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It's in its infancy but soon a new hoop house covered Saturday in plastic will anchor a MetraPark location that area Master Gardeners plan to use to teach others the joy they get from working the soil.
The hoop house, which is next to the Northern International Livestock Exposition office and near the 4-H building, will soon serve as an educational center with a nearby children’s area stocked with play items found in nature, including pine cones, said Corry Mordeaux of the Yellowstone County Master Gardeners Association.
A crew of eight covered the hoop house structure with plastic on Saturday. It will be used to extend the growing season both in the spring and the fall.
The gardeners said they plan to donate excess produce raised in the hoop house this season and in future years to the Montana Rescue Mission.
The Yellowstone County Master Gardeners Association hopes to get transplants — mainly tomatoes — growing in the hoop house in the next few weeks. Once they do, they’ll begin to hold classes there on topics ranging from seed starting to tree pruning.
The group also plans to erect a small grandstand and podium for the outdoor classes it will offer. Master gardener Merita Murdock said she also envisions the area as a resting spot during the hot August afternoons of MontanaFair.
“This will be more hands-on” than the Master Gardeners’ nearby square-foot demonstration garden, she said. “It’s a way to teach people they can grow their food as well as eat it. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do that.”
MetraPark gave the Yellowstone County Master Gardeners Association a long-term lease on the property and provides water, which the gardeners must themselves apply.
Mike Ervin, whose wife, Gloria, is a master gardener, is playing a key role during the construction phase — he’s helping to bankroll it, courtesy of his own hard work and the generosity of his former employer, Exxon.
For every 20 hours Ervin volunteers with the Master Gardeners, the company contributes $500 toward the project, he said, with a $4,000 cap.
Another, smaller contraption was also installed Saturday morning. Jaxen Dean, the 13-year-old son of Andy and Stacy Dean of Worden, enlisted the help of four other Boy Scouts in Billings Troop 23 to construct a three-cell compost bin, near the hoop house.
The Deans brought the bin to the site mid-morning Saturday.
Dean is using the compost bin, designed by and paid for by the Master Gardeners, as his Eagle Scout project; he’s now three merit badges shy of his goal.
From the Billings Gazette May 4, 2015 by Mike Ferguson