Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No reason to be junkin' that punkin' - 18 ways to recycle pumpkins

If you love carving Halloween pumpkins, you have GOT to visit and check out the FANSTASTIC carvings on the site. I know we will use that site for some inspiration before we do our carving this weekend.

We rarely get any trick-or-treaters at our home anymore, but my husband and I still always buy a pumpkin or two and carve some jack-o-lanterns. It’s fun, and it gives us something colorful and nutritious to add to our compost pile.

Compost, which is made of decomposed organic matter, makes a nutrient rich natural soil enhancer. Adding pumpkins to a compost pile also keeps them out of local landfills.

To speed along the process of decomposition, it is best to let your inner Halloween imp loose for a little pumpkin smashing.

Once they are smashed and bashed, toss them in your compost pile and layer with other organic materials such as shredded leaves, grass clippings and food scraps. Turn the pile from time to time and keep it moist, and by the time you are ready for your spring planting next year, you'll have some nutrient rich, home-made fertilizer to add to your planting beds.

For more information about creating compost, visit:
Composting 101 for DC Residents
Composting at Home
EPA Composting Site

If you haven't yet started your own compost pile, here are 17 other things that can be done with leftover pumpkin, gathered from various sites around the internet. I've provided links to the original content so you can get more info on the ideas that interest you.

1)Feed your old pumpkin to your pet - When cooked and mashed, pumpkin can be a fantastic natural digestive remedy for dogs and cats alike. A little mashed pumpkin can go a long way to treat diarrhea, weight gain, or infections in your pet, and they’ll probably appreciate the taste as well. (Source)

2) Donate it to the zoo - There are also many zoos which accept pumpkin donations and then feed them to their animals as local, seasonal treats (green, sustainable, organic zoo food!). Source: sustainablog (

3) Treat Your Skin - Pumpkin is full of rich vitamins, enzymes and even essential amino acids, all of which can benefit your skin. They also boast alpha-hydroxy acids that are known to decrease the appearance of wrinkles. Pop on over to this post to find out how to make a homemade face treatment. sustainablog (

4) Spice up your home - If you’re craving Thanskgiving already just for the scrumptious smell of fresh pumpkin pie, then you might want to make your own pumpkin pie potpourri. If your pumpkin is already hollowed and carved, you’re halfway there. If not, scoop it out clean and cut some small holes for venting. Rub cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice on the interior and insert cloves into the lid. Place a small tea candle inside and just wait for the delicious scent of warm pumpkin pie to start wafting through your home. Source: sustainablog (

5) Whip up some pumpkin purée - Pumpkin purée is the No. 1 use for the fleshy insides of your pumpkin, and it’s super easy to make. Find out how to make it here: Souce: Earth911  

6) Make a pumpkin planter - A pumpkin can make a beautiful centerpiece or front step adornment when used as a flower pot or vase. The photo on this post will inspire you to make your own: Source: ahamodernliving  

7) Roast the seeds - Roasted pumpkin seeds are a tasty fall favorite, and there are plenty of ways to use them. Reads this post to get the most from these tasty treats: Source: Earth911

8) Grow new pumpkins with the seeds - Source: How to Grow Your Own Pumpkins  

9) Feed the wildlife - Depending on where you live, a pumpkin you’d otherwise throw away could be a tasty snack for a furry or feathery neighbor. Old jack-o-lanterns are perfect food for deer, and any pumpkin seeds you don’t want to toast up for yourself will make a yummy treat for birds. Source: Earth911

10) Make a Pumpkin Bird Feeder Making a pumpkin bird feeder is a fun way to keep your backyard songstresses fed when temperatures begin to drop and food becomes a bit more scarce. To make a pumpkin bird feeder, select a pumpkin that is no more than about 5 pounds in weight. Cut it in half width-wise and thoroughly scrape out the goop so that the inside feels relatively dry to the touch. Leave a 1/2 inch wall on the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin seeds into this wall so that they stick up and form a ledge around the outside of the feeder.For more info: Source: ahamodernliving  

11) Make pumpkin candy - Pumpkin candy is a Mexican tradition, but when you discover just how tasty they are, you’ll likely make it one of yours, too. Find the recipe here: Source: Earth911  

12) Mix up a pumpkin cocktail- Thanks to the ever-widening selection of flavored vodkas on the market, you can make a tasty cocktail out of almost anything – even your Halloween pumpkin. While you enjoy your grown-up dessert drink, you can use some of that pumpkin purée in a tasty milkshake for the kids. Find recipes for both, here: Source: Earth911  

13) Pumpkin as a Cooler Since large, wide pumpkins are naturally bowl-shaped, they make great receptacles for beer, soda, and other bottled drinks. Choose a nice hefty pumpkin and begin by cutting off the top 1/3. Thoroughly scrape out all the goop and seeds. Next, place a glass or plastic bowl inside the pumpkin cavity. This is important to help prevent the pumpkin from getting waterlogged. If you do not have a bowl, smear Vaseline on the inside of the pumpkin, then cover it with plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with ice and bottled beverages of your choice. Source: ahamodernliving  

14) Another take on a beer cooler pumpkin If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can try your hand at this customized pumpkin beer cooler from It would definitely make a good conversation topic for any fall party. Just be careful- because a huge pumpkin filled with ice is going to be pretty heavy!  

15) Pumpkin as a Stew - recipe available on ahamodernliving  

16) Make some pumpkin serving bowls - Instead of hitting the trash can, those pumpkin shells could be hitting the dinner table and impressing all of your guests. Turning your pumpkin shells into festive serving bowls is easy. Source: Earth911  

17) Have pumpkin butter with breakfast - Fruit butters are delectable additions to a fall breakfast, and pumpkin butter is one of the easiest to make. Recipe on Source: Earth911

There are many more recipes for cooking with pumpkin on the page on

Have fun! And have a safe, happy and FUN Halloween.

Nightmares for Nature Nerds

I woke up in the middle of the night the other evening having a nightmare. In it, someone was chasing a hummingbird around my yard with a can of bug spray, trying to kill it. I was yelling and screaming at the person, trying to get them to realize the horrible thing they were doing.

The dream was a pretty good reflection of my life. I spend a lot of time trying to encourage people to be a little more aware of how their actions impact all of the living things in their gardens.

But like most dreams, there was something that had put the thought of dead hummingbirds into my mind, where it found its way into my dreams.

Last week, I found some photos on someone's blog of a hummingbird flying to a feeder where a large praying mantis was sitting. It was on the Birds 'N Such Blog, created by Alan Pulley of Norfolk Virginia.

I began reading the post, about how he was watching the hummingbird fly up towards the mantis, and already my mind was screaming "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

Well, you all probably know how much I love hummingbirds. They are like tiny little flying miracles to me. They bring me joy every time I see one. AND, I knew that praying mantises can eat hummingbirds.

I know it seems hard to believe, but its true. After first reading that statement, years ago, I did some online research and found both photos and videos of praying mantises killing hummingbirds.

That is one reason I never mention Praying Mantises as  beneficial insects, even though they are great at devouring a lot of bad insects in our yards. The unpleasant truth is, they don't stop with insects and will be happy to kill a beautiful little hummingbird if given the opportunity.

The whole thought of it is so sad to me, that I'm not  going to provide any links to  the many gory photos you can on-line. Feel free to search for praying mantis and hummingbirds if you want. But some of the photos are bad enough to cause nightmares for real nature nerds.

It's just another reminder  that you really have to be careful of everything you do in your yard and garden. Alan  made the choice of relocating his feeder. The last time I found a praying mantis, I made the choice of moving the mantis. In any case, no matter how you do it, I encourage you to watch out for the critters! As an eco-friendly gardener, the responsibility comes with the territory.

Now I need to figure out what the nightmare I had about hawks being trapped in my attic was all about. At least it wasn't bats in my belfry.

Related Post: Gardening for Hummingbirds

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