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A new way to carve your pumpkin and make it last past Halloween

Carved orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins sit on a wooden front step.
knape/Getty Images/iStockphoto
If you decorate with pumpkins for fall and Halloween, learn some tips and tricks to keep your carved masterpieces looking great and lasting longer.

You can carve pumpkins and then treat the outside and inside to prolong its spooky life.

Carving pumpkins for fall outdoor (and indoor!) decorations can be as simple as a few triangles and a crooked smile or more elaborate and intricate. However you decorate your pumpkin, you'll want to learn some techniques aimed at preserving your works of art! Make your masterpiece last by following a few simple rules.

First, make sure you're selecting the right pumpkin. It should be healthy and free from mold or fungus. Then clean the surface with a light bleach solution.

Next, carve out the back of the pumpkin instead of the top.

Traditionally, you'd remove the top of the pumpkin along with the stem to access and remove the fibers and seeds but the pumpkin's top and stem are important parts of its structure. Keeping them intact will help the pumpkin keep its shape longer.

Once you've carved out a hole in the back, remove the seeds and the insides as you normally would and carve away.

After you've created your creation, try rubbing petroleum jelly or beeswax on all the cut surfaces. Treating the pumpkin with a moisture barrier can help to prevent desiccation and collapse.

Q: Every year my chrysanthemums start out so bravely but, by the fall, when I am hoping for the best display, they have grown so leggy that they fall over with the rains and become a ground- cover shadow of what I had hoped they would be. I've tried various methods of support: a rope tied around my tree, interlinking supports that I form into a loop around the plants, and tomato cages. Nothing seems to work. This also happens to my salvia and black-eyed Susan. Is there a solution? - David, in Middlebury

With chrysanthemums in particular, pinch them early on when they first begin to grow up to about eight inches tall.

To do this, simply pinch the top inch or so of each one chrysanthemum stem.

Do the same thing again around the Solstice (somewhere around June 21), and then again a couple weeks later, around July 4. Doing this will help the plant grow shorter, squatter and fuller. Your chrysanthemums will have a lot of flowers in the fall, but it won't fall over!

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a messageor get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.