the resort's chef garden to select a shape that fits the face he'll carve into the fruit.

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at