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Tips for Saving Jack-o'-Lanterns and Preserving Your Pumpkins to make them last longer

A Jack O Lantern on a table.
An illuminated Jack O Lantern.

As the air turns crisp, and the leaves don their vibrant hues, there's one thing that marks the arrival of autumn more than anything else – pumpkins. These iconic gourds are not only a symbol of the season but also the canvas for one of Halloween's most beloved traditions: carving Jack-o'-lanterns. But after the spooky celebrations are over, what can you do to ensure your carved creations and leftover pumpkins last as long as possible? In this blog post, we'll explore some tips and tricks to extend the magic and preserve your pumpkins.

Choose the Right Pumpkin

The preservation process starts with selecting the right pumpkin. Look for a fresh, healthy pumpkin with a sturdy stem. A strong stem helps keep the pumpkin fresher for longer.

Carve with Care

When it comes to carving Jack-o'-lanterns, be mindful of the design. The more intricate the design, the faster your pumpkin may deteriorate. Opt for simpler patterns to prolong its life.

A wooden spoon removing pumpkin seeds.
Remove all "pumpkin guts" and seeds prior to preserving your pumpkin for the best results.

Clean the Interior

Before carving, thoroughly clean out the pumpkin's interior, removing all seeds and stringy pulp. A clean interior reduces the chances of mold and rot.

Fresh squeezed lemons.
Fresh lemon juice is the best. Bottled lemon juice can lose its potency as it sits on the store shelf.

Preserve with Lemon Juice

After carving, spray the interior and cut the edges of your Jack-o'-lantern with lemon juice. Lemon juice acts as a natural preservative and helps prevent mold and bacterial growth. You will want to use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per quart of water. A bleach bath or bleach spray can also help extend the life of your jack-o-lantern, but it's not as effective. Lemon juice stops the oxidation, while bleach kills microbes and bacteria that can down the pumpkin. If you opt for a bleach bath, you will not be able to feed your pumpkins to any animals or use them for compost.

Several small pumpkins in a dark setting.
Pumpkins can last longer in cool and dark areas, bring your Jack O Lanterns in during the day and put them out at night to extend their life. Uncarved pumpkins and winter squash can last up to a year or longer if kept indoors in a cool and dark enviornment.

Keep It Cool

Store your carved pumpkin in a cool, dry place when not on display. Cooler temperatures slow the decomposition process. If possible, refrigerate it overnight.

A Jack O Lantern sprayed with Acrylic gloss.
This pumpkin was sprayed with a clear glossy acrylic spray to make it last longer. Glossy or matt finish will work to preserve your pumpkins longer.

Consider a Pumpkin Preservative Spray

There are commercially available pumpkin preservative sprays that can help extend the life of your Jack-o'-lantern. Follow the product instructions for the best results. The most common are acrylic sealants that are available in gloss and matte finish. We love Aleene's brand. They are a smaller company, but the product quality is perfect for pumpkins.

Acrylic Matt Finish Spray For Pumpkin Preservation-> (Amazon)

Acrylic Gloss Finish Spray for Pumpkin Preservation-> (Amazon)
A Jack O Lantern with a small LED tea light inside.

Light with LED Candles

While the warm, flickering glow of a real candle is charming, it can hasten the decomposition of your Jack-o'-lantern. Consider using LED candles or battery-operated lights to achieve the same effect without the heat.

LED lights are available online, they illuminate your jack-o-lanterns with a bright dome-style light and will not burn or drip wax like traditional candles. There is also a 50-pack of LED tea lights that mimic a candle flame, with each candle lasting up to 150 hours. These can be used to make pumpkin luminaries as well.

LED lights for Jack O Lanterns w/remote-> (Amazon)

50 LED Tealights for Jack O Lanterns-> (Amazon)

Pumpkins composting with other various scraps.
Remove seeds from pumpkins prior to composting in order to avoid volunteers from popping up wherever you place your compost.

Compost or Recycle

Once your Jack-o'-lantern has reached the end of its life, don't forget to compost it. Pumpkins make excellent compost material. You can also check if your local recycling program accepts pumpkins for recycling. Make sure you remove the seeds or you will have numerous pumpkin volunteers popping up next season. Also, make sure your pumpkins are free from disease prior to composting them so your compost doesn't get contaminated.

By following these tips, you can extend the magic of your Jack-o'-lantern and enjoy the autumnal beauty of your pumpkins for as long as possible. So, carve your pumpkin masterpieces, illuminate the night, and savor the season's delights while preserving its symbols of fall. Happy Halloween and happy pumpkin preserving!

What have you tried to do to preserve your pumpkins and what was the result?

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