Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
How to Practice Proper Pumpkin Etiquette in Parks

Today’s blog comes from Discovery Program Project Coordinator Jessica Stillman. In the fall, if you’re not outside with students learning about mushrooms or how animals prepare for winter, you’re inside baking a pumpkin treat!

Spooky season is upon us!

It’s time for cobwebs, witches and skeletons to adorn our gardens and porches. Who doesn’t love admiring the creative carving of a pumpkin, its toothy smile illuminated by a flickering flame?

These eerily fun decorations are part of the Halloween spirit, but what happens to them once November 1st rolls around?

Let’s smash this habit

This fall, we’ve heard some visitors ask if they can compost their lanterns and pumpkins in natural spaces like provincial parks.

Our campers also asked us how they can safely dispose of their pumpkins after using them.

Pumpkin carved as a bat for Halloween

We love hearing that people are trying to find eco-friendly ways to dispose of their pumpkins. Keeping them out of landfills is great!

However Provincial parks are not places to turn pumpkins into compost.

Leaving pumpkins to decompose in a protected area has detrimental effects on the living things our parks are trying to protect.

No pumpkin for parks

decaying pumpkins

A pumpkin thrown into a forest will eventually decompose, but the seeds will not.

They will remain dormant on the ground waiting for the warmth of spring to begin to grow. This leads to pumpkin plants appearing all over our parks!

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Every year we see more and more pumpkins and seeds, which animals spread further when they eat and store food for the winter.

Squash plants are not a natural part of our parks. They take up space and resources that other plants need to survive. Over time, they reduce natural food sources for animals and degrade the beauty of our parks.

While we can see animals eating pumpkins or pumpkin seeds, this is not a natural food for them. Parks are already filled with healthy foods intended to help animals prepare for winter.

squirrel eating pumpkin

Gourds can also harm animals if they get their heads or antlers stuck while they are feeding.

It may be funny to imagine, but think about how scared that animal would be. This could be dangerous to your life.

There’s nothing scarier than a dropped pumpkin

Just because something is biodegradable doesn’t mean it’s healthy for a provincial park.

Pumpkin carved as a spider for Halloween

If you are camping in the park, make sure all organic decorations at your campsite are disposed of properly.

Never throw your pumpkins (or any other living thing) into the woods.

Instead, why not consider other ways to dispose of your pumpkin creation?

Perfect Pumpkin Solutions

rotten pumpkin

Here are some ways our staff reuses their pumpkins:

Who doesn’t love smashing pumpkins? No, not the band. But breaking pumpkin into smaller pieces at home is so much fun!

Mix pumpkin scraps into your own garden to help next year’s plants grow. Make sure you remove the seeds if you don’t want pumpkins in your garden!

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Toast the seeds for a tasty snack or puree them with your Jack-o-lantern. To bake and turn into a delicious treat!

Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup; The options are endless. Just make sure your squash hasn’t rotted before trying to cook with it.

ingredients for dessert

Dry the seeds before saving them for planting next year. How cool would it be to grow your own pumpkin from last year’s seeds?

Donate your pumpkin scraps. Do some research on local establishments that will accept your pumpkin donation. Some zoos and petting farms have donation programs where they use the pumpkins in their own compost or as treats for their animals.

Does this mean I can’t decorate my campsite?

Of course not! We love seeing the holiday spirit of our campers.

However, we must remember that our actions, even well-intentioned ones, can have lasting effects on the natural spaces we love.

It is important to follow park best practices to help us maintain the ecological integrity of our protected areas.

And don’t forget to make sure all your decorations are environmentally friendly!

Don’t let your pumpkins haunt us after Halloween!

By not dumping your pumpkins in a provincial park, you help us keep our parks natural and healthy.

Happy spooky season!