Before heading out to the pumpkin patch to pick your perfect pumpkin, Virginia Cooperative Extension horticulture expert Ashley Edwards says it’s important to wait until pumpkins are fully mature before harvesting and to carve them as close to Halloween as you can to avoid early rotting.

Before harvesting pumpkins, Edwards offers the following tips:

  • Prevent rotting by waiting until maturity to harvest and avoiding freezing temperatures.
  • Mature pumpkins have hard, shiny shells that can't be easily punctured by a fingernail.
  • Cure your pumpkin (allow skin to harden) by allowing it to remain in the garden during dry, sunny weather, ideally, 80-85 degrees F, for about 7-14 days.

Prior to carving, Edwards says it’s important to store pumpkins in well-ventilated areas to extend their lifespan before they rot and offers the following advice.

  • Place pumpkins in a well-ventilated storage area, preferably protected from rain.
  • Pumpkins will retain good quality for approximately 2-3 months if stored at the appropriate relative humidity (50-70 percent) and temperature (50-55°F).

Once your pumpkin is carved, Edwards says that you can use petroleum jelly on the inside and outside of the pumpkin to keep it hydrated. “Try using battery-operated lights instead of real candles to prevent wilting, and you can also spray the outside of the pumpkin with clear acrylic spray to help keep pests and bacteria away.”

To dispose of your pumpkin, Edwards says to add it to the compost pile as a good use of the leftover organic matter for future gardening.

For additional tips on how to keep a homegrown pumpkin disease free and healthy, visit the Disease Management Tool listed in the Home Grounds and Animals Pest Management Guide from Virginia Cooperative Extension.   

About Edwards
Ashley Edwards is the Horticulture Extension Agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. She serves the needs of producers including the production, harvesting, marketing and distribution of vegetables, small fruits, tree fruits, alternative specialty crops, and greenhouse crops. She also works with growers to assist them in attaining food safety certification such as USDA GAP and Harmonized GAP, as well as to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule. More here.

To secure an interview with Edwards, contact Shannon Andrea in the media relations office at or 703-399-9494.

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