The fall indicates the Halloween festival when the streets are decorated with jack-o-lanterns. But once the festival ends, the pumpkins are discarded. So, can these lanterns be reused? Are these decorative pumpkins of any use in your home or garden? You’d be glad to know that being high in nutrients, they can be used as a fertilizer. But can we compost pumpkins? If yes, how?
Yes, pumpkins are compostable as they serve as an excellent source of green material and add Nitrogen and moisture to your compost. If you’re using lantern pumpkins, remove the candle wax and other non-degradable materials and chop them into fine pieces for faster decomposition.
How to Compost Pumpkins
Pumpkins break down quickly, making them an ideal substitute for composting. Furthermore, they are a source of green material for composting and contain 90% of water. As the pumpkins are loaded with water, you need to add plenty of brown materials to your compost bins to prevent them from spoilage.
But before adding the pumpkin to your compost pile, you need to follow these two main steps.
1. Clean your Pumpkin: Remove seeds and non-compostable decorations from your old pumpkin. While pumpkin seeds are compostable, they might hold a risk of germination in your compost pile. So you need to remove the seeds.
If you are using a Halloween pumpkin for composting, the lantern might have wax, candles, stickers, glitters, paint, and other decorative materials. Remove the decoration by washing or carving them out to make the pumpkin safe for composting.
2. Cut the Pumpkin into Pieces: It is crucial to chop the pumpkin into smaller pieces to escalate the process of decomposition. Smash the pumpkin with a hammer or cut it into pieces with a knife before adding it to your compost bin.
After you’ve completed these two critical steps, you can compost pumpkins using the following methods:
- Pit or Trench method
- Bokashi method
- Compost bin method
Pit or Trench Method of Composting
It is the simplest and most efficient method to compost pumpkins. Here are the quick steps you need to follow to compost pumpkins through the pit or trench method.
Step 1. Dig a Hole or Trench
Look out for a shady spot in your garden and dig out a pit (trench), ideally 1- 2 feet deep. Make sure to choose a place where the trench does not get disturbed while composting.
Step 2. Prepare the Beds
Firstly, add a layer of dried leaves, wood chips, and other garden waste. Next, spread a firm layer of soil over the brown materials and water them.
Now add a layer of green materials, including smashed pumpkin, grass clippings, and other food scraps like eggshells, coffee grounds, fruits, and vegetable peels, and cover them with a firm layer of soil up to 4-8 inches above the bed.
Step 3. Water the Trench
It is necessary to keep the soil moist, so water the trench. This will keep the healthy microbes active. If the pit becomes completely dry, the materials will not break down.
Once the compost is ready, you can directly grow your plants on the trench, and this serves as an organic fertilizer for your plants.
Bokashi Method to Compost Pumpkins
Bokashi is an anaerobic method of composting that is more like fermentation. It is an easy and quick method suitable for city dwellers who wish to live a sustainable life.
To get the best results from the bokashi composting, you need to follow a few systematic steps that are given below:
Step 1. Prepare Your Bokashi Bin
Buy or make a bokashi bucket that is airtight and place them indoors or in a shady spot in your garden. Now get some bokashi bran that acts as an inoculant for the fermentation process.
Step 2. Add Pumpkin to the Bucket
Fill your bucket with the pumpkin pieces in the bucket. You can also add other food scraps or yard waste to your bokashi bucket.
Step 3. Add Bokashi Bran
Add bokashi bran and press the food scraps firmly to release the air. Remember to use one tablespoon of bokashi bran for each cup of food waste.
Repeat the process until the bucket is filled and smoosh it down while adding the waste to the bucket. Once the bucket is full, close the lid and keep it undisturbed.
Step 4. Drain the Liquid
The fermentation process releases excess liquid. Drain it every 2-3 days, and this bokashi tea acts as an excellent liquid fertilizer that can be used for your houseplants by diluting it.
Step 5. Bury or Compost the Leftover Material
It takes about two weeks for the fermentation process to be completed. However, this method does not give a finished compost, and you need to add the fermented food waste to your compost bin or to the idle soil.
Collect the pre-compost from the bokashi bucket and add it to your compost as it is still acidic and might be harmful to your plants. You can also bury it in a fallow land in your garden. Since the pre-compost is already fermented, the breakdown process is quick and takes up to 2 weeks to complete.
Compost Bin Method
Composting in a bin is a popular method and needs surveillance in decomposition. Here is the procedure for composting pumpkins through this method.
Step 1. Set Up Your Compost Bin
Place your compost bin in a shady corner of your garden and drill holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage.
Step 2. Add Composting Materials
Collect some brown materials like dried leaves, branches, shredded paper, and wood ash and make the bottom layer in your compost bin. Then, add pumpkin pieces and other green materials like grass clippings, food scraps, and yard waste to the compost bin and water them.
Step 3. Repeat the Process
Fill the compost bin with brown and green materials alternately until you have added all the pumpkin pieces and other food waste to the compost pile. Then, cover the top layer with brown materials and water them.
Step 4. Maintain Your Compost Pile
Check for the moisture in your compost bin and add the green or brown materials accordingly. Turn the pile once every 5-7 days to promote aeration.
Pumpkins will decompose within 5-10 days, and you can use the compost once the breakdown process is completed to supplement the soil with nutrients.
Composting Via Worms or Vermicomposting
Like other gourds, pumpkin is popularly known as the favorite food of worms as it is sweet and contains plenty of water. But feed them to the limit, as overfeeding might kill your worms.
To compost the pumpkins effectively in a wormery, you must follow these steps.
Step 1. Set Up a Worm Bin
Buy a worm bin or choose an opaque container and place it in a low-light area of your home or garden. If you are using any container as a worm bin, you need to make holes across it for aeration and drainage.
Step 2. Prepare the Bedding
Make the bedding by adding shredded paper or dried leaves and seal it with a layer of soil to provide grit to the worms. Water the bedding to keep it moist.
Step 3. Add Food Scraps
Mix some food scraps along with the pumpkin pieces and add them to your worm bin. Leave it to decompose for two weeks.
Step 4. Add Worms
Add the composting worms to the wormery, and they will start moving towards the pumpkin pieces in no time. Cover the worm bin with gunny bags or shredded paper and water them lightly.
Step 5. Maintain Your Bin
You can feed the frozen pumpkin pieces and other food waste whenever you see a food shortage in the bin. Keep an eye on the moisture levels and turn the worm bin occasionally to distribute oxygen evenly.
It takes 2-6 months for the vermicompost to be ready. However, pumpkins will break down within a week, and you can collect the worm castings from the corner and add new materials to your wormery.
Why Should You Not Throw Away Pumpkins
According to data from EPA, more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins get wasted and thrown into dump yards by the US residents every year, which contributes to 5.3 million tonnes of annual food waste in the landfills.
This leads to the release of methane gas that produces vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and causes climate change. So it is high time to choose an alternative to reduce this wastage. Composting can be a solution to minimize the waste going to landfills.
Moreover, pumpkin provides rich nutrients to the compost, and therefore, it’s best to compost them instead of throwing them away.
Benefits of Composting Pumpkins
Pumpkin is a versatile vegetable as it serves many purposes in your kitchen and garden. If you are not convinced yet, look for the benefits it holds while they are composted.
- Pumpkins make an excellent source of green material as they are rich in nitrogen and contain 90% water.
- They are an excellent soil amendment and serve as a natural fertilizer for your plants.
- Composting pumpkins helps you reduce huge amounts of food waste going to the landfill.
- They are easy to compost and reduce the cost of purchasing synthetic fertilizers.
Additional Tips for Composting Pumpkins
Composting pumpkin is handy and easy, but only when you keep some reminders in your mind. Here are some interesting tips to consider while composting pumpkins.
- If you are using carved pumpkins from jack-o’lanterns, remove the candle wax, glitter, and decoration (if any).
- Avoid using painted pumpkins unless it is water-based paint.
- Cut the pumpkins into small pieces or smash them before using them for composting.
- While making the compost from pumpkin, add more brown materials like paper, dried leaves, or other yard waste to balance the moisture levels in the compost.
- You can also add old pumpkins or rotten pumpkin pieces to your compost. But make sure to remove the seeds or crush them before composting.
- When using pumpkins in a worm bin, you can freeze the leftover pumpkin as the frozen pumpkin is soft and easy to digest by the worms.
Other Uses of Pumpkins In the Garden
In addition to composting, pumpkins can be used in a variety of other exciting ways in the garden. Let’s take a look at some of the applications.
1. Bury them Directly in the Soil: Pumpkins can be buried directly in the soil. If you do not have composting set up ready at your home, dig a hole near your plants, add the unwanted pumpkins and cover the soil.
You can also grow your plants over the pumpkin patch. Pumpkins will decompose naturally and release nitrogen and nutrients into the soil, ultimately nourishing your plant.
2. Use them as a Mulch: You can use leftover pumpkin as a mulch to suppress weeds and enrich your soil. However, cut them into smaller pieces and cover them with dried leaves or newspaper to keep the rodents away.
3. Make a Pumpkin Planter: Pumpkins serve as a good planter. To make the planter, cut the top portion of the pumpkin and scoop out the flesh and seeds. Now fill it with potting soil and place your seeds.
When your plant starts growing in the pumpkin planter, you can dig the soil in your garden and directly place it along with the pumpkin. The pumpkin will decompose and add nutrition to your plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are rotting pumpkins good for the soil?
Yes, rotting pumpkins are good for the soil as they are rich in nutrients and can be used as a natural fertilizer. When a pumpkin is rotten, it breaks down faster, turning into a rich soil amendment.
How long does it take to compost pumpkins?
A whole pumpkin takes up to 8 to 12 weeks to decompose. But when you use chopped pieces of pumpkin, it will break down within 5-10 days. The decomposition process, however, also depends on the moisture and temperature in your compost pile.
Which parts of the pumpkin are compostable?
All parts of the pumpkin, including the stem, skin, flesh, gut, and seeds, are compostable. Make sure to cut the pumpkin parts into pieces and remove the seeds or crush them before tossing them into the compost bin.
Can you compost pumpkin seeds?
Yes, you can compost pumpkin seeds, but there is a chance of germination of a pumpkin plant in your compost pile. To avoid this, boil the seeds and use the water along with the seeds in your compost pile. You might also consider crushing the seeds before adding them to your compost. This will add nutrients and eliminate the risk of sprouting in your bin.
How to identify if a pumpkin is ready to compost?
When the pumpkin changes its color and starts to become dark brown, it indicates that it is beginning to rot, and it is the right time to put it in the compost bin. Also, if you see the pumpkins are becoming soft and mushy, they no longer can be consumed and are ready to compost.
Which pumpkins do you need to keep away from composting?
The Halloween pumpkin that is used as a lantern and contains paint, glitter, or preserving sealant made of synthetic ingredients needs to be kept away from composting.
What should I do with the old pumpkin?
Old pumpkins have the potential to become a soil amendment, your favorite dish, or a snack for your favorite animal or wildlife.
Pumpkin is a nutrient-rich soil amendment that makes a great addition to your compost and garden. Furthermore, it can be used in many dishes like pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soups, or baked goods. Pumpkin seeds also serve as a tasty snack when they are roasted.
Apart from these, pumpkins are loved by wildlife. After the Halloween festival, you might use unwanted pumpkins to feed small animals like squirrels in your garden. Also, you can participate in community fun activities like pumpkin smash.
Now, you have many reasons to avoid throwing pumpkins in the trash. So, make sure to use the discarded pumpkins for composting this Halloween season. And, if you want to know whether you can compost watermelon rinds, we will walk you through a detailed guide on composting them.