10 Ways to Preserve Your Pumpkin Through Halloween

jack o lantern pumpkin on a porch

One of the best fall family activities is, by far, picking out the ultimate big, beautiful, orange pumpkin to either display as is or to carve into a Jack O'Lantern. But no matter what you're planning on doing with it, chances are you want your pretty pumpkin to at least make its way through Halloween ... and maybe even beyond!

 

Preventing your pumpkin from rotting can be a bit of a challenge, but you can set yourself up for success by choosing a pumpkin fit to carve. "The best pumpkin for carving would be a really nice, strong, sturdy one that has zero defects," explains gardening expert Shirley Bovshow of Eden Makers and star of Hallmark Channel's Home & Family. "If you find a pumpkin that looks really nice, but has soft spots or bruises here or there, that pumpkin is already degrading, and it goes downhill really fast!"

Once you've found the perfect pumpkin, there are many DIY preservation tricks you can try to protect your festive seasonal decor from decay.

jack o lantern pumpkin

Click below to check out some of the most buzzed-about options out there, and then tell us:

How have you managed to successfully preserve your pumpkins in the past?

 

Images via booleansplit/Flickr; shanntastic/Flickr

  • Hairspray

    1

    Just as quickly as it'll hold your hairstyle, hairspray is a beloved pumpkin preservative because it is also said to act as a critter repellant. You can spray both inside and outside of a carved pumpkin.

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  • Bleach solution

    2

    One of the most popular and potentially most effective ways to preserve a carved pumpkin: A bleach solution made from 2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water.

    "After carving a pumpkin, you have to wipe down the whole pumpkin, especially the cut areas," explains Bovshow. "Then spray your bleach solution completely over the flesh part. The reason for that is the bacteria and fungus grow in that area when the air touches it. The bleach cuts the germs."

    Bovshow recommends letting the sprayed pumpkin dry for a few hours and finishing up the job with Wilt-Pruf Plant Protector. "It is what they call an anti-dessicant, which means anti-drying," she explains. "It seals in the pumpkin's moisture."

    The upshot: "I would say most pumpkins start rotting within a couple of days, and Wilt-Pruf would double the time it keeps," Bovshow says.

  • Petroleum jelly

    3

    Coating the inside of your pumpkin and cut surfaces with petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) can help keep the pumpkin flesh from drying out. But bear in mind: "[Petroleum jelly] can be tough to smear on," notes Bovshow. "What I would suggest is: Spray a light coat of WD-40 first on the flesh, which will help the [jelly] adhere better."

  • White glue

    4

    Like the petroleum jelly, coating the inside and cut surfaces with white glue can help "seal" the pumpkin flesh and prevent dehydration.

  • Acrylic spray

    5

    Acrylic spray, which is moisture-resistant, is used to create a protective, permanent gloss coating on paper, ceramic, plaster, etc. But it can also be used on your pumpkin to stave off rotting and act as a barrier to mold growth.

  • Cool, dry environment

    6

    You can help preserve your pumpkin by keeping it in a cool, dry area, sheltered from rain, home sprinklers, or other moisture (which will trigger mold growth). "You want to avoid direct sunlight, as well, because the sun actually continues to dry it out," explains Bovshow. "That's why you let a pumpkin cure in the field for 10 days before bringing it inside."

    Speaking of bringing it inside, that's exactly what you'll want to do if temperatures dip. "If you're expecting a frost, cover or better yet, bring [the pumpkin] in for the night, so it doesn't freeze," says Kim Pezza of The New Century Homesteader and author of The Backyard Farming series. "Freezing of any sort will be the end of the pumpkin!"

  • Vegetable oil

    7

    After you carve your pumpkin, rub the cut areas and inside with a dry cloth and paint vegetable oil on those same areas with a brush to help extend a pumpkin's life, advise experts at Swan's Pumpkin Farm in Franksville, Wisconsin.

  • Flameless candles

    8

    When it's time to get your Jack O'Lantern glowing, opt for battery-operated tea lights or glow sticks as opposed to real candles. The extra heat from a candle can expedite rot and mold growth.

    "Candles totally dry out the pumpkin, too," says Bovshow. "And they are [especially] not a good idea after you've put bleach on it!"

  • Silica gel beads

    9

    You've probably seen packets of these before in shoes and shoe boxes or cat litter. Silica is a desiccant, which means it wicks away excess moisture. You can remove the beads from the packets (just be sure to keep them away from pets, as other ingredients in the product may be toxic), and embed them into the interior of your pumpkin.

  • Borax solution

    10

    You can also try mixing borax (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) with water (about teaspoon per gallon) and applying to your pumpkin, as you would the bleach solution. Borax kills bacteria and mold. But if you don't want to mix it up yourself, you can also buy a commercial preservative spray (like Pumpkin Fresh, which also includes preservative and fungicide sodium benzoate).

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