How to Keep My Pumpkin from Rotting - Backyard Boss
We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.

How to Keep My Pumpkin from Rotting

It’s coming up to that time of the year again. Fall colors, pumpkin spiced lattes, and jack-o-lanterns! Pumpkins transform from tasty vegetables into spooky decorations. Many of us will spend some quality time with friends and family carving out decorative pumpkins for Halloween.

The problem with using fresh vegetables for decorations is that they don’t last. Eventually, they begin to rot and lose their shape before they end up in the compost.

Not to worry. Backyard Boss wants to be sure all the time you spend on pumpkin carving isn’t wasted. Read on for a detailed breakdown of how to keep the pumpkin from rotting. While we’re at it, we’ll have a look at how to keep pumpkins from rotting on the vine and once they’ve been picked as well.

Things You Need

  • Pumpkin
  • Bleach
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Bucket
  • Petroleum jelly/WD-40/vegetable oil/any other oil-based lubricant or moisturizer

Step-by-step Guide on How to Keep Pumpkin from Rotting

Step 1: Choose The Right Pumpkin

Pumpkin patch with people choosing pumpkins
Image credits: James Timothy Peters via Pixabay

One of the most important parts of having a long-lasting jack-o-lantern is choosing the right pumpkin. You’re looking for a firm pumpkin with no soft spots. Soft spots are an indication that the rotting process will start sooner if it hasn’t started already.

It’s also a good idea to visit your local pumpkin patch for a locally grown pumpkin. It will spare your pumpkin from any damages and bruising from transportation. To take it to the next level, you could even learn how to grow pumpkins. Once you’ve chosen, or grown the perfect pumpkin, move onto Step 2.

Step Two: Clean The Pumpkin

Hand holding Clorox
Image Credits: Clay Banks via Unsplash

When cleaning out your pumpkin guts, you need to eliminate all the moist bits inside the pumpkin. Doing this is the first step in preventing mold and mildew build-up.

Next, add a water and bleach solution to your spray bottle. One tablespoon of bleach to one quart of water should do the trick. Use this solution to sterilize the pumpkin with bleach, inside and out. You can use a soft-bristled brush to clean the outside. It will get rid of any mildew or bacteria that are waiting to devour your pumpkin. 

Once you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of your pumpkin, allow it to dry before you start carving.

Pro Tip: Don’t throw the pumpkin seeds away. They’re highly nutritious and delicious.

Step Three: Carve Your Pumpkin

Carved pumpkin with smoke
Image credits: Benjamin Balazs via Pixabay

Carve your pumpkin as usual. Remember that the pumpkin was sprayed with bleach, so be mindful of this if you don’t want to ruin your clothes. You could rinse the bleach off your pumpkin once you’re done cleaning it, but this may introduce additional bacteria to your pumpkin.

Step Four: Bathe Your Pumpkin

White pumpkin in a pool
Image credits: Nick Magwood via Pixabay

You can skip the bubbles in this bath. You need something a bit more serious, like more bleach!

Fill a bucket with water and add ⅔ a cup of bleach. Add your beautifully carved pumpkin to the bucket and allow it to soak for up to 24 hours. It will neutralize any bacteria that you missed in the cleaning step, as well as any bacteria that was introduced while carving.

Step Five: Apply Sealant/Moisturizer

Hands using petroleum jelly
Image credits: Towfiqu Barbhuiya via Unsplash

Now is the time to apply a layer of petroleum jelly /WD-40/ vegetable oils to all the cut parts of your pumpkin. You could cover the whole pumpkin in WD-40 or vegetable oil if you want a shiny pumpkin that will last longer.

This step traps moisture inside the pumpkin, which prevents it from shriveling. It’s important to clean the pumpkin before this step. If you don’t, you risk trapping bacteria inside the flesh of the pumpkin, which will result in a rotten pumpkin overnight.

Pro Tip: Most of the products you would apply during this step are flammable. For this reason, you should avoid using real candles or any open flames around your pumpkins. Use battery-operated tea lights instead.

Step Six: Rehydrate The Pumpkin

Hand using spray bottle
Image Credits: Squirrel_photos via Pixabay

No matter what you do, your pumpkins are going to lose moisture and start shriveling at some point. To slow this process down, use a spray bottle to spritz your pumpkins with fresh water daily.

You could even add a few drops of bleach to stay on top of any bacteria that may have found its way onto your pumpkin.

Step Seven: Keep Out Of The Sun

Various squashes black background
Image credits: Ylanite Koppens via Pixabay

UV rays break things down, and it is true for pumpkins too. Keeping your pumpkins out of the sun will allow your pumpkins to last longer.

This step may be tricky depending on the orientation of your house and where you plan to display your pumpkins, but keeping them out of the sun as much as possible will keep your pumpkins looking fresher for longer.

Step Eight: Store Your Pumpkins In The Cold

Pumpkins in snow
Image credits: Jim Black via Pixabay

For those living in a warm climate, you might have to store your pumpkins in the fridge when they’re not on display. Put them in a plastic bag first to prevent any bacteria that live in your fridge from colonizing the pumpkin.

If you don’t have space in your fridge, store your pumpkins in the coldest, darkest room of your house. Pumpkins will break down a lot more quickly in warm weather.

Pro Tip: Don’t store your pumpkin in the freezer or allow it to freeze in a cold fridge. If you live in a cold climate where nights could fall below freezing in October, bring your pumpkins inside at night. A defrosted pumpkin will break down very quickly.

Bonus Step: Pumpkin Rescue

Pumpkin on lawn
Image credits: Nong Vang via Unsplash

Mistakes happen, especially during all the busy festivities during the holidays. You may forget to mist your pumpkins one night and wake up to some wilted, sad-looking jack-o-lanterns. Don’t worry, because we have the solution for you; cold water.

For some emergency rehydration, give your pumpkins an ice bath. Leave your pumpkins in the ice bath overnight or for a few hours. Be sure to dry your pumpkin fully after you take it out of the ice bath to prevent mold and mildew from taking over. Excess moisture is the enemy of fresh-looking pumpkins.

Keeping Pumpkins From Rotting On The Vine

Pumpkin vine
Image credits: t4no via Pixabay

Pumpkins take a while to ripen on the vine. Depending on your climate, this could make your homegrown susceptible to rot on the vine before they even ripen. The good news is that with a few tricks, you can eliminate rotten pumpkins and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

The first thing to do is to only water the vine until fruit arrives. Once the fruit formes on the vine, be sure to only water the vine at the base and limit the amount of water that comes into contact with the actual pumpkins.

Another thing to consider is the air circulation around your pumpkins. Prune back excess vegetation around your pumpkins. It will help to increase air circulation and prevent your pumpkins from rotting prematurely.

A big reason for pumpkins rotting on the vine is contact with moist soil. Place a piece of cardboard underneath each pumpkin to create a barrier between the pumpkins and wet soil. If you grow your pumpkin on a trellis, and the pumpkins are kept off the ground as they grow, you won’t have this problem.

Keeping Pumpkins Once They’ve Been Picked

Numerous orange pumpkins
Image credits: Aaron Burden via Unsplash

Pumpkins are a fantastic crop to grow because they can be stored for long periods. Most squashes will stay in good condition for ages if they’re stored correctly, and pumpkins are no different. The important thing to remember is that heat, moisture, and light will speed up the decaying process of the pumpkins.

With this in mind, you want to store your pumpkins in a cool, dry, dark place. A dry basement or a dark cupboard are all good options here.

Don’t stack pumpkins on top of one another. It will cause the pumpkins to bruise and collapse. Store them in a single layer in a dark place, away from moisture, and your pumpkins should keep for at least 12 weeks.

The Final Say

Nobody wants to see all the hard work they put into carving a pumpkin shrivel up on the porch. The step-by-step guide above will keep your carved pumpkins looking fresher for longer. What do you think? Did you find this guide helpful?

There are a variety of products you can use to clean and seal your pumpkin. There are even products designed specifically for this purpose. Use whatever is most easily accessible to you, but make sure to follow the concepts in this guide for the best results.

Let us know in the comment section below if this article helped you, and as always, please share!