How to preserve pumpkins/jack-o’-lanterns without using bleach (wildlife safe)

Fall is right around the corner, which means that soon everyone will be decorating for Halloween! One of the most fun and common Halloween traditions is carving pumpkins for jack-o’-lanterns. How long your pumpkins or jack-o’-lanterns last depends on a few things, including the weather where you live and where you display them. Some people use bleach to preserve their pumpkins, but this is unsafe for wildlife and sometimes even fatal. Fortunately, there are a few natural, wildlife safe tricks to help keep those pumpkins looking great and fresh as long as possible.

For carved pumpkins, the first trick is to mix 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water and fully submerge your pumpkin in the vinegar bath for 20-30 minutes and then let it air dry out of direct sunlight. The vinegar will kill any bacteria or fungus that may cause the pumpkin to rot, but unlike bleach, is safe for wildlife. You can also put this solution in a spray bottle and spray your carved pumpkin periodically but make sure it can dry out in between sprays. You can also make a spray out of peppermint oil, which is a natural antifungal that works in a similar fashion. Just mix 1 tablespoon of peppermint oil per 1 quart of water.

Another trick to extend the life of a carved or uncarved pumpkin is to cover it with petroleum jelly, coconut oil, or olive oil. If your pumpkin is carved, make sure to get it in every nook and cranny! This creates a moisture barrier, which will keep it fresh longer.

Make sure to use battery operated candles instead of real candles. The heat from real candles will speed up the decomposition process and make your pumpkin rot faster. Also, where you place your pumpkin will determine how long it lasts. Your pumpkins need to be placed in a dry, shaded spot, like on a porch. This will keep them out of the rain and direct sunlight.