MANASSAS, VA – If the jack-o-lanterns you carved from the best pumpkins plucked from fields and fields around Manassas look limp and sad this fall, they still have life.
While uncut pumpkins can last two to three months indoors, carved pumpkins usually only last a few days before they begin to decay. Streets and porches all over Manassas are often filled with the withered, sagging faces of jack-o-lanterns that are getting older by the minute.
But like the Christmas trees a few months later, there are many ways these pumpkins can be recycled that will help birds, wildlife, and the planet.
1. Share the seeds with birds and wildlife.
Pumpkin seeds are a healthy and popular snack for a wide variety of birds and wildlife, especially when the weather gets colder and food is harder to come by. When your pumpkin begins to soften and fade, collect the seeds inside and let them dry for about a day.
Don’t add any spices, not even salt, recommends Birds & Blooms.
Then sprinkle the seeds outside or put them in a bird feeder or bowl. If you live in an area with bears or other harmful predators, try placing the seeds at a higher level that only birds and smaller animals like squirrels and chipmunks can reach.
2. Make a ‘snack-o’-lantern’
You can also just cut out the middleman and turn the pumpkin itself into a “snack-o’-lantern pumpkin feeder,” according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Just take the pumpkin, cut it in half, scoop out the middle, and secure the top and bottom halves of the pumpkin with string and several wooden dowels.
Fill the bottom half with either bird seed, pumpkin seeds, or both. More detailed instructions from the National Wildlife Foundation can be found here.
3. Plant the seeds of the future pumpkins
You could also use the seeds for their intended purpose: making more pumpkins.
To store pumpkin seeds for the following year, place the pulp and the seeds of the pumpkin in a sieve according to gardening know-how. Wash over it with cold water and pick out some of the largest seeds.
Spread the rinsed seeds far apart on a dry towel and place that towel in a cool, dry place for a week.
Place the seeds in a seed pod and place the seed pod in a plastic container with several holes in the lid. Put this container in the back of a refrigerator and get ready to plant your own private pumpkin patch next year.
4. Make a hodgepodge of animals
Animals and birds love pumpkins as much as humans do, so why not give them a special treat? Just cut the pumpkin into small, bite-sized pieces and sprinkle them in a spot where you don’t mind local critters coming to snack on, advises the National Wildlife Federation.
Again, this is probably best to avoid if bears, foxes, coyotes, rats, or other predators and pests are a problem nearby.
5. Donate pumpkins to a local zoo
If you’d rather leave the animal feeding to professionals, consider donating the pumpkin scraps to a nearby zoo. Many zoos accept pumpkin donations after Halloween because they are a nutritious snack that most animals love.
6. Compost it
When your pumpkin is really on its proverbial last legs, put its nutrients back into the soil by composting it. Even if you don’t have a compost heap, you can put it in your yard, and many areas offer a community composting service. Just make sure that you take out all the seeds first so that a pumpkin patch doesn’t sprout improvised from the compost.