Use old jack o'lanterns as edible bird feeders in the garden

November 10, 2021

Gardener Jeff Uhlmeyer of Washington state babied his garden with a shelter from the sun and wind, and even a fan to keep things cool. His giant 2,191-pound pumpkin, named Steve, weighs as much as a small Chevy and won first place in the heavy pumpkin competition.

Giant Pumpkins will gain as much as 50 pounds (27.2kg) every day during the growing season.

Even if your pumpkins are more manageable size, you can reuse them in the garden to feed birds and small animals as well as feed the soil.

Remove any candles and wax, and break the pumpkins into pieces. You can add them directly to the garden and dig them in to rot into next year's fertilizer. Or you can leave them on the ground as food for squirrels, rabbits, foxes, deer and even chickens, cows and sheep.

Pumpkins are a good source of vitamins K, E and C, potassium, iron, folate and niacin. They also are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A wards off infections, forestalls some age-related vision problems, and might even protect from harmful UV rays.

You can eat pumpkin blossoms raw or lightly battered and fried. Even pumpkin leaves are edible and are cooked in Korean cuisine.

Pumpkin seeds are edible and nutritious for humans and wildlife. Rinse the seeds and lay them out to dry on a cookie sheet. After a few days, mix the dried pumpkin seeds in with your regular birdseed or add them to your chicken feed.

You can use old jack o'lanterns as edible bird feeders in the garden. Cut the pumpkin in half. If there are still seeds inside, scoop them out and dry them separately.

Cut four small trenches in which to rest perches for the birds. You can add sticks as perches.

Fill your empty pumpkin with wild bird seed and place it on a post in the garden. An old tree stump will do. If you would like to hang your pumpkin feeder, use wire or strong twine to hang it up.

To direct-feed deer, wild turkeys and rabbits, put cut-up pumpkin in a place where you can watch the wildlife from your windows.

Backyard chickens love eating pumpkin. The extra beta-carotene in your chickens' diet helps regenerate cells and helps the immune system. After eating pumpkins, your chickens will lay eggs with richer, deep-orange yolks. Always use fresh pumpkins that have not begun to rot or get moldy. Chickens will also eat the pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds contain zinc that is concentrated in a thin layer just under the membrane of the seeds, so don't shell the seeds for your chickens and songbirds, or they will miss out on this important nutrient.

Recycle your pumpkins and decorative squash by adding them to the compost pile, feeding wildlife or providing a healthy treat to your backyard chickens.

 There is an old Balkan tradition that any pumpkin kept more than 10 days after Christmas will become a vampire. Scare up some good nutrition for the animals and for your garden soil, because there's nothing spooky about it.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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