October 9, 2014

Make Your Pumpkins Last Longer

Do you like to buy ornamental pumpkins and gourds to decorate
your home and yard for the Fall season?  Here are some tips to
help make those real and lovely pumpkins you invest in to go
the distance till Thanksgiving (hopefully). 

I could be the poster child for what NOT to do with pumpkins
and gourds that I purchased at my local farmer's market. 

Although I tried to check the pumpkins for flaws before I bought
them, either I missed a spot on this one or it got damaged on 
the way home in the car.  Also I left it outside in the carport for
several days thinking I would get around to using for decorating
in the house.  One day I was shocked to find the pumpkin sitting
in its own decay juice...a gross clean up AND $14 down the drain.

Another "no-no" I committed was to leave the cute little pumpkins
and gourds I purchased in the plastic bags the farmer put them in
for me at the curb market.  They also sat in the carport for several
days like that.  This is what happens when you commit that sin:

Clearly, I needed a pumpkin/gourd intervention.  I looked on the
internet for ways to keep these fruits of Fall last longer.

A couple of the best blog posts I found on this subject were
Embracing Homemaking.  Here is a compilation of those
tips plus a few (retrospective) ideas from me. 

Since I am a nurse, many of the suggestions on how to preserve
a pumpkin/gourd sounded like how to protect a human's skin
from getting an infection...there are many similarities. Think of 
the pumpkin/gourd's shell as its protective barrier much like a
human's skin (the largest organ of a human) is the protector of
our flesh and other organs and "holds everything together". 

In the following text I am going to write "pumpkin" but the same ideas relate to gourds too. 

First of all, when you are looking at pumpkins to purchase, be sure
to check for soft spots and small holes.  Soft spots could mean that
the pumpkin already has started rotting internally. 
Small holes might indicate that the pumpkin has (or has had) 
insect infestation. Stay away from these problems.  Either of 
these issues will mean that the pumpkin will not last very long. 

Also be aware of any nicks, fresh cuts or cracks in the pumpkin's
skin. Any break in the outer layer of the pumpkin is inviting mold
and/or bacteria growth which leads to an early demise. A person's
skin can recover from cuts but a pumpkin's cannot. 

Don't make the mistake (that I have) of after carefully selecting a
pumpkin to let it roll around in the car on the way home. The 
outer shell of the pumpkin can be damaged by YOU after 
it has made the trip from the field to the market unscathed.
Take along cushioning like beach towels, etc. to secure
the pumpkins  for their ride to your house for 
their moment of decorating glory. 

Here are the pumpkins/gourds I have left to work with after
cleaning up the rotten mess I allowed to happen:

The best way to keep a human's skin from getting an infection
holds true for a pumpkin's skin too...keep it clean. 

Wash the pumpkins with an all purpose and/or disinfectant cleaner.

You are removing bacteria and mold spores from the pumpkin's
skin which could cause problems in the future. This also allows
you to recheck the pumpkins for possible problems areas to watch.

Of course, you will be removing visible dirt from the field where
the pumpkin has been growing in this step and also preparing for 
the next important step in prolonging the life of your pumpkin.

      I never knew this before my research but soaking your pumpkins
in a water/bleach bath is very beneficial.  I think I might
 have used more bleach than recommended (an 8-second
 "pour"  of bleach into a water-filled storage container...
the recommended  ratio is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water)
 but it seems no harm done. 

This kills any hard cord bacteria or mold that was not destroyed
 by just wiping down the pumpkins with a cleaner. Soak the 
pumpkins about 30 minutes.  Most of my pumpkins floated so
I rotated them about 15 minutes each side (not exact but about).

For large pumpkins you may need to rotate and flip.

Pat the pumpkins dry when you take them out of the 
water/bleach solution.  Be sure to soak up the solution if it 
gathers/pools at the indentation of where the stem and 
pumpkin meet. Too much of the  water/bleach 
solution sitting on the pumpkin could be a negative.

After being such a bad pumpkin caretaker I tried to mend my 
ways by "babying" the remaining pumpkins.  I was careful not
to nick them with fingernails, I sat them down gently always and
 let them come in the house to dry out on a beach towel. 

Learn from my evil ways and never leave little gourds/pumpkins
in plastic bags. I'm surprized any of the little ones "lived" but 
they did.  Mold was the culprit in taking some of them.  Mold 
needs four things to propogate: mold spores, mold food, warm
temperatures and moisture...all of these were present in the 
plastic bags that I left them in.

  Most mold control strategies consist of a combination of 
reducing moisture and killing and removing active mold growth
colonies.  Keep that in mind in helping to preserve your gourds
and pumpkins and protect them from life-shortening mold. 

Here are the washed and bleached pumpkins "in action' in
my living room along the fireplace/bookcase wall" :

When I saw this unusual bromeliad plant at a nursery, I thought
that it embodied the colors of my Fall decorating this year.  

Lots of green (walls, sofa and Jarrahdale pumpkins) with
off whites (all trim/bookcases, chair/ottoman and white
 pumpkins) with splashes of orange (in rug, pillows, artwork
 and Cinderella pumpkin).
The "One Too Many" pumpkin also has a good mix of these
colors.  One grower of these pumpkins said that she did not 
know why they named it that...she thought there could never
be enough of these pumpkins.  Apparently she does not drink
and know what a blood-shot eyeball looks like the morning
 after one-too-many drinks...bless her heart. 

Above that pumpkin are more survivors.

Sometimes the top of the pumpkin is the most interesting part.
Try turning the pumpkin on its side so folks can see it. 

I love this orange and green Cinderella pumpkin.  It is mixed 
with two not-so-real pumpkins and vines from the woods.

The pumpkins in the chicken wire cages on the top shelf don't
have to worry about mold destroying them either. 

The top shelf of the other bookcase holds green pumpkins
 also on their sides along with a metal angel.

The natural design on the bottom of this peach-colored
 pumpkin was just too interesting to not display.

This multi-colored Cinderella-shaped pumpkin didn't have much
of a stem.  Through engineering and super glue it now has a 
wild and crazy stem/vine grafted onto it.  I didn't want to pierce
the stem even (and maybe allow infection to start) so I glued it on.

The glue was not drying very fast and I got impatient holding it.
I devised a twine holder to keep it steady while the glue dried.

It worked!

The artwork over the mantle is a print-made-to-look-like-painting
that I made last Autumn.  I needed smaller taller gourds to go on
the large candlesticks since the "painting" is large.

A chubbier gourd sits amoung the gathered deer antlers. 

I'm hoping that my clean and disinfected pumpkins (non-cut)
will last all the way through Thanksgiving inside the house. 

A lot of you will be carving real pumpkins.  Of course, this cuts
down on how long they will last dramatically.  I did find an
interesting blog post about making even carved pumpkins last
as long as possible.  They also dipped the carved pumpkin in a
water/bleach solution to inhibit mold with good results. 

The orange more traditional pumpkins that I have bought to use
outside in the yard only cost about $5 each at the grocery store.
I didn't know about the cleaning and bleaching trick when I put
them out.  They will just have to hope for the best. 

I tried growing real pumpkins in these beds but that did not
work out well.  Finally I just bought sweet potato vines to 
simulate pumpkin vines and added the store-bought pumpkins. 

I don't know if these non-coddled pumpkins will last till
Thanksgiving since they are in the heat and weather but they
look like they will make it to Halloween for sure. 

Hope these tips make your pumpkins go the distance too!

I am sharing this post over at 
French Country Cottage's Feathered Nest Friday
The Charm of Home's Home Sweet Home
AKA Design's Weekend Retreat Link Party
Design Dining Diapers' Inspiration Gallery 
Tater Tots and Jello's Link Party Palooza
The Girl Creative's DIY Inspired Link Party
Under The Table and Dreaming's Sunday Showcase
Boogieboard Cottage's Masterpiece Monday


  1. Gayle I just lost a $16 pumpkin and I only had it for about 2 weeks...mine too got a dig on the car ride home and that's where it started to rot! LOVE LOVE LOVE the displays on your bookshelves...so pretty!!

  2. Love your decor with all pumpkins, very pretty.

  3. Gayle, Thanks for sharing this info. I can't tell you how many pumpkins I have bought that rotted almost right away. They look wonderful displayed in your bookcases and I love the pumpkin patch.

  4. Beautiful display all throughout! Thanks for the tip on preservation....Christine

  5. Hi Gayle, Your pumpkins and Fall living room are so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this information on how to make our pumpkins last, I'm always going to use this method now. I'm featuring your post this week on Masterpiece Monday. Have a blessed week, Mary

  6. first of all, your displays are so gorgeous, both inside and out. second, i hope your non-coddled pumpkins last until thanksgiving, too. i just had to throw all my little ones on the stairs out. i wiped them all over with vasoline to keep the squirrels away, which has worked since early september, but i realized that they were all moldy now. i got a good month out of them, at least. enjoy yours!


Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to comment on my blog!

© Miss Kopy Kat. Design by FCD.