Whether you grew pumpkins or are planning to buy some from the local farmers’ market, you always have to make sure that they are fresh and appealing. It can really be frustrating to watch your pumpkins rot either in the garden or on the porch, but what causes the pumpkins to rot?
Disease, pests, environmental conditions, overwatering, competition with nearby plants, and even soil conditions can all cause pumpkins to rot. It can sometimes be difficult to tell what the problem is but with good care, pumpkins, whether carved or uncarved, are pretty easy to maintain.
This guide will give you tips on how to prevent your pumpkins from rotting right from the garden to the counter or the porch even days before Halloween. Let’s take a look.
Tips for Keeping Pumpkins from Rotting
Preventing Pumpkins from Rotting in the Garden
1. Water until fruits appear
For proper fruit development, pumpkin vines need regular watering. Once the fruit starts turning color, you can water only occasionally to reduce the risk of the fruits rotting in overly wet ground.
2. Make nests
As they mature, pumpkin fruits drop to the ground because the vines are not strong enough for them. To keep the healthy fruits away from the possibly wet ground, you can make them straw nests, wooden boxes, or small pallets. It is fine to leave the mushy ones on the ground.
3. Use raised beds and hilly garden landscapes.
These have an added advantage because when the fruits mature, they allow extra water to run off, leaving the garden with sufficient moisture and not getting the fruit too wet.
How long will a pumpkin last on a porch?
A pumpkin’s lifespan solely depends on whether or not you cut into them. Either left out in the sun or in cooling temperatures, un-curved pumpkins can last 2 to 3 months.
On the other hand, carved pumpkins can only last a few days. Timing is, therefore, key if you want to display your pumpkins on Halloween.
Here are a few tricks to help you prevent both your curved and uncarved pumpkins from rotting.
Tips common for both carved and uncarved pumpkins
1. Find a good location
If you want to keep your pumpkins outside, ensure to find a cool, dry, and shaded spot, like a covered porch, away from direct sunlight.
2. Give them a bath
You can use a diluted bleach solution to wash the pumpkin for two minutes at least before storing it or carving it into your favorite shape. This simple bath helps remove microbes that may be responsible for decay.
After carving, ensure to remove every bit of pulp to avoid attracting insects and bugs, then rewash the pumpkin, in and out, to ensure you disinfect all the surfaces. Since the pumpkin will naturally float, ensure you rotate and dunk it a few times to ensure that the bleach solution covers every bit of the surface.
You can use the bleach water solution used to wash the pumpkin as a daily spray to maintain freshness.
3. Handle pumpkins carefully
It would be best if you only handled the pumpkins when you absolutely need to do so, for example, picking them up, loading them in the car, and when you clean them. You should gently pick them up by the fruit and not directly grip the stem when you do.
This will avoid breakage of the stem or causing any unnecessary bruises or dings on the pumpkin’s rind. Additionally, hands carry germs and oils that may speed up the rotting process for your carved pumpkins.
4. Keep pests away
Pests like ants and mice will want to snack on your pumpkins. The best way to avoid them is to raise the carved and uncarved pumpkins slightly higher from the ground. You should also make sure that your carved pumpkin is gut-free to avoid attracting any bugs.
Fruit flies are also a menace that can attack your carved pumpkin. Since they like fermenting things, it is nice to have a plate of wine nearby to create a distraction for them from the carved pumpkin. If the plate of wine still doesn’t help, you might consider having a fruit fly trap around.
Preventing uncarved pumpkins from rotting
1. Avoid freezing
Pumpkins store best at temperatures between 50-60°F and average humidity. Exposing them to freezing temperatures or frost will only make them go bad and rot faster.
2. Keep off pumpkin eaters.
Rodents like squirrels, among other pumpkin eaters, will always come looking to devour both your cut and uncut pumpkins. You can use a solution of hot sauce with water then spray it on the pumpkin to deter them.
The solution might be messy and not guaranteed, but it is worth a try. You may also have to repeat the process every few days or after the pumpkin gets rained on.
3. Shine it with floor wax
Floor wax is an excellent preservative with the ability to keep your pumpkins fresh for up to four weeks. To use this method, apply the wax on a moist towel, then gently rub it around the pumpkin, leaving a thin layer of wax.
However, once you apply the wax to your pumpkin, you are not supposed to eat it but rather only use it for pumpkin decoring. If you don’t decide to use wax, you can alternatively clean the pumpkin with a mild bleach solution to disinfect the surface.
Preventing carved pumpkins from rotting
1. Keep it cool
Always keep your carved pumpkins in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. When not on display, you can refrigerate it for up to 10 days.
2. Avoid candles
Candle flames near or inside carved pumpkins will dry them out prematurely and they will rot even faster. Instead, it is best to use battery-operated LED lights.
3. Avoid concrete
Just like candles, concrete will draw out moisture from your carved pumpkin, making it rot faster.
4. Use a pumpkin spray
Whether carved or whole, the rind should be properly moisturized to keep the pumpkin fresh. A peppermint spray, for example, or any pumpkin preservative that has anti-fungal properties can help keep the pumpkins soft and smooth even when they begin to dry out. Just make sure to spray the interiors and the cut sections daily to keep them fresh.
You can either use petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to moisturize your curved pumpkin by applying the jelly or oil on the carved edges. Oil or jelly is a water-repellant and therefore helps the pumpkin retain its original moisture and keeps it from drying out, preventing shriveling.
Be sure to wash it or dip it in a bleach solution and let it dry first before moisturizing. For the longest freshness, rub the jelly (or oil) inside and outside the carved pumpkin, ensuring to capture the carved areas. Reapply as many times as necessary to maintain your pumpkin.
The process might also get a little messy, and it is advisable to wear disposable latex gloves to help you avoid gooping up your hand with oil.
6. Let it dry
When cleaning, you have to let your carved pumpkin fully dry before getting it back on display. Trapped moisture and more air exposure because of carvings will lead to faster decay. To minimize this risk, make sure to wipe down all the surfaces inside out after cleaning.
When Is It Best to Pick Pumpkins to Avoid Rot?
Do not wait too long to harvest your pumpkins, lest you end up with mushy pumpkins. The best timing to pick up pumpkin fruits is when they are visually appealing and when they are nearly getting the color of a mature pumpkin fruit of a specific variety.
At maturity, the vine will gradually turn brown and die off. However, it is fine to pick them when they are still green, but make sure to leave some stem intact so they continue to ripen.
It is always nice having pumpkin décor on the front porch. However, rotting pumpkins are always bad news since they always are accompanied by unwanted bugs and mold in the garden and near your home.
I hope this article was helpful with tips for extending the lifespan of your pumpkins both in the garden and on the porch.