How to Host a Pumpkin Smash (And Compost Jack-O’-Lanterns)

CC BY 2.0. Ruth Hartnup

Consider this your reminder that the most iconic Halloween decoration, the jack-o'-lantern, is compostable. This year, why not make the end of your pumpkin’s life as memorable as carving it? Host a pumpkin smash, and tap into some destructive fun that will also help your pumpkin decompose into rich soil. That also goes for those cute or warty little gourds.

Below are some tips for a smashing time:

Enlist the kids—and their friends

Most kids will enjoy smashing and stomping those pumpkins. If you have a robust compost pile, spread the word and make a party out of it. Consider inviting classmates, neighbors, scout groups or any other community organizations you might be a part of to bring a jack-o'-lantern and join the smash. It can be an opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of composting in a fun, hands-on setting.

Eat what you can

Even if you bought pumpkins for decorative purposes but didn't carve them up, you can still decide to eat them post-Halloween. Rebecca Louie, the author of Compost City, says the edible parts of a pumpkin are divine and ideally should be spared a trip to the compost pile. “If your pumpkin is whole and hasn't started to decompose, scoop out those seeds, toss them with spices and a dash of olive oil, and toast them! Then, cut out the pumpkin flesh to make puree.”

You also want to avoid getting seeds in your compost because they can take a very long time to decompose, or may even sprout in your compost bin.

Remove the wax

Before you smash, be sure to remove any leftover candles and wax from inside the jack-o-lantern. Although many waxes do eventually decompose, they can take a very long time.

Also, painted pumpkins have become a popular trend, but unless you know the pumpkin was painted with a nontoxic paint, it may be best to keep them out of your compost.

Make more surface area

If you don’t have the stomach to stomp your carved masterpiece, at least cut it up. “When you're ready to compost your pumpkins, both big and decorative in size, be sure to chop them up,” says Louie. “By chopping up your pumpkins, you increase the surface area for microbes and critters to attack their pumpkin feast. Plus, this helps break through the pumpkin's slower-to-decompose protective outer skin, which otherwise may act as a shield to the tender flesh within.”

Mix orange and browns

When perfecting your compost pile, common advice is to mix 1 part greens with 30 parts browns. Your pumpkin counts as greens—and that may seem a little daunting. However, dry leaves are an abundant source of browns during this season. So, layer your pumpkins with plenty of fall leaves. If anyone you know decorated with straw bails, those can be added to the compost pile as browns too.