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In the fall, the humble pumpkin is everywhere as a symbol of the passage of summer and the change of seasons. Homeowners typically accent their homes with a plethora of pumpkins, indoors and out. However, you may have had the experience of buying pumpkins a bit too early for Halloween or the fall harvest festival you planned to use them for, only to see them dry up, cave in and become an unsightly mess.

What can be done to preserve your pumpkin decorations as long as possible?

1. When shopping, choose pumpkins without scratches, and ones that have dull, dry hulls — a sign they were mature when they were harvested.

2. Disinfect the pumpkin by washing it with mild dish soap, drying it thoroughly and then spraying it with diluted bleach or rubbing alcohol to kill bacteria and mold. You can also use disinfectant wipes.

3. Damp houses can cause your pumpkins to rot before they should. Place them out of sunlight in a warm room with good circulation or ventilation, and dry them for 10 days on a sheet of newspaper. This is adequate also for squash, but gourds take longer. If mold develops on gourds, buff it off. A ceiling fan can help.

4. After drying, seal the pumpkin with shellac or paste wax.

5. When you’re ready to carve a pumpkin, spray it again with diluted bleach. As you carve holes, apply petroleum jelly to keep moisture from evaporating.

6. If you’re not ready to carve the cleaned pumpkins or put them out, store them in a room with good ventilation at about 50 degrees and humidity between 50-75 percent. They should last two to three months.

Some features of your HVAC system may be helpful in preserving decorative pumpkins, squash and gourds. For instance, with a zoned system or a ductless mini-split, you can make some rooms cooler than others, which will aid in preserving treated pumpkins.

For more suggestions on how your HVAC system can help preserve pumpkin decorations, contact NisAir Air Conditioning and Heating. We serve Indian River, Martin and Palm Beach counties.