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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: The Perfect Pumpkin

Pumpkin in the field with the sun.
Amazing Aperture Photography / Getty Images
Carving pumpkins should have at least one side that's smooth and symmetrical, and the bottom should be flat, so it stands up on its own. The pumpkin should also have the stem attached.

It's getting closer to the big day. Halloween rivals Christmas for the amount of money spent on decorating, costumes and parties. However, with all the things you can buy for Halloween decorations, the pumpkin is still at the center of all the action.

There's nothing like heading out with your family to your favorite farm stand and picking out a Halloween pumpkin. But how do you know which ones to pick? 

There are some rules to follow for the best pumpkin. First, decide if you'll be carving or painting the pumpkin. Some odd-shaped fruits may not make good carved pumpkins, but are great for painting and decorating. Carving pumpkins should have at least one side that's smooth and symmetrical. The bottom should be flat, so it stands up on its own. The pumpkin should also have the stem attached.

Once home, paint the pumpkin anytime. For carving, try to wait to close to Halloween so warm weather doesn't deform your masterpiece. Before cutting, wash the skin with a 10% bleach solution to disinfect it. Then dive in.

Instead of cutting the top with the pumpkin to clean it out, carve a hole in the back of the pumpkin instead. Remove all the inside flesh and save the seeds. By cutting the back instead of the top, the pumpkin will be less likely to collapse before Halloween. Carve the spookiest face possible. Then coat the pumpkin carvings with petroleum jelly to help preserve the shape.

Once the big day is over, let the squirrels enjoy the jack-o'-lantern while you can enjoy the roasted seeds.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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