How to stop pumpkins from rotting

Whether you want to preserve pumpkins on the vine, carved, or uncarved pumpkins, these easy preservation techniques will protect your festive fruit

Orange pumpkins in a row
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Pumpkins are a staple of the fall season and a must-have decor piece for Halloween. However, their relatively short life span means that many people look for how to stop pumpkins from rotting to keep their festive decor and fall table favorite fresher for longer. 

There are a few ways to preserve your pumpkins from rotting, whether for your pumpkin carving ideas or for your outdoor fall decor. However it can all depend on whether they are carved, uncarved, or still on the vine.

Here, we look at how to stop all of your pumpkins from rotting so that you can pick a pumpkin off the vine for the ripest fruit or ace your outdoor Halloween decor.

How to stop pumpkins from rotting once carved

Halloween pumpkins on a porch

(Image credit: Unsplash)

1. Wash before carving 

'Before carving your pumpkins, it is good practice to thoroughly clean the exterior of your pumpkin's skin with a bleach solution to remove decay-causing microbes,' says Rachel Crow, garden editor for Homes & Gardens. 'Clearing away any pulp, escaped sugars, or microbes will help you get a good start on stopping pumpkins from rotting.'

Dilute one part of bleach in 10 parts of water and apply evenly over the surface of the pumpkin before wiping away with a damp cloth. Rinse with plain water and dry thoroughly before carving. If you don't like using bleach, you can use vinegar instead.

2. Keep them cool

Although pumpkins look great as fall porch decor, it is important to keep them cooler if you live in warmer climates and outside of direct sunlight to shelter them from the harshest elements. 

3. Avoid live flames

Lighting carved pumpkins in one of the most aesthetic Halloween decor ideas however live flames speed up the rotting process by drying out the pumpkin and exposing the skin to heat. 

'Consider using LED tea candle lights or string lights inside your pumpkins for a similar lighting effect without damaging your fresh Halloween craft ideas,' Rachel says. 

4. Use a preservative

'Using a natural preservative is a great way to extend the lifespan of your carved pumpkins,' says Rachel. 'Vinegar prevents pumpkins from rotting and is a common pantry staple that you likely already have in your kitchen.' 

Another common preservative is petroleum jelly. While it is not proven to work all of the time, adding the jelly to the carved inside and the raw edges can provide a protective coating to prolong the oxidizing period. 

How to stop pumpkins from rotting before carving

Uncarved pumpkins on porch steps

(Image credit: Unsplash)

1. Clean the exterior

If you are weighing up how long carved or uncarved pumpkins last, uncarved pumpkins have a much longer lifespan with less work. Because of this, if you want longer-lasting decor, it may be worth considering pumpkin painting ideas instead of carving. 

'Much like carved pumpkins, washing them with a bleach solution or a vinegar water solution will help to fend off microbes that cause rot and decay,' Rachel says. 'Make sure to clean all sides of your pumpkin, submerging the fruit entirely in a bath or bucket if possible. 

2. Don't freeze your gourds

'Whereas warmer weather will cause carved pumpkins to decay faster, freezing temperatures or exposure to frost will speed up rotting in uncarved pumpkins,' Rachel advises. 'Instead, keep your pumpkins between 50 and 60℉.'

3. Keep animals away

If you live in an area with a lot of wildlife keeping animals such as deer, rats, mice, and squirrels will keep your uncarved pumpkins in pristine condition. Knowing how to get rid of squirrels and how to get rid of mice is essential when putting whole gourds outside of your home. 

If you are a keen gardener, planting deer-resistant plants in your yard will help to keep your backyard deer free year-round too. 

How to stop pumpkins from rotting on the vine

Pumpkins growing on the vine

(Image credit: Unsplash)

1. Water until fruit appears 

'When growing pumpkins, knowing how often to water them is vital to ensuring plump fruits,' says Rachel. 'Pumpkins like slightly more water at the flowering stage for proper fruit growth than at the fruiting stage. Once the pumpkin fruit begins to turn orange, cease watering or irrigation to prevent rot.'

2. Use a ground barrier 

If you are concerned about pumpkin rot caused by ground moisture, soil pests, or from overladen fruit on the vine, you can use a ground barrier or box to help lift the pumpkin away from the ground and provide support as it matures. 

'Lift healthy pumpkins and place them on a small box, straw nest, or pallet to protect them from moisture,' Rachel recommends.

How long do uncarved pumpkins stay fresh?

A picked, uncarved pumpkin can last between two and three months if kept in the right conditions such as out of the direct sun and away from freezing temperatures. Carved pumpkins, on the other hand, will only last a few days regardless of the conditions they are kept in. 

Why are my pumpkins rotting?

If your pumpkins are rotting on the vine, the chances are they have fallen victim to excess moisture in the soil, insufficient nutrition, or pests. Luckily, most of these causes can be remedied to protect the remainder of your fruits. 

If you have carved your pumpkins, rotting is a natural occurrence as the larger surface area oxidizes. While you can extend the lifespan of your pumpkins by adding preservatives such as vinegar or petroleum jelly there is no way of making your carved pumpkins last forever. 

Chiana Dickson
Junior Writer

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.