Fall

assorted fall pumpkins sitting on a front porch
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Where To Throw Away Pumpkins When They're Rotting On Your Porch

Think beyond the garbage can.

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It simply wouldn’t be Halloween without jack-o’-lanterns and afternoon strolls around pumpkin patches with the fam. No matter how gross it feels to dig out those seedy pumpkin innards or how difficult it can be to carve the perfect ghoulish grin in its rind, a glowing jack-o’-lantern (or three) on the front porch or windowsill is worth all the effort. But what are you supposed to do with it once November hits? If you don’t know exactly how to dispose of pumpkins after Halloween, you’re definitely not alone.

More than one billion pounds of pumpkins get thrown away and left to rot in U.S. dumps each year, which contributes to the 35.3 million tons of annual food waste that ends up in landfills, according to data from the EPA. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy warns that, when left to decompose in a landfill, your seasonal Halloween pumpkins become known as municipal solid waste, which then turns into methane — a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change by producing more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Turns out, though, you don't have to throw your jack-o’-lantern in the trash after Halloween. If you want to be a little more green, knowing how to dispose of pumpkins after Halloween will spark plenty of sustainable and creative ideas to recycle your gourd. When the candy is all gone and you go to toss the carved or uncarved pumpkins that you’ve been proudly displaying all October long, think twice before you simply throw them in the garbage can. Instead, here’s how you can save your pumpkin from the dump.

How To Properly Dispose Of Your Pumpkin

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One of the easiest solutions to figuring out how to dispose of pumpkins after Halloween is finding a local community-based collection organization that will simply take them off your hands. Pumpkins are full of nutrients and water that, when decomposed, are great for soil, and they can be used in parks, gardens, and farms in the form of natural fertilizer. However, if you have a garden, you can also just do this yourself.

Tossing leftover pumpkins into your garden soil is a great way to fertilize your own backyard garden or greenhouse, as well as a fun means to plant some pumpkin seeds that will hopefully grow more future gourds. If you don’t want any rogue pumpkins growing next year, though, make sure your pumpkin is free of seeds before adding it to the garden.

If you want to enrich your soil, but you don’t necessarily want to stare at an entire rotting squash for weeks, you can always cut it up into smaller pieces and bury your pumpkin in shallow holes in your garden. The pumpkin will break down and enrich the soil with nutrients. You can try this with larger indoor plants, too, but the smell might not be the most pleasant as the material breaks down.

Additionally, if you already have a compost bin, you can just throw the pumpkin in it. And if you don’t have one, maybe your leftover pumpkins can be the catalyst for you to set one up. Make one yourself or use resources such as CompostNow to get started with your own at-home composting bin.

What To Do With Old Pumpkins

There are also plenty of methods to salvage parts of your pumpkins and put them to good use, apart from simply fertilizing your garden. If you’re unsure what to do with your pumpkin and when, make sure you figure out the state of your aging gourd before using it for any arts and crafts.

Should the pumpkin be uncarved, you have plenty of options to use the inside of it in delicious pumpkin recipes or DIY projects. If you opted for carved jack-o’-lanterns, you can always leave the hollowed-out pumpkins outside for animals, but be on the lookout for rot and mold.

If your pumpkin is rotting, opt for just throwing it in your compost bin. Any sign of mold indicates that your pumpkin should be composted rather than repurposed, and the mold may be harmful to animals or plants if left outside in a garden. Additionally, if you painted your pumpkin, don’t give it to animals or use it in any recipes, as paint can be toxic if ingested. And for composting, make sure to remove any candles, decorations, and painted areas on the gourd first.

Given all of that criteria, if your pumpkin is in good condition for use outside of composting, below you’ll find a list of ideas for how to repurpose your Halloween decor.

Roast The Seeds

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When you’re carving out and prepping your pumpkin for its jack-o’-lantern makeover, make sure to save the seeds so that you can make roasted pumpkin seeds for a yummy, crunchy snack this fall season. Once you remove the pulp and entangle the raw seeds from the pumpkin with a spoon, give the seeds a rinse in a colander to remove any excess stringy bits, and make sure to dry them completely with a towel to ensure extra crispiness. Then season the seeds with olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever spices you’re feeling before you spread them evenly on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven.

Puree It

Pumpkin spice, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin bread all have the same origin: pumpkin puree. It’s used in almost every festive pumpkin dish you can make, and while you can buy canned versions, recycling your jack-o’-lantern into a puree is a wonderful way to spice up your Thanksgiving spread and impress everyone at the party.

Plus, did you know that pumpkins contain vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, and plenty of antioxidants? You can also take the homemade pumpkin puree and make simple pumpkin face masks to help nourish your skin as the weather gets colder.

Make Veggie Stock

Another way to repurpose pumpkin trim and guts is to use them to make either pure pumpkin stock or general vegetable broth. If you’re new to homemade veggie stock, it’s a great, sustainable way to use up vegetable scraps and save a few bucks you’d normally spend on the ingredient at the supermarket.

Simply throw all the leftover pumpkin trimmings and other veggie scraps — such as onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, corn, mushrooms, and more — into a pot, cover them with water, and let simmer for at least half an hour. Then strain out the solids from the liquid and let it cool. Now you have a hearty veggie broth to use in so many savory dishes, be it soup, risotto, or anything in between.

Craft A Bird Feeder

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If your pumpkin is mold-free, you can fill it up with bird seed and set it out in your yard to make a pumpkin feeder for all the local birds and nighttime critters. Wildlife will flock to the pumpkin for the seeds, but they’ll also eat the gourd itself. In no time, your pumpkin will be gone, and the animals will have full bellies heading into winter.

Make Pumpkin Chips

If your pumpkin's skin is still nice and orange, try making some pumpkin chips. Peel the skin, sprinkle with some spices, and let dry out in a dehydrator or throw in the oven. You can serve the chips at your next get together, or binge on them while you watch your favorite autumn shows and movies this season.

As long as you’re checking for rot and mold on your pumpkin first, it’s totally fine to give the gourd a second life. Minimize waste and have a little fun in the process. Who said a pumpkin’s only role is to sit on the porch?