Pumpkins are the ultimate Fall decorating accessory. Whether you're adding them to your fireplace mantle, front porch or even your Fall tablescape, pumpkins are a sure sign that the season has officially arrived. If you're a purist, only real pumpkins will do when it comes to this Fall motif, and this means your perfect Fall arrangement or jack-o-lantern can't last forever. But just how long it will last depends on picking the right pumpkin and giving it a little bit of TLC.
Pumpkins on a Vine
If you're growing your own pumpkins, you may be concerned that your pumpkins will grow and ripen weeks before Halloween. First, you should make sure your pumpkins are still growing by measuring them every few days. Once they've stopped growing, they're safe to pick. You can tell if a pumpkin is ripe when it has reached that gorgeous, bright orange color (or other color, depending on the variety) and the skin has hardened.
Pick a Great Pumpkin
If you're heading to the store to pick out your pumpkin early, you need to watch out for a couple of things. Make sure you're choosing a pumpkin that doesn't have any holes or blemishes. These features can help to make your pumpkin even spookier, but they can lead to quicker rotting and even attract pests. You should also avoid pumpkins with soft flesh, as this could mean it has already started to rot.
Wash Your Pumpkin
Once you've picked your pumpkin, they usually last between 30 and 90 days. For the best results, be sure to wash your pumpkin in a mild chlorine solution. This gets rid of any bacteria on the pumpkin's surface. Bacteria can rot your pumpkin prematurely, so this is the most important step before storing your pumpkin.
Keep Your Pumpkin Cool & Dry
Let your pumpkin dry completely after washing it, and be sure to store it in a cool, dry and dark place if you don't need to use it right away. Heat and humidity will speed up the rotting process, so avoid hot and humid places like your garage. Garage floors should also be avoided because they, too, can speed up the rotting process.
Cure Your Pumpkin
If you're worried about your pumpkin lasting, there is a way to harden the skin even more. The skin acts as a protective layer to your pumpkin, and if it's given a chance to harden further then it creates an even better seal. While it seems counterintuitive, putting your pumpkin in a sunny window or in a greenhouse (albeit, not a humid one) can help it cure and develop a thicker skin. This can take up to a month, so it's more of a long-term solution if you really want to stretch out your pumpkin's life.
Carving vs. Painting
As we mentioned above, the skin of the pumpkin acts as a barrier to bacteria, and as soon as that barrier is broken, you risk quicker rotting. Unfortunately, carved pumpkins will only last about two weeks if they have adequate air circulation. The bigger the holes in the carving, the longer it will last. Otherwise, your pumpkin could rot within one week. If you want your pumpkins to last longer, consider decorating it with paint or other no-carve techniques. In combination with the above tips, your pumpkin could last all Fall!