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Pumpkin Carving and Preserving

By Carolyn Roof | In the Arboretum


Jack-0-lanterns that many of us grew up carving are not what they are today. Today, they are designer decor, though it still is possible to find a snuggle tooth, triangle nose and eyes occasionally. Mrs. Wallis loved children and I would like to think that she, too, had simply carved pumpkins.

Our traditional Jack-o-lanterns of our youth would be even more un-recognizable by those who introduced the concept of Jack-o-lanterns to this country.  According to Irish legend, Stingy Jack bargained with the Devil and won. Heaven would not accept Jack when he died, nor the Devil who took revenge by forcing Jack to wander with only a turnip lantern to guide him.

The Jack-o-lantern today has evolved from only slightly scary to whimsical and even sculptural masterpieces. There are no rules as to what a Jack-o-lantern should be other than do you like it. However, there are which pumpkin is best for which style, how to carve and lengthen the usable life of the pumpkin.

The best Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are mid-size, smooth thin-skinned but firm for ease of carving and easier to clean out. Pie pumpkins and Carving pumpkins are interchangeable both for carving and eating the only difference is pie-type is smaller. Mid-sized range from 8-12 pounds and larger 15-35 pounds), ones are harder to carve but dramatic.

Half of the fun of carving your own is selecting it at a pumpkin farm. Ask the staff for the best carving varieties.

Before purchasing decide on the design and size needed. Inspect the pumpkin for intact stem and no bruises, soft spots or other damage. If hollow sounding when thumped it is ripe.

Sanitation is important as it has a maximum lifespan of 7 days. Before carving, clean tools and hands. Wipe the skin with bleach and cut a hole in the bottom to clean it out. Never carry by its stem as a broken stem opens it up to bacteria. Keep out of direct sun and in a cool location. Wipe out the inside and cut areas with bleach. Use battery-operated candles or flashlights. If it starts to shrivel or show mold, soak it in bleach water(2 tablespoons per gallon) for a couple of hours

Enjoy your custom Jack-o-lantern and take pictures.


Garden – Pansies are in full bloom. Given protection and a mild winter they will remain blooming through the winter. Roses are at their peak. Prune only after they go dormant to reduce root damage from canes being whipped by high winds. Remove matted leaves and from flowering plants. Cut flowers to encourage the last bloom of the fall.

According to moon signs, today is the best day to plant those that flower. Fertile days the rest of the month are 25-26 and 30-31.

Lawn –Mow with the leaf shoot facing away from beds. Attach the grass bag to catch mulched leaves. Add to a compost pile or no more than 3 inches deep and away from shrub and tree trunks. Tree bark does not grow roots. It does soften when covered setting it up for rodent and insect damage.

Insect – Shorter days and cooler temperatures have brought stink bugs in for the winter. They are not destructive, just stink if frightened, do they lay eggs in winter, nor bite.  Controls: wipe screens with the strong smelling fabric softener sheets; Sarah Welsh,, a mixture recommends mixed in order: 2 cups hot water, 1 cup white vinegar and ½ cup dish soap will control; or use a tissue to pick it up taking care not to pinch or step on it as it will stink. It is more efficient to vacuum to collect a large group, but discard bags immediately as they will hold the odor.

Vegetables – Grow tomatoes all winter. Bring in producing plants now to continue for a while. Bonnie L. Grant suggests planting tomato varieties Red Robin(best indoor variety) Yellow Pear and Burpee Basket King(hanging plants).  Sow every two weeks for continuous production. Place in a sunny, southern window and turn for even growth.

Burpee is offering a reusable $10 discount on $25 plus orders through June 10, 2021. Limited to one discount per order.


Reach Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist, at

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