You planted your pumpkin seeds, and Mother Nature was kind: Now your vines are loaded up with pumpkins. After weeding, feeding, and watching for bugs, you're so ready for the harvest. Or maybe you're planning to pick up your pumpkin at the local farmer's market or pumpkin patch for decorating or creating our best pumpkin recipes. Either way, make sure to choose a pumpkin with no bruises, smooshy spots, nicks, or cuts, which will reduce their lifespan (especially if you want to display them, not eat them).
Here's what else you can do to prevent pumpkins from rotting on the vine if you're growing them— as well as tips for how to keep a carved pumpkin from turning mushy long before Halloween.
How Long Do Pumpkins Last?
Before you even pick your gourds, understand that their lifespans vary based on whether or not you cut into them. Uncarved pumpkins can last two to three months if kept out of the hot sun or freezing temperatures. Carved pumpkins may last only a few days, so time your carving accordingly if you want to display them on Halloween.
How to Prevent Pumpkin Rot on the Vine
Water just until fruit appears. "Pumpkins like slightly more irrigation at the flowering stage for proper fruit development," says Patty Buskirk, lead plant breeder and horticulturist at Seeds by Design. "Keep a steady irrigation schedule until the fruit are set, then cut the water off completely when the fruit begin to turn color to reduce rotting risk."
Let nature do her thing. Pumpkins set lots of flowers then drop the fruit the plant can't sustain to maturity. It's fine to leave any mushy fruit on the vines, but gently lift the healthy pumpkins and place them on a small wooden box, straw nest, or small pallet to protect them from getting too wet, says Buskirk.
Try raised beds and hills. If you have loads of problems with rotting fruit, try planting in raised bed planters or hills about 3 to 4 feet wide next year. Sow about 3 to 4 seeds per planter or hill, then thin to one or two plants. When the pumpkins are set, place the fruits up on the tops of the planters or beds, which allows the extra water to run off. In smaller gardens, you can grow pumpkins vertically on a trellis or fence, providing additional support for heavy fruit by making little hammocks from bean or pea netting.
How to Prevent Carved Pumpkins From Rotting
Wash down the outside before carving. Keep your carved pumpkin safe from squishiness by wiping down the outside with a diluted bleach solution before carving. This will remove microbes that cause decay. Remove every bit of pulp so you won't attract any bugs, then wipe down all surfaces, inside and out, after you finish your masterpiece.
Stay cool. Keep your carved pumpkin out of direct sunlight and refrigerate it for up to ten days when not on display, especially if you live in a warmer climate.
Choose battery-operated LED lights. Instead of a candle or traditional light strands, which throw too much heat and contribute to rotting, opt for flameless candles, says Buskirk.
Smear on a layer of petroleum jelly. It's not proven, but many people say applying petroleum jelly to the carved edges of your pumpkin helps retain moisture and prevent shriveling. Be sure to wash with the bleach solution first, then let dry before "moisturizing." Hey, it can't hurt!
How to Prevent Uncarved Pumpkins from Rotting
Keep mold at bay. To prevent microbes from turning your pumpkin to mush, use the bleach and water wash or dunk, cleaning all sides of your pumpkin.
Avoid freezing temperatures. Weather that's too cold can lead to decay, so avoid sticking pumpkins in the freezer or exposing them to frost. They store best at temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees F and humidity around 50 percent.
Fend off pumpkin-eaters. Unfortunately, nothing's foolproof for keeping rodents such as squirrels away because pumpkins are delectable! They actually love snacking on both carved and uncarved pumpkins. One (messy) solution you can try: Mix hot sauce with water and spray. Repeat every few days or after it's rained. It's not guaranteed, but it just may help! You can try a commercial repellant, too, but be aware they're rotten-egg-smell stinky until the spray dries.
You Might Also Like