Halloween is over. The candy traded or eaten, costumes and decorations packed up, and you're looking forward to turkey at Thanksgiving. But what do you do with those carved orange vegetables you used to decorate the front porch?
Don't throw those pumpkins in the trash. You'll miss great opportunities 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: Painting, decorating, and sealing pumpkins may be fun and festive, these but pumpkins must go in the trash due to the toxic nature of the paint and decorations.
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.
Leave a Snack for Wildlife: As any gardener knows, even in the suburbs you can expect deer, squirrels, fox, rabbits, and birds 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 Bird Feeder: Give your feathered friends a treat before they head south for the winter. An easy and kid-friendly project is to create a bird feeder out of the smaller pumpkins in your pile. You can create a bird feeder from an uncarved pumpkin too.
Harvest It: If your pumpkin has not been painted or carved, one of the best things to do is eat it! Pumpkin puree is a very versatile way to use your pumpkin. There are a lot of websites and videos that explain ways to do this.
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 kick up the flavor with 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!