Written by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is the horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.
People of all ages are busy getting ready for the fun that Halloween always brings. Front porches and decks are adorned with pumpkins that are either left in their natural state or transformed into happy or scary jack-o-lanterns. But what happens to those pumpkins after Halloween is over?
Pumpkins offer the perfect opportunity to recycle. If you are carving a pumpkin this year, be sure to save the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a welcome treat for many birds and animals. You can rinse them, if you like, to get rid of some of the pulp. Then just dry them on a screen in the sun and place them in a bowl, or on a platform feeder. If you prefer, pumpkin seeds can be rinsed clean to remove most of the pulp. Spread the seeds (without salt or seasonings) on a non-stick cookie sheet and roast them at 200-300 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Many birds, including black-capped chickadees, cardinals, titmice, blue jays, and mockingbirds love pumpkin seeds. The large pumpkin seeds may be too big for some of the smaller birds, but you can just crush the seeds with a rolling pin before putting them out. Squirrels and chipmunks also love these nutritious seeds and may be a good diversion from your regular bird feeders.
Pumpkins can be cut into pieces and put in the compost pile after Halloween. They will decompose along with your fall leaves and other garden debris. You will be rewarded when you can use that rich compost next year in your garden- all for free. Recycling in nature is good for all of us, wildlife included.