Soil Matters

How to Recycle a Pumpkin

11/02/2017

How to Recycle a Pumpkin_500x500Halloween is over. The candy has been traded or eaten, costumes and decorations are getting packed up, and you’ve started looking forward to Thanksgiving. Now you need to figure out what to do with those carved orange vegetables you used to decorate your front porch.

It may sound easy enough to throw them in the trash, but that would be a mistake! From an environmental point of view, tossing your pumpkins into a landfill can increase methane gas levels. Plus, you’ll be wasting an opportunity to re-use and recycle your pumpkins – creating no waste at all!

Before we show you how to re-use your pumpkins, please note one caveat to the no-trash rule: Over the past decade, painting, decorating, and sealing pumpkins have become trendy things to do. While that’s fun and festive, these pumpkins must go in the trash due to the toxic nature of the paint and decorations.

CARVED PUMPKIN

Compost It: Pumpkins are 90% water, so they start to decompose very quickly. One of the easiest ways to dispose of them is to compost them. Simply remove the seeds (unless you want to produce baby pumpkins later on) and throw them in your compost pile. Pumpkins are full of nutrients that your compost pile will eat up, making for great fertilizer in the spring.

If you do not have a compost pile, you can still reap the nutrient benefits. Try cutting up your pumpkins and placing pieces in the leftover dirt from your summer potted plants. Or bury them in the ground next to shrubs or bushes. The pumpkins will decompose, leaving nutrient-rich dirt for your plants.

Create a Snack for Wildlife: Animals are all around us, even in the suburbs. At night, you can expect deer, squirrels, fox, rabbits, and birds to party in your backyard. As long as you don’t mind attracting these critters, find an out-of-the-way spot to leave your pumpkins for them to enjoy.

Create a Birdfeeder: Give your feathered friends a treat before they head south for the winter. An easy and kid-friendly project is to create a birdfeeder out of the smaller pumpkins in your pile. Below are a few online how-to guides. You can create a birdfeeder from an uncarved pumpkin too.

Create a Pumpkin Bird Feeder
Pumpkin Bird Feeder Project

UNCARVED PUMPKIN

Harvest It: If your pumpkin has not been painted or carved, one of the best things to do is to eat it – seeds and all! There are a lot of websites and online videos that explain ways to do this, so search “how to make pumpkin puree” to find a method that works for you.

Pumpkin seeds make a very healthy snack. Simply wash the seeds, pat them dry, and toast them in the oven at 325 degrees F until lightly browned. You can use any seasoning you wish, such as cinnamon and brown sugar, or for a kick try cayenne pepper and sea salt.

Eat, Drink, Pumpkin: After you make that delicious pumpkin puree, start using it in the everyday foods you eat. The Penny Hoarder website has a great list of things you can make using pumpkin puree, including  lasagna, pickles, butter – even beer.

Create a Planter: This is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to decorate your home for Thanksgiving. Cut the top off the pumpkin, scoop out the guts and seeds, poke a hole in the bottom for drainage, and add dirt. Try planting seasonal flowers such as mums and pansies. (You may want to put a plant saucer or decorative planter under the pumpkin to catch water running out the bottom.) The pumpkin should last as a planter until the plants themselves start to die off. After that, toss everything into the compost pile!