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STX Gardener - Preserving pumpkins

Making that Jack-O-Lantern last through Halloween

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There are ways to make that scary work of art look fresh through the end of the Halloween season. South Texas Gardener Gabriel Vega stopped by to tell us some home tips to keep that pumpkin shining. 

  1. Remove all inside plant material other than the interior walls. This will mean the seeds and gunk from the inside. This plant matter should go in your compost bin or tumbler if you have the need.
  2. Or If you have the many benefits of owning some back yard chickens, feel free to give them the scraps as pumpkins are loaded with nutrients and vitamins such as A,B and C. Plus some chicken owners believe that ground pumpkin seeds can be used as a natural dewormer.
  3. Separate a couple hand fulls of seeds to plant later in the summer. These seeds that you have chosen will need to be washed and dried in a cool dry spot on top of a paper towel or wax paper for about a week. Then store in a paper envelope so we can plant them in the summer. Be sure that the seeds don't touch when drying so they don't stick together.
  4. Once the pumpkin is clean of all plant material we will need to soak the plant in a bleach solution. You will want to where gloves and eye protection when doing this. Use the dilution rate of 1 teaspoon to 1 gallon of water. you will typically need about 3 gallons of water to submerge a average size carved pumpkin so be sure to use a larger container like a 7 gallon container to account for displacement.
  5. Let the pumpkin sit in the bleach solution for about 4-6 hours. Make sure that the whole pumpkin is completely submerged. What we are accomplishing is the killing of of microorganisms that help with decomposition. So by neutralizing them we can slow the pumpkins decomposition rate along with hydration of the pumpkin, which is some what counter intuitive as higher humidity levels can speed the process of decomposition up.

    • If you don't want to soak your pumpkins in bleach and water you can use the same dilution rate and fill a spritz bottle and mist the entire surface area and exposed flesh at least once a day.
    • Remove your pumpkin from the bleach solution and dry with a paper towel. This step is very important as moisture will speed the decomposition rate.
    • Here is a super tip to use after giving your freshly carved pumpkins a bleach bath. Use vaseline to glaze the exposed flesh of your pumpkin. The two main culprits of pumpkin decay are lack of dehydration and mold. Well mold needs moisture to fester and a pumpkin needs water to not wilt. So using vaseline will allow for less moisture lost while adding a protective barrier from dirt that can infect your pumpkin with mold spores.
    • Use a led battery powered light for safer displays and to prevent dehydration of your pumpkins.
    • These tips will help to keep your pumpkin looking its best far a much longer time then going with out.

For saving pumpkin seeds;

1.Remove the pulp and seeds from inside the pumpkin. Place this in a colander.

2.As the water is running over the pulp use your hands to pull and separate the seeds and rinse them under the running water. Don't let the pulp sit on any washed seeds.

3. There is going to be a lot more seeds than one can plant next year so pick out about three times the amount that you would want to grow. When picking, go for the largest seeds as these will have the best results for germinating.

4. Take your seeds and place them on a paper towel, space them out so they don't touch. If they do touch, when drying the may stick together and when removed can damage the shell in some cases.

5. Let seeds dry in a cool dry area for about a week then store in a paper envelop till June which is when we can plant them.

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