What To Do With Your Jack-O-Lantern After Halloween

What To Do With Your Jack-O-Lantern After Halloween

Carving pumpkins to make Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween is a long-standing tradition, but from an environmental perspective, there are some concerns. For one thing, pumpkins take a lot of water and pesticides to grow. For another thing, they are often disposed of in the landfill after their time of usefulness is over, leaving them to rot and emit methane.


But, all is not lost. What if we could have some good come out of our favorite gourd?


I know lots of people who toast the pumpkin seeds to eat later. That’s a great first step in putting to good use material that would otherwise be thrown away.


As far as what to do with the pumpkin after Halloween, there are many options besides throwing it in the landfill.


1.  Compost it. In our area, we have curbside food scrap collection, so putting the pumpkin in the food scrap bin will ensure it doesn’t end up in the landfill. You can also compost the pumpkin in your back yard. If you don’t have a compost pile, you can put small pieces of it in your flower or garden beds to feed the worms and other insects that inhabit the soil.

2.  Leave it out for the wildlife. If you have woods on your property, you could put the pumpkin out for the wildlife. While I don’t advocate putting food out regularly for the wildlife, this is one exception. The best thing to do is split the pumpkin open so that the squirrels, deer, foxes, rabbits and mice can get to the flesh on the inside.
Do you have friends who have chickens? Chickens love pumpkin. Offer to supply your friend’s chickens with a tasty treat.

3. Donate it to a farm or animal sanctuary. This is becoming a more popular option in my area. There are pig farmers who accept pumpkin donations and there’s even a directory to help you find them. Check out www.pumpkinsforpigs.org. They have a directory of pig farms and animal sanctuaries that are updated every year.


Whether you are composting, leaving it out for wildlife or donating it to a farmer or animal sanctuary, it’s good to encourage your neighbors to do the same. You could offer to collect up some of the pumpkins and deliver them together to their destination.


Make sure to plan ahead. If you are planning to choose any of these options, make sure that you don’t put anything on the pumpkin that would be toxic to wildlife. Do not spray bleach or any other toxic substance in or on the pumpkin.  

Compostable versus Biodegradable: What You Should Know

Compostable versus Biodegradable: What You Should Know
On a recent blog post, I provided some suggestions on alternatives to new plastic trash bags. You can find that post here. Some of the trash bags were labelled compostable and some were labelled biodegradable. It got me curious about the differences between the two terms, so if you’re curious too, read on.
Although the terms have often been used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two. The differences become even more important when we talk about their implications to home composting. Biodegradable means that the item will break down naturally over time in a typical outdoor environment. Compostable means that the item will break down over time in an industrial composting environment. So, compostable items are also biodegradable, but items that are labeled biodegradable are not necessarily compostable, at least not in your backyard. 
Compostable products will break down in an industrial composting environment. The key word here is industrial. This does not mean that they will decompose in a backyard compost pile. Industrial composting facilities keep tight control over the moisture and temperature of their materials whereas most backyard composters do not. The rate and which a material will decompose is dependent on the environment in which it is in. If it’s not ideal, decomposition can be very slow or nonexistent.
If you have access to industrial composting facilities, purchasing either biodegradable or compostable products will work well for you, as you will have a place to take them. If you don’t have access to industrial composting, but you have a backyard compost pile, you need to know if these products will breakdown in it. If you want to ensure that a product will decompose in your backyard compost pile, make sure the product is labelled “home compostable”. Otherwise, the labeling is likely for industrial composting facilities. 
Some of the compostable products that I am drawn to in terms of being more sustainable are paper plates and utensils. These are a great alternative to disposable plastic utensils, particularly for parties. When people gather for potluck lunches, parties, etc, disposable dishes and cutlery is the norm. Why not go for the compostable version? It might be a bit more expensive, but it would reduce the plastic being thrown away. I have access to industrial composting, so for me, this works as a replacement for single use plastic. If this sounds good to you but you are planning to put these in your backyard compost, you may not find it to be such a good idea. 
No matter what you decide to purchase, take some time to learn the difference between these two terms so you know what to expect in the long term with the products that you buy. 

Adventures in Bucket Composting - Part 3

Adventures in Bucket Composting - Part 3
In my previous two posts, I showed how I prepared my two-bucket system from empty cat litter bins I obtained from one of my friends, how I created the initial layers of material, and how I watched it for the first couple of weeks.
After 8 weeks’ time, I observed that the food scraps were nearly completely decomposed and the material appears about ready to be used. Click here to watch the video.

Here are some things I learned along the way:
1. Composting does not have to be difficult.
All of my studying and worrying was worthwhile but ultimately wasted energy. Really, just throw down some food scraps, leaves and paper, and let the earth do its thing. It needs air and it needs moisture, but beyond that, let it be.
2. Your compost bin is very forgiving.
A couple of times when I checked on it, it was too dry, so I added what I thought was an appropriate amount of water. I ended up adding too much…oops. To compensate, I added more brown material and everything got back into balance in about a week. Based on my experience, I think it would be rather difficult to totally screw up your compost bin. Worst case scenario? Dump it out and start over.
3. I can really overthink things.
I think this point leads back to the first 2 points. This really is quite easy. I’m an analyst and a skeptic. I like to read up as much as possible on anything I am trying to do for the first time. This is both good and bad. It means that I don’t typically jump into something without having a clue, but it also means I avoid trying some things if I haven’t spent enough time researching them. Fear of failure anyone? This is a prime example of overthinking things. In the end, I have been successful, and I am confident in moving forward with other composting projects.
My next adventure is going to be building a compost pile in my back yard with the intent to use it to fill and refresh my garden space(s). I’m putting in a couple of raised beds over the winter in preparation for spring planting.

If you'd like to read the previous posts, here are the links.  
Adventures in Bucket Compsting - Part 1 
Adventures in Bucket Composting - Part 2 
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Adventures in Bucket Composting - Part 2

Adventures in Bucket Composting - Part 2
In my previous post, I showed how I prepared my two-bucket system from empty cat litter bins I obtained from one of my friends. Once the initial layers of material were in place, there was not much that I needed to do except keep an eye on it.
Across the next 4 weeks, I checked on my compost routinely – at least twice per week to give it air and mix it up a bit. I used a regular garden trowel to access the material at the bottom of the bucket to bring it to the surface. I tried to make sure to keep the food scraps in the middle of the pile as much as possible, as I had read that’s where they should be.
I also fretted about whether it was too dry or too wet and whether the ratio between browns and greens was right. I added water when it got too dry and added dry materials when it seemed to wet. Not much changed on a day to day basis, but across the weeks, I could see that the food scraps, eggshells and other greens were breaking down slowly.
There were some sprouts that popped up along the way, and I just plucked them out as I saw them. Not being sure what they were coming from, I didn’t consider eating them. I’m happy to indulge in sprouts that are from beans, but the unknown? I’m not that adventurous.
I checked for heat to be generated from my little bucket. Composting in this way should be generating heat, so adding more food scraps and greens when the temperature of the pile seemed to drop helped with this.
Lastly, I added some dried leaves on top of the bin as someone suggested this would help the compost break down better as well as keep down the bugs. I certainly saw a good number of tiny flies in the bin. I will show you what happened in the next post. Stay tuned.

Here's a link to the second video that I did in this series:

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Adventures in Bucket Composting – Part 1

Adventures in Bucket Composting – Part 1
I have collected food scraps and contributed to my county’s curbside food scrap collection program for a number of years, and I’ve also gardened on and off. When I was setting up my garden this year, I wanted to add in some compost to supplement the soil and looked to purchase some from our county’s composting program. Of course, it’s the year of covid, so the facility which normally sells bulk mulch and compost to the public was closed to customers.
Thinking that things would resolve soon, I waited and waited. Finally, it was nearing the end of the growing season, and I was starting to plan for next year with no compost. So, at the end of the summer, I decided to experiment with making my own compost bin.
I watched a ton of videos to get a feel for what I needed to do and once I felt confident in trying it out, I set out to try my hand at creating some of that amazing nutrient rich garden material myself. I decided to try the bucket system as it seemed like the easiest and cheapest method for a newbie.
A lot of the videos I watched suggested going out and buying 2 plastic bins that would fit inside each other, but I didn’t like the thought of purchasing more plastic and wanted to find a different option. I recalled that cat litter often comes in plastic bins, so I put a call out to some friends to see if they had any empty buckets. I have one friend in particular who has multiple cats, and she was able to give me two empty bins with lids, so I was off to a good start.
One thing to know about me is that I am frugal. I don’t like spending money on things I’m not sure will work because if they don’t work, I view it as wasted money. Once I know something will work, I’m happy to spend the money, but initially? I want to invest as little as possible.
Free empty bins…check. Next up, prepping the bins based on what I saw in online videos. The key to bucket composting, I learned from the videos, is to have holes in the bucket for drainage and air. I’m pretty handy with a drill, so I made quick work of this part.
Once the bucket was prepped, I had to figure out the right ratio of “browns” to “greens” to put in my bin. There are lots of opinions out there about the ratio between browns and greens, and I admit I spent quite a bit of time studying this. You see, the greens are the fresh plant material and food scraps that you want to decompose. The greens are high in nitrogen. The browns are materials that are high in carbon like dried leaves, pine needles, twigs and dried paper. Once I was convinced of the correct ratio, I set out to build my bins and deposit my first materials. In parts 2 and 3, you’ll learn that this ratio is not all that critical.
Here’s the first video in my 3 part series that shows you my preparation steps, including drilling holes and what I put in the bin initially.

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Get my free guide: 4 Ways Being Earth-Friendly Can Change Your Life for the Better HERE.