Skip to main content

How to compost pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns

Jack-o-lanterns and other types of decorative pumpkins are a fun part of the season, but what do you do with them when the season ends, or when they start to look less than fresh? In some areas, you can set discarded pumpkins with your yard waste for the city to collect, but if you’re looking for a more eco-friendly option then why not compost them? We’ll walk you through the dos and don’ts of composting your jack-o-lanterns, to help you get started.

What do pumpkins add to compost?

Pumpkins are a great source of nitrogen and moisture for your compost bin. Pumpkins are also chock full of vitamins, which are great for people and plants. However, an important thing to keep in mind is that pumpkins that have been used for jack-o-lanterns also have the potential to add candle wax, glitter, paint, or other decorative elements that you don’t want in your compost.

If you plan on composting your pumpkin, you can save yourself some time and effort before you even begin carving by only using biodegradable decorations on your jack-o-lantern. Don’t worry if you’ve already used non-compostable decorations, though. You can still compost your pumpkin if you scrape or carve off the areas that have the paint, glitter, or other substance on them!

A small red jack-o-lantern

Is every part of the pumpkin compostable?

Yes, you can compost your entire pumpkin! The skin, meat, stem, guts, and even seeds are compostable. However, pumpkin seeds are quite hardy and will overwinter in your compost pile. If you leave the seeds in, you’re likely to find a few pumpkin plants in your garden next year when you use your compost. If you plan on regrowing pumpkins in the coming season, then this can actually be a benefit.

You can remove all the seeds from your pumpkin (which you may have already done, if you’re composting a jack-o-lantern!) and toss them, but there are other ways you can use the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are edible, and roasted seeds are a popular fall snack. You can also compost the seeds after boiling them if you want the nutritional benefits of the seeds without the volunteer sprouts.

Preparing your pumpkin for composting

We’ve already touched on removing any candle wax, glitter, or paint from your pumpkins, but there are a few other things you can do to make your pumpkin easier to compost. Pumpkins break down more quickly and easily in smaller pieces. You can break your pumpkin apart in any way you’d like. If you want to be sure every piece ends up in your compost, you can smash it while it’s in a bag or already in your compost bin. This is a fun part of the process to involve any kids you may have in, or, if you’d rather, you can round up a few friends and have a pumpkin smashing contest.

Once you’ve got your pumpkin in the bin, be sure to mix it in well or cover it over with leaves. If you don’t have a compost bin, you can still compost your pumpkin! Simply spread the pumpkin chunks over your garden instead of in the bin and add a layer of leaves or soil over them.

A pumpkin on the ground, broken into several pieces

Can you add pumpkins to a worm bin?

You certainly can add pumpkin to worm bins. In fact, worms seem to really enjoy pumpkin! It’s sweet, high in nutrients, and is easy for them to eat and digest. Similar to composting, be sure to remove any and all candle wax, glitter, or paint before you add your jack-o-lantern to your worm bin. Otherwise, there’s very little prep. You can set your whole pumpkin in the bin, or break it into pieces to speed things up. If you have multiple pumpkins, or one large pumpkin and a very small worm bin, you might want to consider freezing some of your pumpkin for later.

There’s no need for your pumpkins to go to waste once the season is over. Instead, let your garden benefit from the nutrients your pumpkin can offer by composting them. No matter what your composting set up is like, there’s a way to incorporate jack-o-lanterns back into your garden. Just be sure to remove the seeds first, unless you want to grow pumpkins again next year!

Editors' Recommendations

Cayla Leonard
Cayla Leonard is a writer from North Carolina who is passionate about plants.  She enjoys reading and writing fiction and…
Ornamental grasses add texture and color to your garden – how to grow these 6 different varieties
Caring for these ornamental grasses in your yard or garden
Pink muhly grass

Although there are countless varieties of grass, so many of them look the same. It can be difficult to find grass that really stands out in your garden. That’s where ornamental grasses come in. Ornamental grasses like pink muhly grass, purple fountain grass, and switchgrass can add color and texture to your garden borders just like flowers would. Wondering which ornamental grass to choose for your garden? Here are a few of our favorites!
What makes a grass ornamental?
You may think that all grass is ornamental. After all, we grow lawns because they look nice, not because we use them for food. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong in thinking that. Ornamental grass is still grass; it’s just grass that looks different. However, ornamental grass includes grass-like plants such as sedge, as well as true grass varieties.

Ornamental grasses come in a range of appearances besides the short, green look of classic lawn grasses. Often, ornamental grasses are tall, with some growing to 15 feet tall or more. Many are colorful and patterned, and they may have an interesting flower or seed head. Since there are so many varieties, there are ornamental grasses that will fit almost any garden or yard. Many gardeners use ornamental grasses as borders, but some varieties can make great additions to container gardens or flower gardens.

Read more
Take advantage of hydrangeas’ color-changing quirk – how to get beautiful blue hydrangeas
Make your soil acidic to turn your hydrangeas a beautiful blue color
Hydrangeas with blue flowers

Hydrangeas are known for two things -- impressive, showy flowers and their tendency to change color based on the pH of the soil. This makes them highly appealing, but also unpredictable. If you don’t take the soil into account, your bright blue hydrangeas could turn out to be pink or purple instead. With careful planning, you can take advantage of this quirk to ensure your hydrangeas are the striking shade of blue you want them to be.
Getting started
First, check what variety of hydrangeas you have. Not all hydrangeas change color! Bigleaf hydrangeas, especially the mophead and lanceleaf cultivars, are the ones that change color. However, white hydrangeas of any variety will not change color.

Test the soil’s pH before you get started. This lets you know how much you’ll need to change it, or if you need to change it at all. If your soil pH is already between 5.5 and 4.5, it’s acidic enough to turn your hydrangeas blue.

Read more
Could Kalanchoe blossfeldiana be the perfect addition to your outdoor succulent garden? Here’s how to grow it
Caring for kalanchoe blossfeldiana outdoors
Light orange kalanchoe blossfeldiana flowers

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a popular houseplant -- and for good reason! With bright flowers and easy care requirements, these succulents will brighten up any room. But did you know you can grow them outdoors as well? The care is a bit trickier, but they really stand out in a sandy outdoor succulent garden. Just follow this simple guide to care for Kalanchoe blossfeldiana outdoors.
Planting Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
Like other succulents, drainage is important. Make sure you use sandy and well-draining soil before you begin planting. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana plants don't like to be crowded, so it’s important to space them correctly. They need at least 8 to 10 inches of room in order to grow properly. Choose a location that gets plenty of morning sun. However, they can burn under intense, direct light, so provide them with shade in the afternoon.

Caring for your Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
If you’ve kept Kalanchoe blossfeldiana as a houseplant before, then there are some care aspects you’ll be familiar with. They are sensitive to overwatering, so make sure to only water them when the top few inches of soil are dry. If overwatered, they can develop fungal infections, such as root rot.

Read more