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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI Master Gardeners build new greenhouse

Volunteer effort increases space to raise plants for annual sale

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 30, 2002 -- When the URI Master Gardener Association decided to increase the number of plants it grows and sells each year, it immediately ran into an obstacle. The greenhouse space it had available on the University’s Kingston Campus was too small. So the group of expert gardeners – all volunteers -- took on the task of building a new greenhouse for themselves.

Last month the Association celebrated with a "vine-cutting" ceremony (shown here) to officially open its greenhouse at East Farm in Kingston. The new, 100-foot-long facility includes an automated watering and fertilization system, a heating system, an emergency electricity generator, rolling benches, and an alarm.

According to Rudi Hempe, secretary of the Association and construction chief for the project, the greenhouse will be "a production facility" for growing annuals and perennials that are sold to help fund a variety of educational programs and Association projects. It will also be used for teaching Master Gardener trainees.

The greenhouse construction project was born out of discussions between the Master Gardener Association and faculty from the URI Department of Plant Sciences. After rejecting as too costly a proposal to purchase a greenhouse outright, the group developed a plan with URI Professor Brian Maynard to build a greenhouse using parts from an old "hoop house" at East Farm. With additional materials donated by M&J Supply Co., South County Sand & Gravel, Tranquil Water Gardens, and Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, Maynard and the Master Gardeners worked every Saturday for six months on the project.

URI has agreed to pay maintenance and utility costs for the facility in return for allowing Maynard to use one-third of the greenhouse for his research.

"The whole project was an enjoyable experience all the way around," Hempe said. "The MGA got a greenhouse it can afford, Brian acquired more greenhouse space, and the entire horticultural facility received an electrical upgrade."

Future plans call for construction of another facility for potting plants and teaching space, but Hempe said that a timetable for that project has not yet been established.

One result of this joint project between the Master Gardener Association and the URI faculty is an effort to use Master Gardeners to assist the faculty on a variety of research projects. The volunteers have already pruned 200 crabapple trees in the research arboretum, as well as apple trees and grapevines, and evaluation and data collection of the trees will begin soon.

In addition, Maynard and a team of experienced Master Gardeners formed the East Farm Plant Evaluation Team to evaluate hundreds of varieties of shrubs and trees. The database the team is preparing will guide nurseries in determining the hardiness and sustainability of each species.

Since 1977, 483 Rhode Islanders have earned the title URI Master Gardener by successfully completing a 16-week training course and a 50-hour internship. Through the Master Gardener Association, members share their knowledge and expertise and offer help and assistance to the public through the Cooperative Extension Gardening Hotline and other programs.

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892

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