Turning last night’s jack-o’-lantern into compost, and other morning-after pumpkin options

Instead of throwing last night’s Halloween jack-o’-lantern into the trash, some industrious people are turning old, burned-out carved pumpkins into compost.

Composting not only helps your garden, it also reduces food waste — including rotting pumpkins — in landfills. The U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce estimates 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills each year.

Here’s how to get a pumpkin ready for composting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Remove the candle wax, paint, glitter, ribbons and other nonorganic decorations from the pumpkin.
  • Clean out all the pulp and seeds, because if you include them in a compost pile, new pumpkin plants will likely sprout. (If you want to plant some seeds next year, wash off the pulp, dry them on paper towels and store them in a paper bag until next planting season)
  • Smash or cut up the pumpkin into small pieces, which speeds up decomposition.
  • Mix the smaller pieces of pumpkin into your compost pile. Using a rake or shovel can be helpful in getting the new pumpkin scraps into the hot, steamy parts of the already-decomposing pile.

If the idea of starting a compost pile is too daunting, there are other less labor-intensive ways to put your pumpkin to good use.

Cutting the pumpkin into chunks and leaving them in your yard will attract deer, squirrel, raccoons, and birds. If those animals are pests, some farms will be willing to feed crunchy rinds to cows, pigs, horses and goats.

Some people use the carved-out pumpkin as flower pot — offering a natural place to house plants.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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