Gardener’s Guide to Sustainable Pumpkin Disposal

Happy Halloween, gardeners!

Tonight we relish in the spooktacular array of treats, costumes, and movies. But tomorrow, we will undoubtedly be throwing away heaps of candy wrappers and trading in our cobwebs and giant spiders for gourds and cheerful scarecrows.

When Halloween is over and the transition to Thanksgiving begins, most of us throw our Jack-o-Lanterns into the garbage. This year, however, you should save those pumpkins from the landfill. And here’s why.

Sustainable Decor

When pumpkins are tossed into the landfill, they decompose and release methane, a greenhouse gas. This is true of nearly all food we throw into the garbage, which is why we encourage homeowners to compost their food scraps.

When decorating with plants, it only seems natural to dispose of them outside. The nice thing about pumpkins is that they are great for composting, as they are nitrogen-rich. So instead of tossing your carved pumpkin into the garbage, consider sustainable pumpkin disposal: composting! To do this, simply remove any decorations or candles from the pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds so they don’t germinate. Then add the pumpkin to your compost pile.

“Well, what if I don’t compost?” 

If you don’t compost, you can dig a hole in your yard and bury the pumpkin. Its decomposition will enrich the soil. And if you live in an apartment complex, there are other methods of sustainable pumpkin disposal. 

Sustainable Pumpkin Disposal 

For those of you with or without a yard, you can use your pumpkins without having to compost them. Consider the following:


  • Save the seeds for your garden. Simply wash and dry them, then store them in a baggy in a cool, dark place. If you don’t have a yard or garden, you can give them to a friend who does or roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven as a healthy snack.
  • Re-purpose the pumpkin by using it as a pumpkin planter or bird feeder. You can fill it with soil and plant your favorite fall flowers as Thanksgiving decor or fill it with birdseed and set it out for the birds.
  • Like a Jack-o-Lantern, you can use your pumpkin as a candle holder inside your home. Simply place a candle and some fall potpourri inside the pumpkin, and soon the smell of pumpkin pie and spice will engulf your home. Remember to carve plenty of holes and other openings in the pumpkin so it can release those scents! This can also be a fun activity for kids if you want to paint the pumpkin.
  • Give your leftover pumpkins to wildlife. Squirrels and deer love pumpkin, so set out your old Jack-o-Lantern for them to nibble on. But be mindful: if you painted the pumpkin or added anything that could be toxic to wildlife, don’t give it to them.
  • Donate your pumpkin to Pumpkins for the People, an organization that takes used pumpkins and composts them. Check on their site to see if they have any drop-off locations near you.

And now that Thanksgiving is approaching, check out our article, September Gardening for Fall Fanatics, to learn how you can sustainably decorate for Thanksgiving.