Chances are, your jack-o'-lantern might be looking a little forlorn now that Halloween is over. But don't just toss it in the trash! There are tons of ways you can reuse or recycle your gourds post-October. You can plant pumpkin seeds, turn uncarved ones into pumpkin puree for recipes, feed them to animals, take part in pumpkin composting, and more.
1. Gone to the Birds
It turns out, you can feed pumpkins to your flock…of chickens. (And we're not talking about kids in costumes.) If you have a chicken coop, your birds will happily eat both the flesh and seeds. Make sure any pumpkins you give them aren't moldy or rotten first. If it's just a small section, cut off that piece. You may also need to cut or break the gourds into smaller pieces to make them easier to eat.
2. Pumpkin Bird Feeder
Speaking of birds, you can attract feathered friends to your yard by turning your Halloween pumpkin into a bird feeder. Just cut a pumpkin in half bowl-style, empty the cavity, and fill it with bird seed. Either leave it out as is or hang it from a tree with several lengths of thick twine or rope wrapped under the base.
You can add the pumpkin's seeds to your regular bird seed, too! Rinse and dry the seeds before mixing them in. Don't flavor or salt the seeds; the birds will eat them as is.
3. Gardening Gold
Pumpkins make a great addition to your compost pile! Since they're mostly water, they compost easily, but it'll go even faster if you break them apart first. Turn pumpkin smashing into a fun family activity—you probably won't have to go far to find willing participants.
Pumpkin composting is pretty simple. Just remember to remove the seeds first so your gourds don't accidentally root in the pile. If you'd like, you can save them to try your hand at growing your own pumpkin crop. Just rinse the pulp away and allow the seeds to dry. Store them in an envelope in a cool, dry place until you're ready to plant.
4. Fall Donations
Don't want to deal with the pumpkins yourself? No worries! There are still plenty of ways to give them a new life. See if you can donate leftover pumpkins to zoos, animal shelters, farms, or community gardens. They'll be grateful for the compost material or animal snacks. Look local; some towns do a pumpkin collection drive after Halloween.
5. Start Decorating for Thanksgiving
Halloween might be over, but Thanksgiving is coming up. Keep the fall spirit alive by reusing your uncarved pumpkins as a conversation centerpiece. Make a table arrangement of interesting gourds in a basket or on a tray. Cut a hole in the top of a pumpkin to use as a vase for seasonal flowers and sprigs of berries. Try all white candles and pumpkins for a chic monochrome look, or set mini pumpkins atop candlesticks for an elevated display.
You can make your pumpkin last longer by keeping it in a dry spot, giving it an occasional bath, and moisturizing it with a light petroleum jelly rub.
6. Ready to Eat
Of course, you can always bring any clean, uncarved pumpkins to the kitchen to eat yourself! (We're in favor of this option.) Toasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack for people, and you can use real pumpkin puree in any recipe that calls for the canned version. Pumpkin pie made with the real thing tastes so much fresher and more flavorful. You'll need to do a little conversion: Keep in mind that one 2-1/2 pound pumpkin is equivalent to about 15 ounces canned pumpkin—the standard grocery store size.
7. Pumpkin Bowls
What's more fall than serving a pumpkin recipe inside a pumpkin? Slice gourds in half lengthwise and scoop out the pulp and seeds to use as pumpkin serving bowls. Use mini pumpkins as individual soup or dessert cups, or empty out a larger one to use as a serving dish for the table. Your guests will delight in eating from a pumpkin bowl, and it will infuse your dish with additional pumpkin flavor.
8. Feed the Wildlife
Your old Halloween pumpkin also makes the perfect snack for neighborhood wildlife. Offer local deer, rabbits, and other critters a tasty treat by cutting your pumpkin up into fourths and placing pieces around your yard. Note: Don't give animals any painted pumpkins, as the paint can be toxic if ingested.
9. Play with It!
Although Halloween may be behind us, keep the festivities going strong with fun activities using your leftover pumpkin. Try pumpkin bowling by filling plastic bottles up with water and setting them up in a 10-pin triangle. Take turns rolling your pumpkin bowling-ball-style to see who can knock down the most bottles. Or, look for a pumpkin chucking catapult event in your area for a chance to send your pumpkin flying through the air.
10. Make a Masterpiece
Channel your inner Picasso and turn your pumpkin into a work of art. Grab some paints, stencils, or even temporary tattoos, and use your pumpkin as a canvas on which to experiment with shapes, colors, and patterns.