Q. What is the best time to plant apple trees in Louisville, what fruit trees will grow best in Kentucky, and where can I get good plants?
–Appu Anil, Lousiville
A. Hi, Appu: The best time to plant apple trees in Kentucky is just around the corner. As fall arrives and the soil/air temperatures begin to drop, this is the ideal time to add fruit trees to the garden. It still leaves plenty of time for the roots to settle in before winter arrives, but will be less stressful on them and less maintenance on your part in terms of watering. Choose a planting site that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day and allows for good air circulation. The soil should be rich in nutrients and well-drained.
You can contact your county Cooperative Extension Service about having your soil tested. Avoid planting fruit trees where standing water can occur. This can lead to fungal and rot issues, which some fruit trees are susceptible to. It is always best to choose disease-resistant varieties and provide them with ideal growing conditions, proper nutrients, and good sanitation for optimal yield. Depending on the variety and fruit that you choose, you may need a second tree to help with pollination. The following link is a publication on growing fruit in Kentucky and lists disease-resistant varieties and pollinating options:
http://www2.ca.uky.edu/anr/PDF/Growing%20Fruit%20at%20Home%20in%20Kentucky.PDF. Purchase your trees from a reputable nursery or garden center with a knowledgeable staff. They can help you choose the right trees for your garden. They will likely have installation and guarantee options as well.
If you plant yourself, be sure the hole you dig is twice as wide and just as deep as the size of the container it was grown in. Back-fill with existing soil or added amendments and top with 2-3 inches of mulch. Mulching the tree will help the roots retain moisture and insulate them during the winter months. Just be sure not to pile it up around the trunk of the tree. Pawpaw, pear, peach, cherry, and plum trees can all be successfully grown in Kentucky. Blueberries and figs are fruiting shrub options for us as well.