Talked for about 1 1/2 hours with one ton pumpkin grower Dale Marshall this evening. Really nice guy. When I saw he popped that 2,051 pounder in Anchorage I was really happy for him and I knew I needed to get him on the phone with him. I hadn't ever spoken to him before, but I've got a hint of the extra work that he has to put in to grow something like that in that environment and it isn't a small task to start your season in March when it is 20 degrees outside.
His summer days are long, but his nighttime temperatures during the summer are very similar to mine, although his lows are shorter because his sunset is around 11:30pm and his sunrise is around 4:30am. I wanted to understand how he is dealing with his temperatures, because obviously whatever he is doing is working for him.
What I found is that what he is doing is pretty close in many ways to what I've been doing, just a bit better. He has a soil heating system that uses radiant heating that is similar to what I'm getting from my geothermal system. Same types of soil temps. The biggest piece is he is using a Mr. Heater like I did late in the season this year, but he is doing that all summer long. I'm not quite ready to put in the money for the propane yet, but what I've decided I need to do around peak growing time (days 28-42 after pollination) is I'm going to run my heater at night for that period to help maximize growth. Right now I'm typically at around 54 degrees at night. I think I can get that up to around 60 degrees with the heater which is about what his nights in his greenhouse are like. Maybe I can get a few extra pounds a day for those two weeks that way. If I could get the 50 pounds a day that he was doing at his peak this year I'd be thrilled.
Really appreciated Dale taking the time to talk.