The Q&A Archives: Pumpkin Mulch

Question: I've noticed some gardeners (and a few farmers) who have covered garden areas densely with pumpkins and let them rot over the winter. What is the purpose of this? Any danger of them seeding in the spring?

Answer: It's never a good idea to leave plant debris in the garden over the winter. The practice seems like a lazy-man's approach to composting. Rotting pumpkins will supply the soil with some nutrients, but will also provide a place for overwintering insects and disease pathogens. Plus, the seeds from the pumpkins will certainly sprout in the spring. This may not be a problem in a commercial field because the debris will be tilled into the soil before the field is planted again. I expect disease problems and errant sprouting seeds are dealt with chemically. But for the home gardener, the stuff will have to be picked up and thrown in a compost pile before the site can be used again. I'd rather handle the plants and pumpkins before they turn into a slimy mess! For the healthiest garden site, compost your end-of-season plant debris and add the compost to the soil before planting in the spring.

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