These tips will help you know exactly when to create your Halloween masterpieces–and how to make carved pumpkins last longer.
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No doubt you're excited to break out your pumpkin carving stencils and create your seasonal work of art. But you want it to still be in good shape on Halloween, right? If you know how long carved pumpkins last, you can choose the best time to start. Follow the advice of these pumpkin pros to learn when to pick and carve pumpkins, and your jack-o-lantern is sure to look fresh on the big night.

When to Buy Your Pumpkin

The best time to pick a pumpkin is within a week of when you plan to carve it, according to Marc Evan of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. "Look for a large pumpkin, heavy for its size, with unblemished skin," Evan says. And be sure to avoid the telltale sign of an older pumpkin: a dry, brittle stem. Instead, look for a fresh, green stem that's about 3 to 5 inches long.

"You can tell a pumpkin is ready to harvest when its skin hardens," says Sarah Perreault, senior editor at The Old Farmer's Almanac. The best test is to press your fingernail into the flesh. If it's difficult to do, the pumpkin is ready, but if you can pierce it easily, it's not ripe yet. Whether you're picking right from the patch or plucking from the aisles of a store, avoid any gourds with visible blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. "Be sure to check the bottom of the pumpkin, too," Perreault says.

Where to Store Your Pumpkin

How you store your pumpkin will determine how long it lasts. "Store in a cool, dry bedroom (under the bed is good), or in a cellar or root cellar," Perreault says."Anywhere with a temperature around 55 degrees Fahrenheit." Resist the temptation to show off your pumpkin on the stoop or in a sunny window, where the warm temperature will cause it to decay quickly. If you can't stand the idea of an empty stoop this fall, buy some pumpkins to leave on display outdoors and hide those you intend to carve indoors, out of direct sunlight.

How Long Carved Pumpkins Last

How long carved pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns last - jack-o'-lantern
Credit: Getty Images

How long your pumpkins last will depend on the temperature. If warm weather is expected, they may only look good for about one week, though they may last longer if temperatures are cooler even without preventative measures.

So, how long before All Hallows' Eve should you start working your DIY magic (or start learning how to carve a pumpkin)? The later, the better. "Carve no more than three days before Halloween," Evan recommends. If you plan to celebrate on the weekend before or after Halloween, pick a pumpkin carving date a few days before then. Carve too early, and your pumpkin will scare off trick-or-treaters with its rotten teeth!