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Naturalist: Recycle Jack-O-Lanterns, Use Pumpkin Seeds as Birdfeed


Wednesday, November 3, 2021   

BOSTON - Now that Halloween has passed, groups recommend recycling leftover jack-o-lanterns, rather than sending them to landfills.

Pumpkins are 90% water, and David Mizejewski, a National Wildlife Federation naturalist, said once the seeds are removed, they break down quickly and can make a good addition to your
compost pile. If you don't have a compost pile, he said some local recycling centers, nearby farms or community gardens may collect old pumpkins for composting.

"If your pumpkins are not, like, really, really squishy and rotten, you can also crack them open and leave a couple of them out in your yard," he said, "and they'll be a nice little treat for the birds and the squirrels, and some of the other wildlife."

Generally, he said, the federation recommends against feeding wildlife, especially mammals, but it's OK to give the local wildlife a once-a-year treat of a pumpkin or two, as long as it hasn't been painted or sprayed with anything to keep out pests. However, he added, it's important not to go overboard, and to avoid leaving pumpkins out if you live in an area with a rat problem.

Mizejewski said pumpkin seeds also have a variety of uses. He said you can use them to grow your own pumpkin plants for the spring.

"Now, not only is that going to result in you having your own little private pumpkin patch," he said, "but the flowers that pumpkins put out, pumpkins are part of the squash family and they actually can be an important source of nectar and pollen for some of our wild native bees."

He recommended toasting the seeds as a treat for yourself or scattering them raw outdoors or in bird feeders for backyard birds. He noted there's more information on how to create wildlife-friendly landscapes in your yard online at

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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