The Harker Heights Community Garden hosted a free class on fruit and nut plant care led by Kathe Kitchens, owner of Bestemor Herb Farm, Monday at the Harker Heights Activities Center.

The class provided handouts with information on fruit and nut plant maintenance, fertilizing and soil amendments that foster growth and yield fruit, composting tips, how to prune trees and bushes, and strategies that prevent and manage pests on these plants. Kitchens also gave a general overview of the best fruit- and nut-bearing trees and bushes, as well as fruit- and seed-bearing plants and vines recommended for central Texas.

Setting a tone of sharing and camaraderie for the 23 gardeners in attendance, Kitchens opened the session by asking, “Who’s growing what? We can set up a swap!”

Kitchens said both seasoned and new gardeners should focus on soil quality and planting depths.

“You can’t get good pecans out of trees in only 1.5 feet of soil,” Kitchens said. “To me, soil is the core.”

Kitchens offered tried-and-true tips, and unexpected advice such as digging rough-shaped holes for better tree success, and effective, non-toxic ways to battle fire ants with horticultural corn meal.

“I learned a lot about the different ways of controlling pests, especially with the cornmeal method and molasses,” said Katrin Grisdale of Heights. (I also learned) the benefits of putting compost everywhere instead of just on my flower beds, like on the trees that I have.”

Heights resident Rod Peterson said he was unable to grow things last year because of bugs or plants simply dying.

“I came mainly to find out what to do here in Texas, as I’m not from Texas originally,” Perterson said. “So getting the list of plants here that will tell me what varieties will do well on my property, that’s what I was looking for. (I learned) what does well and what does not do well.”

Killeen resident Paul Rocha came to learn more about peach trees, and is also interested in the many pecan trees in his yard.

“I have four avocado trees growing out of the pit,” Rocha said. “I learned that our area is really not good for avocado trees, so she said put them in a pot and let them grow and see how they grow that way because the coldness will kill the tree,”

The next class will be 6 to 7 p.m. March 10 with an introduction to the honeybee.

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