Maybe you drove miles to a rural pumpkin patch and pulled your own pumpkins from the field, or maybe you snagged them at your grocery store as an impulse buy. In either case, it's not exactly easy to carry around uncarved pumpkins, so you want them to last the entire autumn. Uncarved pumpkins will generally decay at a slower rate than those that get emptied and cut, but nothing lasts forever, especially not fresh pumpkins, though there are a few simple tricks you can try to keep them looking field fresh until at least Halloween.
Products to Keep Uncarved Pumpkins From Rotting
Your bathroom cabinet probably already holds the best tool for keeping pumpkins from rotting: bleach. Giving uncarved pumpkins a bleach bath should kill some of the bacteria that may already be growing on them and will discourage new bacteria from spreading. To do this, combine 1 tablespoon of bleach and 4 cups of cool water in a spray bottle and thoroughly spritz the uncarved pumpkins, being careful to cover the entire surface of each one. Alternatively, place the pumpkins in a bucket and soak them in the diluted bleach solution for 20 minutes.
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Other household products may also be used to help extend the life of an uncarved pumpkin. Spraying them with WD-40 will coat the pumpkins and act like a sealant, keeping bacteria and insects away. You can coat pumpkins in a thin layer of petroleum jelly. It will make them slippery to handle – which may be useful if you have neighborhood pumpkin thieves – but it will also protect them from damage. A thin layer of floor wax will also act as a sealant and give your pumpkins a shiny gleam.
How Weather Conditions Affect Uncarved Pumpkins
Also, keep in mind that extreme temperatures and the elements can do a lot of damage to pumpkins displayed outdoors. Extreme weather of any kind can speed up pumpkin decay. If you live in an area where overnight temperatures dip below freezing, bring in outdoor pumpkins at night. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures isn't great for uncarved pumpkins either, so people living in hot climates may want to display their pumpkins indoors.
You may also want to shield pumpkins in advance of windy weather, thunderstorms or hail storms. A pumpkin that gets knocked over in a gust of wind or hit by hail can easily crack and will then decay quickly.
Keeping Critters Away From Pumpkins
Insects, squirrels and deer don't care about your decorating scheme; they see pumpkins as free snacks that you've generously provided. If your pumpkins are on your front steps or in your yard, animals probably pose the greatest risk to them. All it takes is one little nibble to jump-start the decay process. Treating pumpkins with products like WD-40 or floor wax should discourage some animal activity but maybe not all.
If you're really serious about keeping squirrels and other creatures away from your pumpkins, you could try spritzing a commercial animal repellent spray around the area where they're displayed. A DIY solution of hot sauce, water and a few drops of dish soap may also work. Combine them in a spray bottle and spritz the pumpkins every day or so. The hot sauce should repel any neighborhood critters that consider snacking on your Halloween display.