BELTON — The Bell County Master Gardeners dedicated a new addition to the AgriLife Extension Center on Tuesday. The Laboratory and Learning Center of Horticulture Education is a 1,500-square-foot building featuring sun panels and four tractor-sized roll-up doors.

After saving for nine years, the structure is the first phase of planned growth for the nonprofit organization. Financed by proceeds from plant sales, the space will be used to teach Bell County Master Gardener interns and as a small greenhouse.

“Our primary function is to provide education about horticulture to the community,” said Gary Slanga, a five-year Master Gardener. “We do that by answering phone calls coming into the AgriLife office or answering questions that appear on our Master Gardener website. We even make site visits to answer somebody’s questions.”

Supporters and dignitaries on hand Tuesday included Bell County Judge Jon Burrows, and County Commissioners Tim Brown, Richard Cortese, Bill Schumann and John Fisher.

“For years we had a greenhouse. ... But was too big and inefficient,” said Melvin Myers, a nine-year Master Gardener who has been on several AgriLife committees. “The new trend has been to use similar buildings to teach and provide knowledge of various propagation means, and ways of reproducing plants.”

The first event in the new building will be the Spring

Plant Sale from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

March 23.

Laura Murphy, president of Bell County Master Gardeners, encouraged people to visit the fundraising sale. “Our piggy bank is empty.”

Featured items will include EarthKind and Texas Super Star plant varieties developed by Texas A&M University, as well as perennials, vegetables, native plants, herbs, succulents, roses and trees. Local vendors will sell garden ornaments, birdhouses and bat houses. Free information booths will cover topics ranging from beekeeping to rainwater harvesting. Commemorative bricks are available to help meet growth goals.

For more information on the Bell County Master Gardeners, go to

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