July 13, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

What began with the discovery of an unused greenhouse has blossomed into a greenhouse and garden project that will give western Kentucky residents a view of what works and what doesn't.

The McCracken County Master Gardeners Program of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service has big plans for the city owned greenhouse and six acres of county land where it sits.

"Basically, we want people to see what can grow here, how it can grow, on what conditions, and then they can take down the name and go to nurseries and greenhouse centers and ask for that particular variety," said Kathy Keeney, McCracken County Extension Agent for Horticulture.

Initially, the master gardeners planned to use the small 14-foot by 14-foot greenhouse for some propagation experiments but the project mushroomed. The greenhouse, which had never been out of its boxes was expanded to 14-foot by 30-foot and the county provided the project with acreage in the industrial park.

Last year, the volunteers worked on the land and this year have been busy inside the greenhouse and outside preparing beds for planting. They are also getting help from Paducah's youth corps.

The beds will hold herbs, perennials, annuals and shrubs. Some have been planted this year and others will be done in future years.

The city has also provided mulch and compost and the county has provided trucks to haul it to the site. Area businesses have also helped and the group has received a $500 PETALS grant. The matching grant is through the National Council of State Garden Clubs, said Carolyn Roof, one of the master gardener volunteers.

The Master Gardeners hold annual fund-raisers that include speakers and a rare plant auction to raise money for the project. Past speakers have included such notables at Roger Swain from the PBS series The Victory Garden.

"I look at it as possibly eventually becoming some sort of botanic garden," Keeney said. "We'd like to put up a gazebo and an arbor. Plans for all six acres have been drawn to include some wooded areas.

In addition to plant variety trials, the gardens will be used to test differing types of fertilizer and watering systems.

"People that garden today want low maintenance landscape - plants that provide a lot of color but don't require a lot of care," Keeney said. Those gardeners are also looking for someone to make recommendations.

"That's what we are hoping to do," she said.

Ultimately, the program would like to repay the city and county for their assistance by donating plants to their beautification programs.

"It's been a lot of work, but it is worth it when you go out there and see those plants blooming," Keeney said.


Kathy Keeney, (270) 554-9520