It’s fun while it lasts, but the job of protecting our homes against vampires and chasing off evil spirits is done after Halloween night…..What to do with all those jack-o’-lanterns? Rather than throwing an unwanted pumpkin in the trash, here are some tricks* that make good use of it and keep the treats coming a little while longer.
*Editor’s Note: Toxins in paint can be harmful to people and wildlife; therefore, these pumpkin recycling suggestions apply to jack-o’-lanterns and other pumpkins used for holiday decoration that have not been painted.
A fundamental of organic farming is a nutrient-rich compost that’s made of recycled and decomposed “green” waste materials, such as leaves, grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, and food waste.
Pumpkins breakdown and decompose quickly because they are 90% water. To avoid sprouting pumpkin plants in your compost pile, make sure all seeds have been removed from your jack-o’-lantern before throwing it in your compost bin. If you don’t compost, check with gardening friends and neighbors, community gardens and farms about donating pumpkins.
Starting a compost project at home, indoors or outside, is easy, good for your garden soil and the environment. For the best results, first read up on the basics [EPA website: “Composting at Home Basics “, and for more composting info & gardening tips, check out this ⇒ Book Selection ], and get the right equipment [Click here to see selection of handy kitchen food scrap bins and a variety of garden composters ⇒ SHOP ].
SEED & FEED
You’ve got to pull away the seeds from the stringy, slimy pumpkin flesh, rinse them off in a colander, then let dry a bit (not on paper or cloth because they’ll stick). You can, of course, roast the seeds for a crunchy snack as it’s easy enough to spread them on a baking sheet, coat with oil, sprinkle with seasonings, and bake in 350F/180C preheated oven for 10 minutes. However, there are probably some hungry birds outside. Why not give them a treat?
For the BIRDS: Take the clean, dry pumpkin seeds, don’t add a thing—no salt, oil, or seasoning, and no roasting, and simply place them outdoors on a flat surface, tray, or shallow bowl, or mix with commercial bird seed. Watch happy birds chow down.
For PLANTING: You can also save some of the pumpkin seeds for planting next spring. If your gardening space is limited or nonexistent, try growing pumpkin plants in 5-10 gallon buckets. Learn more about planting, growing and harvesting pumpkins from the Farmer’s Almanac.
CUT UP for CRITTERS
Animals (deer, rabbits, squirrels) enjoy eating pumpkin as much as we do. Just cut the pumpkin into pieces and leave outside (away from the house & best near trees) for your neighborhood wildlife. Easy! But…. if you’ve decorated you’re jack-o’-lantern with paint, plastic or anything else that could be toxic to animals, this is not any option.
Give the wild things in your backyard a cozy winter home ⇒ Ideas for creating wildlife homes
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Sad old jack-o’-lantern photo by Flickr user, Seth Halstead, CC BY-NC 2.0