Step 1: Gather GREEN Materials
Do the earth a favor and throughout the year snag...
STYROFOAM PACKAGING - our office was upgrading all computers and the inserts protecting electrical components refused to end up in a landfill. The styrofoam packaging is ideal when repurposed into a green graveyard
EXPIRED CAMPAIGN SIGN SUPPORTS - do the neighborhood a favor and remove stray election signs from public locations the day AFTER the election. These are great for securing the outdoor decorations
"OOPS" PAINT - Home improvement centers will often sell mismatched paint (cheap!) and are willing to tint it grey at no extra charge. "Free boxes" at garage sales are another source. These will come in handy when trying to give the appearance of aged marble/concrete.
PLASTIC FLOWERS - what thrift store doesn't have an overabundance of plastic flowers waiting to make another appearance...even if it is at a GREEN graveside?
CHEESY KNICK-KNACKS - prayng angels, infant cherubs, doll heads...can all be painted black/grey and secured to tombstones for an added touch.
While most of the materials can be acquired on the cheap (practically free!), investing in a few tubes of Liquid Nails will be your only major expense when securing layers of found items together.
Step 2: Ask the Styrafoam What Sort of Gravestone It Wants to Be
If a discarded extruded styrofoam product could talk, it would say...gimme another chance at life & a detour from the stinkin' landfill!
Experiment with a combination of shapes by carving, poking, gluing, sanding, drilling... The goal isn't total realism but rather to allow the white form to morph into a kid-friendly decoration.
Step 3: Allow Paint to Cover a Variety of Sins...
Add personality by priming with OOPS paint and consider permanent markers for smooth-looking details, saving the spray paint for rougher appearing surfaces.
Likewise, pumpkin carving guides, Halloween websites and Instructables offer a variety of stencils, epitaths and painting techniques that can be transfered onto the gravestone.
Step 4: Don't Let the Dead Come Alive....
In my part of the world one must secure tombstones to the ground or they WILL end up in the landfill. Of course one can always attach the styrofoam to plywood by using liquid nails and stakes, but I prefer to keep my gravestones as light as possible so they are easy to store.
Long hairpin-shaped yardpins are useful in keeping gravestones earthbound, but generally they are not long enough. By using wire supports from expired campaign signs, a gravestone will remain in your yard if the staves are trimmed to hold it in place. For instance, consder...
Keep only the CENTER REINFORCEMENT when a tall tombstone needs to be secured. By trimming one of the two center staves from the (campaign sign) wire frame, an "H" shape remains. Place the frame into the earth and slip your creation through the remaining staves.
When anchoring gravestones with a base, SIDE TO SIDE reinforcement essential. Trim the wire frame so it resembles a "U" shape, flip the "U" upside down and secure at the top of the tombstone and into the earth.
A SINGLE SUPPORT is often the only choice for difficult tombstones that have a thick base. Cut the wire frame into long lengths and spear the gravestone into the earth. Secure further by bending the top down so an "L" shape appears.
Step 5: Add Found Objects
If you don't have easily transformed accouterments, hit the thrift store and stock up on artificial flowers, knick-knack, doll body parts and interesting figurines that can be painted grey/black before securing to the headstones.