If you live in Kentucky and want to grow apples (Malus pumila), you're in luck -- it is one of the best apple-growing regions in the eastern United States. The cold hardiness of apple varieties ranges from U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, and Kentucky is primarily in USDA zone 6, with a small part of the state in USDA zone 7. This means any varieties of apple can be grown in Kentucky from the perspective of cold hardiness. However, certain apple varieties are traditionally grown and are particularly adapted to the climate and growing conditions of the region.
1. Early Harvest
Apples are generally considered a fall fruit, but some varieties ripen in mid-summer. "Lodi" (Malus pumila "Lodi") is one of the earliest of those that grow well in the climate of Kentucky. It is a tart green apple that can be eaten fresh, but is preferred for pies and applesauce. "Lodi" is ripe by July 1 in Kentucky. "Early Gold" (Malus pumila "Early Gold") is firmer and sweeter than "Lodi" and ripens about three weeks later. It has yellow-green skin and is excellent fresh or in pies.
2. Mid-Season Varieties
Mid-season apples are often some of the best for eating fresh and ripen in late summer or early fall in Kentucky. For example, try "Honeycrisp" (Malus pumila "Honeycrisp"), a sweet variety with a distinctively honey-like flavor. It is mainly used for fresh eating and ripens in mid-September in Kentucky. You're probably familiar with "Golden Delicious" (Malus pumila "Golden Delicious"), the common supermarket variety, which also produces well for home gardeners in Kentucky. It is a large, yellow-green fruit with a sweet, mild flavor. If you have limited growing space, "Golden Delicious" is a good choice because it is one of the few apples that do not require pollination from another variety.
Late-ripening apples often keep much longer than other varieties, often hanging on the tree late into fall. "Rome Beauty" (Malus pumila "Rome Beauty") is slightly tart when eaten fresh, but takes on the perfect baked apple tartness when cooked. It ripens around October 1 in Kentucky and is one of the best-keeping varieties. "Macintosh" (Malus pumila "Macintosh") is a thick-skinned variety with a pleasant, mildly tart flavor. The fruit is medium-sized with thick green skin and a deep red blush. It is one of the best varieties for eating fresh and cooks into a good applesauce.
4. Low-Maintenance Varieties
The University of Kentucky has tested dozens of varieties for resistance to pests and disease and identified the best varieties for homeowners that are productive with minimal care and attention. "Liberty" (Malus pumila "Liberty") is one of the recommended varieties for a fall harvest. It is a smaller red apple that's juicy and aromatic, with a sweet-tart flavor that's good for eating fresh or cooking. "Enterprise" (Malus pumila "Enterprise") is a larger apple with glossy red skin that doesn't ripen until October 1 in Kentucky. It has a firm texture and is a good "keeper" for making apple pies all winter long.
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