Scarecrows: A Twist on a Tradition

A creative gardener's prize-winning scarecrows transform her garden in fall. Making one of her easy scarecrows is a fun project: try it with a friend or with kids.
Far-From-Scary Scarecrow Far-From-Scary Scarecrow

Kim Stone, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, finds inspiration for her scarecrows in her own life. We asked Kim to demonstrate her technique, and she created "Fern", a gardening scarecrow with a festive hairdo of asparagus ferns. This project is easier with extra hands, so Kim asked her twin sister, Karen Howerton, to help put the scarecrow together. Their kids helped with her outfit. Follow our instructions to make your own scarecrow and some good garden memories.

Step-by-Step Instructions Step-by-Step Instructions

Here's what you'll need to make a scarecrow of your own:

• Two-by-four lumber for the scarecrow frame. Two eight-foot lengths should be about right.

• A wooden dowel to hold up the scarecrow's head. A broomstick will do in a pinch.

• An eye hook and a length of re-bar, to prop the scarecrow up.

• Three-inch screws and a drill to drive them, or three-inch nails and a hammer.

• An outfit for your scarecrow: jeans and a shirt and jacket or vest; gloves; and shoes or boots.

• A grape-vine ball and raffia or Spanish moss (all available from hobby shops) for the scarecrow's head.

• Felt, pinecones, seashells, or other natural decorations for the scarecrow's features.

• A glue gun, a stapler, some heavy-gauge wire, and twine.

Stuffing materials: plastic bags, aluminum cans, some straw or raffia.

NOTE: Kim spent about $10 at a thrift store for the clothes for her scarecrow. Don't worry about what size they are. A long-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans or overalls naturally suit garden scarecrows, but you might like to add a sweater or vest, a jacket, a hat, and other accessories

Before You Start Before You Start

Measure the waist and the length of the jeans your scarecrow will wear. Also measure the length of the shirt from shoulder to hem. You'll cut the lumber to suit these measurements. The two-by-fours you cut for legs should be slightly shorter than the length of the jeans.

The scarecrow's torso is made with four pieces of wood: one for the hips, two upright pieces for the chest, and a short piece in between the parallel upright pieces. The scarecrow's torso (the upright pieces) should be slightly shorter than distance between the shirt's collar and hem (if it is a straight hem).

The horizontal piece that represents the hips should be cut to fit inside the waistband of the pants. The shorter horizontal piece at the top supports the scarecrow's neck and head; drill a hole through the center big enough to accommodate the dowel.

Step 1 Step 1

Start with the torso. Use a couple of screws to attach the upright torso pieces to the short piece that supports the neck.

Step 1.1 Step 1.1

Screw the hips to the torso.

Step 1.2 Step 1.2

Screw the hips down onto the legs.

Note: When the frame for the scarecrow is complete, it looks like two horseshoe-shaped forms screwed together, with the smaller shape on top. With a counter-sinking bit, Kim drilled a shallow hole in the top of the scarecrow's hips, to provide a footing for the dowel.

Step 2 Step 2

Attach an sturdy eye hook to the hip section of the frame. Kim starts the hook with a couple of sharp raps from a hammer, then uses a screwdriver through the ring to screw the hook securely to the hips. This is how the scarecrow stands up: Kim drives a rebar rod into the ground and slides the hook over the rebar. The scarecrow will stand fast.

Step 3 Step 3

But first, the scarecrow will need some pants. With the frame flat on the ground, pull the jeans onto the 2x4 legs, and then put the shoes on the bottom of the 2x4s. Kim and Karen drive a screw up through each shoe sole into the 2x4, so the shoes will not fall off. Real scarecrows don’t wear socks.

Quick Note Quick Note

When you stand the frame up, the jeans should fit around the scarecrow’s waist, with the eye hook sticking out the back right at about the waistline.

Step 4 Step 4

Now hammer the rebar rod into the ground and thread the eye hook over the rebar. Zip up the pants; they should fit snugly around the frame so they won't fall down. You can tighten them with a piece of twine or a belt if they're too big at the waist.

Step 5 Step 5

Secure the grape-vine ball to the dowel with a nail at the top.

Step 5.1 Step 5.1

You will need a hole in the ball so you can stuff the head with Spanish moss. Kim and Karen first reinforced the grape vines around where their hole would be, and then clipped out an opening with a pair of pruning shears. The Spanish moss creates a backdrop for the scarecrow’s features.

Step 6 Step 6

Stems of asparagus fern give Kim’s scarecrow a festive, bright green hairdo. She bought a pot of ferns and divided the plant into small sections, wrapping each clump of roots in a sandwich bag. The plastic baggie holds soil and retains moisture. She stuffed each bag of ferns into the scarecrow’s head, teasing the fresh ferny foliage out through the grapevine mesh.  To keep the fern foliage fresh, you can simply mist the scarecrow’s head.

TIP: Other ferns would also work well as hair for a scarecrow. Kim has also used wispy ornamental grasses as hair, snipping it off a plant and poking it into the Spanish moss. If your scarecrow will be wearing a hat, it may not need hair at all.

Step 7 Step 7

The scarecrow’s features can be made with pinecones, seashells, bits of bark, wire moss, and marbles or gemstones (these last available at hobby shops), all secured to the grapevine-ball head with the help of a glue gun. The big smile is made of wire moss.

Quick Note Quick Note

Kim reports that the asparagus fern only needed occasional spritzing with a mister to stay fresh and green.

Step 8 Step 8

Hands for scarecrows are easy to make with garden gloves (stuff them with plastic bags), but Kim and Karen made Fern’s hands from foam balls covered with Spanish moss, with wire moss fingers.

Step 9 Step 9

Kim’s scarecrow will be wearing a short-sleeved shirt, so she needed to give her some arms. The arms are made of a long-sleeved T-shirt cut down the middle and stapled to the torso. They tied a knot at the end of the sleeves and stuffed the sleeves with aluminum cans. The arms are supported by an arc of heavy wire attached at the shoulders.

Step 10 Step 10

Slip the scarecrow's shirt on, and then insert the dowel holding up the head through the hole at the neck.

Step 11 Step 11

The wooden frame supports the scarecrow, but a little stuffing makes the body look more realistic. Kim uses plastic bags stuffed with aluminum cans, fitting them inside the frame and securing them, if necessary, with a couple of staples from the staple gun. Traditional scarecrows might be stuffed with straw, crumpled newspapers, or old clothes. The cans in plastic bags have the advantage that they will not get waterlogged in wet weather.

NOTE: Of course, the scarecrow will get soaked in a rainstorm, but the clothes will dry quickly when the sun comes out.

Step 12 Step 12

Kim pokes the scarecrow's hands onto the end of the wire that extends down through both arms.