How to Preserve a Pumpkin Without Harming Wildlife

Keep your pumpkins looking plump and porch-perfect throughout fall with these proven preservation techniques.

By Gretchen Heber and Manasa Reddigari and Bob Vila | Updated Oct 8, 2021 11:11 AM

How to Preserve a Pumpkin

Photo: istockphoto.com

The scariest sight on your porch this Halloween might not be the ghoulish grin on your Jack-o’-Lantern’s face, but rather the rot, mold, and mildew—and the creepy crawlers—that inevitably invade it. Like most produce, whole pumpkins decompose naturally with exposure to air, water, and pests, and the openings in carved pumpkins cause them to decay even more quickly. This decay is exacerbated by weather, which can contribute greatly to deterioration. Repeatedly hauling pumpkins in and out of the house to avoid temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or below 32 degrees) isn’t much of a solution.

Fortunately, pumpkin lovers have non-back-breaking options. In fact, anyone who is eager to make his or her porch decoration last through Thanksgiving—or even just till the neighborhood trick-or-treaters arrive—has the means to do so already at home. You can slow its decay, maintain its appearance, and not endanger wildlife nibblers by employing one or more of these methods for how to preserve a pumpkin.

RELATED: How to Keep Squirrels Away from Pumpkins

how to preserve a carved pumpkin

Photo: istockphoto.com

Preserving a Carved Pumpkin

A pile of pulp in a carved pumpkin is an invitation for fungi, bacteria, fruit flies, and other pests to enter through the cutouts and feed on your Jack-o’-Lantern. Prevent your pumpkin from turning into a rot-, mold- and pest-riddled mess by scouring the pumpkin walls and base with a spoon to loosen the fibers and seeds, then turning the pumpkin upside down over a large bowl and dumping out the contents. If you don’t have any plans to eat the pumpkin pulp after carving, you can just as easily siphon out the pumpkin guts with a wet vac. But don’t let that pumpkin pulp go to waste—it makes excellent food for your garden later if you drop it into the indoor composting bin or backyard pile. FMCP’s IM4000 Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter, a top performer in our researched guide to the best compost tumblers, is roomy enough to accommodate pulp, seeds, and eventually the whole pumpkin.

Method 1: Coat the pumpkin in a spicy oil.

how to preserve a pumpkin

Photo: istockphoto.com

Supplies

Give your jack-o’-lantern a glossy shine and resistance to decay with a spicy coating of vegetable oil. The oil has preservation qualities, and mixing it with hot sauce (like Tabasco or Frank’s) makes it less appealing to would-be wildlife snackers. Simply mix the two ingredients and apply to all surfaces with a rag. Be sure to thoroughly coat the cut edges, and give the inside a good coating, too.

RELATED: 29 Bewitching Ways to Decorate a Pumpkin

Method 2: Apply a DIY anti-fungal spray to the gourd.

Supplies

This preservation method not only repels bugs and critters, but it also adds a fresh scent to your porch. Every night, dry the outside of the pumpkins with an old rag, then lightly spray the inside and outside of the pumpkin with this homemade anti-fungal solution made with one tablespoon of peppermint castile soap and four cups of plain water. Shake the mix in a plastic spray bottle and spray liberally.

RELATED: 9 Ways to Decorate with Pumpkins, Indoors and Out

how to preserve a carved pumpkin

Photo: istockphoto.com

Preserving an Uncarved Pumpkin

Keeping a whole pumpkin shipshape is even easier than preserving a cut pumpkin, though both endeavors are a bit messy. Again, hot sauce is a fall decorator’s best friend, because it keeps squirrels and other critters from eating your pumpkins without harming the animals.

Method 1: Rub a mix of petroleum jelly and hot sauce on the pumpkin.

how to preserve a pumpkin

Photos: istockphoto.com

Supplies

You’ll get your hands dirty using this method, but it’s effective. Mix petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) with some red hot sauce and spread a thin coat over the pumpkin’s surface, taking care to coat the entire pumpkin. You can use a spatula or knife to spread the mixture but, honestly, your hands work best. The petroleum jelly will aid in preservation, and the hot sauce will ward off curious animals. (Petroleum jelly isn’t fatal for animals, but if animals ingest a lot of it you can expect a plethora of unpleasant droppings all over your lawn.) From an aesthetic perspective, you’ll get a pretty, shiny pumpkin with an enhanced orange-red color.

RELATED: How to Grow Pumpkins

Method 2: Soak the pumpkin in a vinegar solution.

how to preserve a pumpkin

Photo: istockphoto.com

Supplies

Another excellent way of preserving pumpkins is to pickle them! Fill a tub or other container with a mixture of 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar. Fully immerse your pumpkins and other gourds and allow them to soak for 30 minutes. Pull them out, allow them to air dry and put them on display!