As the autumn season approaches and the weather becomes cooler, your pumpkins should be ready to harvest. Now is the time to think about carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween. Plan your harvest and pumpkin carving for about one week before Halloween. Depending on the weather, your jack-o'-lantern will last up to a week on the front porch.
Planning and Harvest
Decide what kind of design you would like to carve into your pumpkin. You can create your own stencil or find one at a craft store or online. Or, you can design your pumpkin freehand. It is important to have your design in mind when you go out to harvest your pumpkin so that you find the right shape and size.
Look for a pumpkin in your pumpkin patch. It should be bright orange with no soft spots and have a smooth skin. Find one that fits your design: tall and oblong, short and round, big or small.
Harvest your pumpkin by cutting it from the plant. Leave a short stem on top of the pumpkin to use as a lid handle. Do not carry the pumpkin by the stem as it may break off and cause your pumpkin to fall and splatter.
Spread newspaper on your work area and assemble needed tools and a bowl for pulp. Cover clothing with an apron or wear an old shirt. Push up your sleeves.
Cut a circle in the top of the pumpkin to serve as a lid. Use the medium-sized knife to make this cut. The circle should be four to six inches in diameter--large enough to get your hand down into the pumpkin.
Remove the pumpkin pulp and seeds using the spoon. Scrape the inside of the pumpkin until all the stringy bits are gone and the interior is smooth.
Tape the stencil to the front of the pumpkin. If you are applying a freehand design, draw it onto the pumpkin with a marker.
Punch small holes along the design with a transfer tool or ice pick. Holes should be about an eighth-inch apart. Push the tool far enough into the pumpkin to just break the outer skin. Remove the stencil. You should be able to clearly see your design marked with little holes.
Carve the pumpkin using the carving saw or steak knife. Use a sawing motion, pushing the saw or knife back and forth to connect the dots. Push the saw all the way through the pumpkin.
Remove the saw and re-insert it when cutting sharp edges or small, intricate pieces. Use the eraser end of a pencil to push tiny pieces through once the cuts have been made.
Push all the cut pieces through the pumpkin to remove them. Do this carefully so that the part that is not cut will not break. You might need to cut across some pieces to make them into smaller bits before pushing through.
Trim around the edges with a small paring knife to make the cuts look nice and sharp. Angles these cuts about 45 degrees to maximize the amount of light that will come through.
Place a votive candle, pumpkin light or glow stick inside the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin on the front porch, light it and replace the lid.
About this Author
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.