Earlier this week, I came home from a local farm, with a trunk load of beautiful pumpkins. Because it’s still mid-September, and I want these to last as long as possible, I took some steps to preserve them before getting them set up in my Fall Front Porch design.
Trim the stems if necessary
A couple of my pumpkins had excessively long stems, or a stem with a rotten spot on it. Before you do anything else to your pumpkins, make sure the stems are the length you prefer (especially if you’re going to stack them), and that you’ve trimmed away any rotten or moldy parts of the stem. You don’t want the mold to grow and cause decay of the pumpkin.
I just used my garden shears to clip the bad part away.
Clean & disinfect your pumpkins
Next, you want to clean your pumpkins well, removing any dirt or mud left from the pumpkin patch. I just used a wet cloth to wipe away the dirt.
Now, it’s time to disinfect your pumpkins.
Things you will need:
- bleach (or vinegar if you want a non-toxic option)
- a spray bottle OR a bucket/bowl to hold your bleach/water mixture
- an old wrag or paper towels
Mix 1 part bleach with 3 parts water. I poured mine into an empty spray bottle, but you could also mix the solution in a bowl/bucket and dip your wrag into it. If you use vinegar, I’d use it full-strength, without the water mixed in.
Spray the entire surface of your pumpkin with the bleach/water solution (or dampen your cloth in the bleach mixture) and wipe down the entire shell of the pumpkin thoroughly.
Pay special attention to making sure the stem and the blossom spot on the bottom are both sprayed with bleach solution.
The bleach kills any bacteria or fungal spores on the pumpkin’s rind and stem, preventing premature rot.
Let the pumpkins dry completely before proceeding to the next step.
Seal with a clear spray paint
I used a satin finish, which gave my pumpkins just a very slight sheen, but you can use whatever you prefer or have on hand. If you want your pumpkins shiny, go for a glossy spray. If you want them to look very natural, use a matte spray.
Coat each pumpkin with a nice even spray of your clear paint on all surfaces, including the stem and blossom spot on the bottom. The goal is to give the pumpkins a good seal, and keep any moisture or bacteria from entering and beginning the rotting process.
One of my white pumpkins had a little bit of a blemish, and I made sure to go back and give that particular spot an extra coat after the first was dry, to make sure I sealed it as well as possible. Any knicks or holes in the rind will be the first spots that start to soften, so make sure to coat them well with your sealant, without over-saturating.
I sprayed the top halves of my pumkins and let the spray dry for about 30 minutes, before rolling them all over and spraying the bottom halves.
After another 30 minutes, they were dry and ready to be used in my Front Porch Decor!
Protect Your Pumpkins From Extreme Weather
The cleaning/bleaching/sealing process can extend the life of your pumpkins by several weeks, but extreme weather is also a danger to your pumpkins, causing them to decay at a faster-than-average rate.
If temperatures in your area are extremely warm, or below freezing, don’t leave your pumpkins out in the elements.
If we have an extra hot spell in the early fall after I’ve decorated with pumpkins, I try to move them into the shade during the hottest part of the day.
As we move into late fall, I set my pumpkins inside the garage on nights that are projected to drop below freezing.
By following the proper cleaning and sealing steps, as well as protecting my pumpkins from extreme weather, I’m hoping to keep them usable for my fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving decor. The goal is to not have to throw them away until I’m ready to put out my Christmas greenery!
Can you believe I just said, “Christmas”?! 😳
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