By: NICOLE BRADLEY of Better Homes & Garden

Image Credit: Better Homes & Gardens

Despite the fact that Halloween decor is in full force, we all can agree that there is nothing scarier than a sunken, sad pumpkin. Don’t let your festive pumpkins go from sweet to scary. Put on a delightful display all season long with these tricks to extend the life of your pumpkins.

Handle with Care

To maximize the life of your pumpkins, try your best to keep your hands off them. The only time you should touch your fruit is when you pick it at the patch, when you unload it from your car, and when you clean it. At the patch, pick the pumpkin up around the fruit instead of gripping the stem—a broken stem means a shorter pumpkin life.

The oils from your fingers can speed up the rotting process, so only touch your pumpkins when you absolutely need to. Handling the pumpkin too aggressively can also lead to unwanted cuts from fingernail snags or bruises from gripping too hard. Ideally, you’ll set your pumpkin in its desired home for the season and it won’t have to be touched again

Location Is Key

If you plan on keeping your pumpkins outside, be sure to place them in a dry, shaded spot—like a covered porch—for the entire season. Too much hot sun will speed up a pumpkin’s decaying process, as will wet rain. Moisture from rain can lead to mold and mush, which no one wants on their festive pumpkins!

Give Them a Bath

Give your pumpkin a bath every now and then to keep its rind fresh. Mix one part bleach to ten parts water in a large container and let your pumpkin bathe in the solution for two minutes. Since the pumpkin will float in the solution, you’ll need to stir it around to make sure all sides of the pumpkin get covered. Let your pumpkin dry completely before setting it back in its designated home. Also be sure that the base of the stem, where liquid tends to pool, is dry. The bleach-water solution you use in your pumpkin bath can also be used as a daily spray to keep your pumpkins healthy.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Ensuring that your pumpkins are properly moisturized will keep them fresh for a longer period of time. While carving pumpkins is a tradition we all know and love, unfortunately it will speed up the decaying process—oxidation will happen as soon as the pumpkin is cut open and it’ll dry out faster. If you do decide to carve your pumpkins, extend their life by rubbing petroleum jelly around the carved areas of the pumpkin.

Another way to keep the rind properly moisturized is to spray your pumpkin with a peppermint-based conditioning spray. To make this, mix a peppermint soap (we like Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap, amazon.com) with a few drops of peppermint essential oil. Peppermint has anti-fungal properties that will keep your pumpkins soft and smooth when they begin to dry out. Not only that, but the peppermint will leave your pumpkin display with a pleasant smell!

Keep Pests Away

Don’t let your Halloween get any scarier with pests around your pumpkins. Unfortunately, because pumpkins are vegetables, pests want to snack on them just as much as they do your homegrown tomatoes, zucchini, and other produce. Pumpkins, especially carved ones, are particularly prone to fruit flies. The main thing that attracts fruit flies? Mold. This means that the first step to fruit fly prevention is to carve your pumpkin properly. Make sure that the inside of the pumpkin is completely gut-free, which will lessen the chance of mold. To trap the flies, place an open dish of wine next to your pumpkins—yes, you heard us right. Since fruit flies are attracted to fermented fruit, the wine will serve as a distraction.

The most effective way to avoid ground-lurking pests like ants and squirrels is to keep your pumpkins off the ground. Set them on a windowsill or stack them on haybales—this is your chance to get creative!