Organic farming a science for Memorial professor

Aug 29th, 2012

Kelly Foss

Craig & Julie Purchase
Organic farming a science for Memorial professor

Craig and Julie Purchase share a passion for Memorial and for organic gardening. Craig is an assistant professor of biology and ocean sciences while Julie is the chef at Bitters.

She brings home two five-gallon buckets of kitchen vegetable scraps from work daily to compost then use in their elaborate flower and vegetable gardens.

“In return, I bring in fresh herbs and extra vegetables,” said Julie. “I also provide all the flowers for the tables.”

She recently started a small herb garden behind Bitters and is hoping to start a small flower garden in front soon.

Julie is known throughout her neighbourhood for her flowers. She is proud of the layering she has achieved in her garden and the fact that there is always something blooming.

Craig has been growing vegetables since he was a child and most of his production is done in raised beds. He currently has over 20 raised beds outside and a 22x11 foot greenhouse made of reclaimed materials.

Throughout spring, summer and fall Craig grows rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, mint, sage, oregano, lemon balm, parsley, basil, cilantro and dill, spinach, several varieties of lettuce and zucchinis, Swiss chard, shallots, green onions, leeks, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, parsnips, spring turnips, beets and potatoes.

Each year he tries out different varieties or growing techniques. For example, Craig has grown beans in buckets, pumpkins in tires and potatoes in milk crates.

“It’s an experiment,” he explains. “I have a log and I record what we planted and when we harvested. So from year to year I can actually see how different varieties and techniques did in a given year. I enjoy that. It’s the scientist in me I guess.”

When he moves into his greenhouse in the spring, he includes three 80-gallon drums and dozens of two litre pop bottles filled with water, which he places amongst the plants. The water absorbs heat from the sun during the day and disperses heat during the night, keeping the plants warm and protecting them from frost.

Craig also has a winter crop of four salad greens that are particularly tolerant to cold. He starts them inside and moves them into the greenhouse at Thanksgiving when the other crops come out. If they get to a decent size by Christmas, he can harvest them all winter long. But if not, they stay in the greenhouse.

“They don’t grow in the middle of winter, but they aren’t destroyed by the winter temperatures either,” he explains. “By the middle of February when the sun comes back, they start to grow again and by March we’re picking salad greens from our unheated greenhouse.”


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