Ask a Local Master Gardener: How to reuse your Halloween jack-o-lantern

  • A post-Halloween pumpkin can find a second life. PROVIDENCE JOURNAL VIA TNS/BOB BREIDENBACH

For the Gazette
Published: 11/8/2019 4:02:43 AM
Modified: 11/8/2019 4:02:30 AM

Q: What can I do with my pumpkin jack-o-lanterns now that Halloween is done? Can I compost them or reuse them somehow? —J. S., Leeds

A: Absolutely! Pumpkins came from the soil and to the soil they can return. Just make sure to remove any goblin goop and glitter first. Here are a few post-Halloween options:

Have a compost pile? A compost pile is a perfect place for pumpkins past their prime. To properly compost a pumpkin, remove any and all accessories such as candles, wax, glue, glitter, stickers, ribbons, and other non-natural decorations. Waxed, painted or otherwise coated pumpkins cannot be composted. Basically, you only want to compost the original pumpkin. Remember to scoop out any seeds inside lest you end up with a pumpkin patch next summer where your compost pile used to be!

Once cleaned, either toss the whole pumpkin into the compost pile or cut it into smaller pieces to decompose faster. Pumpkin shells are pretty tough stuff, so a friendly pumpkin smash is a fun way to break them into smaller bits.

No compost pile, but have a garden? Dig a hole in the garden, bury the pumpkin, cover it up with soil and it will become worm food and decompose over time.

No garden or compost pile? Contact your local town or city’s recycling center or Department of Public Works to learn if they have a pumpkin disposal service. The City of Northampton is hosting an Autumn Reuse and Recycling Rally Saturday morning, Nov. 9, at Smith Vocational High School for Northampton residents where they will accept clean/unpainted/unvarnished Jack-o-lanterns and gourds. See northamptonma.gov for details.

Looking for a creative reuse option? Try making a “snack-o-lantern.” This is one for the birds (and, really, the squirrels too). Transform your clean and cleaned out pumpkin into a bird feeder. Do not use moldy pumpkins — they go in the compost bin. To make it, cut pumpkin in half, scoop out the insides and place two small, thin sticks across the clean inside as bird perches. Next, hang it up. One hanging method is to cross two lengths of rope around the outside of the pumpkin, attach or tack the crossed area securely to the outside bottom of the pumpkin, and hang it in your desired feeder location. Ideally, place away from the house in a spot where birds will feel safe and where you are okay with a bit of birdseed mess from enthusiastic visitors. Fill the pumpkin with enough birdseed to last a few days so it stays clean and does not get moldy.

Hope this helps, J.S. Thanks for asking a (Local) Master Gardener.

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at AskAMasterGardener@wmmga.org. One question will be answered per week. wmmga.org.


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