It’s the time of the year when pumpkins and other gourds are everywhere: in farmers markets and stores, in pies and baked goods, and sitting on porches as decorations or jack-o-lanterns!
However, those pumpkins don’t get to stick around forever. Whole pumpkins used for decoration might last for a while, but they’ll start to rot like any other vegetable. Carved jack-o-lanterns will start to droop and decompose even more quickly! Even when using pumpkins for baking, there will always be some extra seeds or innards left over.
So how can we dispose of these gorgeous gourds in a environmentally responsible way?
Image: Pumpkins at a supermarket in Clearfield County, courtesy Britt Madera
Send that jack-o-lantern back to nature! Pumpkins and their seeds can be nutritious snacks for birds and backyard critters. Your local wildlife will love this seasonal treat, but make sure that you’re giving it to them in a safe way.
Image: A pumpkin display at the Clearfield Fall Festival, courtesy Britt Madera
If you want to share your pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns with wildlife this season, consider these tips to be sure they are safe for wildlife and the environment:
If you’ve carved a jack-o-lantern, it may already be decomposing. Because pumpkins are mostly water, they are a great addition to your compost pile. Prevent unwanted pumpkin plants by removing the seeds first.
Collect seeds from your pumpkins before composting them and let the seeds dry. Don’t add salt or seasoning, just scatter the seeds outside or put them in a platform feeder as a special treat.
Don’t leave pumpkins in state parks, forests, or anywhere you don’t have permission.
Cut your pumpkin into pieces and scatter outside as a treat for local critters. Birds will feed on the flesh of the pumpkins in addition to the seeds, as will squirrels, foxes, and deer.
Don’t set out pumpkins or gourds that have been bleached, are painted, or have fake foliage or plastic decorations for wildlife, which can be toxic and harmful.
Re-use your pumpkin and turn it into a pumpkin feeder! Cut the pumpkin in half and fill with birdseed. You can use sticks, dowels, and rope to hang them from trees and create a custom feeder. This works best with fresh, firm pumpkins.
Established on July 1, 1995, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is charged with maintaining and protecting 121 state parks; managing 2.2 million acres of state forest land; providing information on the state’s ecological and geologic resources; and establishing community conservation partnerships with grants and technical assistance to benefit rivers, trails, greenways, local parks and recreation, regional heritage parks, open space, and natural areas. DCNR’s mission is to conserve and sustain Pennsylvania’s natural resources for present and future generations’ use and enjoyment. Learn more at DCNR.pa.gov.