New Hanover County Arboretum collecting pumpkins for composting

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This valuable waste product will be sorted and diverted to become animal feed for local farms or to a large scale composting operation to help build soil health

Lloyd Singleton
 |  Director of N.C. Cooperative Extension Center for New Hanover County

In this season of Jack-O-Lanterns, I am reminded of the 90s alternative rock band, Smashing Pumpkins. In their hit song “1979”, the words “And we don’t know just where our bones will rest. To dust I guess. Forgotten and absorbed into the earth below.” were written by frontman Billy Corgan and express a typical teenage angst. For me, as a horticulturist and agroecologist, dust absorbed into the earth below sounds like a very good thing.

Pumpkins, those beautiful orange orbs of autumn, offer us a creative outlet for the season in the manner of cutting and carving. Some have faces which are meant to be scary or funny; some are elaborate and detailed in design. The slimy, stringy guts make great backyard chicken food. The roasted seeds are a nutritious human snack. Any pumpkin cut initiates the process of decomposition; a jack-o-lantern smile will quickly become a frown as the flesh slumps down on itself.

Pumpkin waste are part of the millions of tons of vegetable residues produced yearly that could be diverted from the landfill. If used in livestock feeding, their value is in its nutritional content and its bioactive compounds that could modify meat, milk, and egg composition to be of more value for human nutrition. Adult pigs require no added processing of pumpkins (smashing or cooking) to promote consumption. Poultry also take readily to pumpkins, particularly those with cuts through the tough rind.

If you compost in your backyard, add your pumpkin. Remove candles, wax and any decorations. It helps if you smash or cut pumpkin into several pieces to speed decomposition, and cover with leaves. Return this nutrient to the soil, dust to be absorbed back into the earth.

If you don’t have hogs or chickens to feed, or a backyard composting system, we have a free way you can participate in diverting your jack-o-lanterns and decorative pumpkins from the landfill. The Coastal Composting Council is offering the second annual Pumpkin Collection Event in partnership with the Wilmington Compost Company and the N.C. Cooperative Extension – New Hanover County Center and Arboretum beginning Sunday, Nov. 1 through Friday, Nov. 6., collection bins for pumpkins will be provided in the New Hanover County Arboretum parking lot, at 6206 Oleander Drive, please enter off of Bradley Drive and follow the signs to drop off your undecorated pumpkin.

This valuable waste product will be sorted and diverted to become animal feed for local farms or to a large scale composting operation to help build soil health. Smashing pumpkins is not required, but we hope you’ll participate by contributing your pumpkin and visit the beautiful Arboretum grounds while you’re here – free and open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Lloyd Singleton is director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Center for New Hanover County. Reach him at lsingleton@nhcgov.com or 910-798-7660.

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