KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Preserving pumpkin displays during fall temperature swings

Weather Stories

Temperature swings are common in Kansas, especially during the fall season. However, this temperature roller coaster can impact how long outdoor decorations can last, especially when talking about those purchased pumpkins and other gourds. Knowing how to protect them from the outdoor elements can extend the longevity of your fall or Halloween displays.

It is important to find healthy pumpkins. You can be sure you have a healthier squash by gently checking the stem to make sure it is firm and that there are no soft spots on the fruit part of the pumpkin. If the stem is soft or you find soft spots on the flesh, it could shorten the lifespan of the pumpkin or gourd. If the pumpkin was stored properly after the harvest, it may last up to 3 months if it is not cut up and protected from fall temperature extremes.

With Halloween right around the corner, you may have plans to make jack-o’-lanterns with the family. Once you cut up a pumpkin, it will typically only last about 5 to 10 days before it may start to get mold or dry out. There are ways you can protect the flesh and the insides of the pumpkins by using petroleum jelly, WD-40, bleach or vinegar baths and sprays, or vegetable oil. Be sure to read up on how to properly prepare your pumpkins. Keep in mind that some of these may be more flammable substances and using a burning candle inside the pumpkin after it has been treated is not advised for safety reasons. In addition, the heat from a burning candle inside of a pumpkin will start to dry it out. The use of artificial lights will help keep the pumpkin healthier for a longer amount of time.

Whether you turned your pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern, or left the pumpkin alone to display on your front porch, be sure to keep an eye on our Storm Track 3 forecast as frost concerns remain possible as we wrap up October and transition into November. Setting your pumpkins or gourds directly on concrete is not advised as the concrete will act to dehydrate your pumpkin, shortening its life. Dark and dry spots are best for storage purposes with an ideal temperature between 50° and 60°.

Nights across the Sunflower State can quickly drop into the 30s. If a frost or freeze looks likely, it is best to bring your pumpkins indoors until temperatures can warm up the following day. If this is not feasible, covering your pumpkin with blankets or paper products such as newspaper or cardboard can help protect it from frost. Do not use plastic as moisture may get trapped underneath leading to damage to the pumpkin. When temperatures turn chilly, this leads to a shortened life span. Frosty conditions will lead to soft spots on the flesh of the pumpkin which can then open up issues with rot and mold as temperatures warm.

Finding a dry, cool place and keeping your pumpkins and gourds covered will be key in helping to preserve the life of outdoor fall decorations. Keep an eye on forecast updates from the Storm Track 3 Weather Team to know when frost and freeze precautions need to be taken.

— Meteorologist Erika Paige

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