Halloween has come and gone, but what should you do with the festively carved pumpkins at your home? Of the 1.4 billion pounds of pumpkin produced in the U.S. each year, the vast majority wind up in landfills. This adds an immense amount of organic material into the landfill. Typically, in a landfill, pumpkins get buried and rot in an environment that lacks oxygen, which creates the potent greenhouse gas methane.
So what else can you do with them?
Add them to a compost pile
Pumpkins are mostly made up of nearly 90% water and decompose quickly, making them ideal for composting. Even if you do not have an active compost pile, you can find a hidden spot for them in the yard to let them decompose. You should also remove all of the pumpkin’s seeds if you haven’t done so already. If you leave the seeds inside the pumpkin, new pumpkins may begin to grow within your compost pile. A blemish-free, uncarved pumpkin could last for months before it begins to break down. Chopping up the pumpkins help to speed up decomposition.
For local stories that matter, subscribe today.
If they haven’t been carved, they can stay on the porch through the holidays. You can use pumpkins as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving or a planter filled with fall flowers for your porch. A coat of spray paint and some ribbon or other decorations turns them into Christmas ornaments, snowmen, and other fun holiday items. There’s lots of ideas online!
Some local farms will take pumpkin donations to feed their animals. If you know someone with backyard chickens, they might take a few as a treat for their flock. Micke Grove Zoo is accepting pumpkins for their animals. Donated pumpkins need to be fresh. Carved pumpkins break down quickly and whole pumpkins that have been sitting in the sun on a porch for weeks can quickly become contaminated and shouldn’t be given to animals to eat. If you would like to donate yours to Micke Grove Zoo, Contact Trish Jackman at (209) 331-2510.
Feed wildlife with your pumpkins
You can feed the wildlife in your own backyard too. You can recycle your pumpkin and turn it into a snack-p-lantern. Split open the pumpkins so the yummy and nutritious flesh is exposed, and place them around your yard. Cut off the top half of the carved pumpkin and turn it into a festive bird feeder. Many birds and other small animals will eat pumpkin seed. You can collect them from your pumpkins before composting them and let them dry. Don’t add seasoning or salt if you are saving them for wildlife.
A common fall tradition is roasting pumpkin seeds but there are other uses in the kitchen for pumpkins. You’ll want to stick with pumpkins that have not been carved already. Many pumpkins are edible and can be used in pies, soups, breads and other recipes. Common Carving pumpkins have been bred for size and color rather than for taste but they are just as edible — although slightly less flavorful — than other varieties, such as sugar or pie pumpkins.
Save the seeds
You can save the pumpkin seeds to plant and grow next year. Scoop them out, rinse them off and put them on a paper towel to dry. You want them in a single layer, not touching. Leave them in a cool dry place for 3-4 weeks to make sure they are dry all the way through. Store them in a paper envelope until it’s time to plant next June or so. Keep in mind, that seeds from hybridized pumpkins may not grow into the same plant next year, you might get something totally different!
Finding ways to repurpose your pumpkin is a great way to give them a second life and keep them out of the landfill!
If you have gardening questions, contact the Master Gardeners at (209) 953-6112 or visit our website at ucanr.edu/sjmg.
This article originally appeared on The Record: 6 ideas to get new use out of your pumpkins after Halloween