Kentucky Gardening Guide

Kentucky Gardening Guide

Dig into our Kentucky Gardening Guide and get tips and ideas to keep your yard looking its best. By Justin Hancock
By Justin Hancock

Whether you’re new to Kentucky gardening or you’re looking for easy ways to make your yard, garden, or landscape look better, we’re sure you’ll find this guide helpful. Happily, Kentucky’s climate makes growing beautiful plants relatively easy and straightforward -- as long as you pick the right plants. You get to enjoy a relatively long growing season, you typically see regular rainfall, and have a fairly mild winter -- conditions gardeners in many other areas envy!

Kentucky Front YardWhile most of your rainfall (Kentucky sees, on average, 40 to 50 inches [101 to 127 centimeters] a year) typically occurs from April to September -- gardening season! -- summer drought can happen. As a gardener, you need to be ready for just about anything. 

Kentucky Soil
In much of the western and central parts of your state, you’re blessed with a type of soil called crider. Crider soils are usually fertile and well-drained, making them ideal for growing agricultural crops, as well as home gardening. Crider is also the official state soil. (Did you know Kentucky had an official state soil? Now you do!) On ridges and hills, you’re likely to find baxter soils, which are also typically good for gardening. They, like most soils benefit from having an inch or so of compost added once or twice a year. In upland areas, you’ll find maury soils; you can make them better for your gardening and landscaping endeavors by incorporating and topdressing with compost. 

Kentucky Hardiness Zones
Most of Kentucky is located in USDA Hardiness Zone 6, with an average minimum low temperature of about -10F (-23C), though the far western section of the state falls in Zone 7 (with an average minimum of 0F or -18C).
  > Bowling Green: 6b
  > Covington: 6b
  > Elizabethtown: 6b
  > Florence: 6a
  > Georgetown: 6b
  > Hopkinsville: 6b
  > Lexington: 6b
  > Louisville: 7a
  > Owensboro: 6b
  > Richmond: 6b
See your USDA Zone.  

Kentucky Frost Dates
While you can get a jump on the gardening season with frost-tolerant, cool-weather-loving plants, most of the action happens between the last spring frost and the first fall frost. 
  > Bowling Green: April 30 to October 20
  > Covington: April 30 to October 25
  > Elizabethtown: May 20 to October 20
  > Florence: May 20 to October 20
  > Georgetown: May 15 to October 30
  > Hopkinsville: April 30 to October 30
  > Lexington: May 10 to October 30
  > Louisville: April 30 to November 1
  > Owensboro: May 10 to October 15
  > Richmond: May 10 to October 30
See your average last spring frost date.  
See your average first fall frost date.  

Monthly Kentucky Gardening Calendar
Not sure when to do what? Check out these month-by-month gardening and landscaping tips for your state. 

Lemon Button Fern | Snow White Waffle PlantCare for Your Houseplants.
January is typically a pretty quiet month here in Kentucky when it comes to gardening outdoors. (But it is a fantastic time to look in on your houseplants and give them a little extra TLC after the holidays.)
Prune Trees. Late January is a great time to prune any fruit trees you may have, such as apples, cherries, peaches, or plums. Pruning now helps prevent disease problems later on. Yearly pruning/shaping of your fruit trees gives you a better-looking tree that’s healthier and provides higher-quality fruits than unpruned trees.
Start Vegetable Seeds. If you want to grow vegetables from seed to plant outdoors this spring, you can plant varieties like cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi late this month or in early February.  

Just Add Water.
If it’s been a dry winter with little snow or rain and you have a warm February day, giving your plants a shot of water can help them make it through the rest of winter with as little damage as possible. Evergreen plants, in particular, benefit from winter watering when things are dry.
Prune Summer-Flowering Shrubs. Late this month (or in early March), you can prune any summer-flowering shrubs (including butterfly bush, beautyberry, clethra, and varieties of Hydrangea paniculate) that are getting too large. Avoid pruning spring-flowering shrubs; if you prune now, you’ll cut their flowers off before they bloom. 
Enjoy Hellebores. Want early flowers in your yard? Plant hellebores; they often begin blooming this month and continue into March. Looking for more color? Plant spring-blooming bulbs this fall. Now’s a perfect time to walk around your yard and take photos so you know the best places to plant come autumn.

Prune Roses.
Late February or early March -- just before new growth begins -- is an ideal time to prune roses in Kentucky. Giving your roses a trim each winter will keep them floriferous and beautiful.
Add Cool-Season Vegetables. Veggies that don’t mind cool weather (including carrots, collards, lettuce, peas, radish, and spinach) are a great way to get a start on the gardening season. Plant them in garden beds and borders or in pots. 
Beautify with Annuals. You can also go ahead and start planting cool-weather annuals such as dianthus, osteospermum, pansy, snapdragon, and violas. Discover cool-season container garden ideas. 
Stop Lawn Weeds. Crabgrass a problem in your lawn? Late this month and into April is the best time to apply crabgrass preventers (both synthetic and organic). 

Start Spring Cleanup.
The temperature is rapidly warming and things are speeding up in the garden. Remove winter mulch to help the soil warm and encourage new growth. If you haven’t done so already, cut back dead stems of annuals and perennials and compost them.
Add Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials. Take advantage of cooler weather and spring rains and plant new trees, shrubs, and perennials in your landscape.  Need help with perennials? Sign up for our free email course! 
Make More Perennials. If you have established perennials, now’s a great time to divide them to get more plants and renew their vigor. Discover how to divide perennials.  

Tropic Escape Hibiscus May
Plant Warm-Season Annuals.
After the danger of frost has passed in Kentucky, go ahead and plant summer annuals that will continue to thrive throughout the summer. Some of our favorites include Angelonia, coleus, lantana, pentas, purslane, scaevola, and wishbone flower.
Grow Heat-Loving Vegetables. After frost, you can plant summer vegetables, as well, including peppers, squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes. Short on space? Maximize your plantings by mixing herbs and vegetables with your favorite flowers. 
Decorate with Tropicals. Give your balcony, deck, patio, or porch a dramatic look this summer with easy-care, heat-loving tropicals like gardenia, hibiscus, mandevilla, and thyrallis. Get tips for decorating with beautiful tropicals. 
Add Mulch. Once the ground has warmed, spread a 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of summer mulch. This will help keep the soil cool and moist during the heat of the summer. It also does a great job at suppressing weeds. Check out our mulch guide.  

Replace Spring Annuals.
As your spring-blooming pansies, snapdragons, and violas fade, replace them with heat-loving annuals like begonias, geraniums, marigolds, and zinnias.
Start a Butterfly Garden. Attract butterflies and other pollinators by planting the varieties they love. With butterflies in particular, do research on the best host plants for the species you want to attract. Growing the plants their caterpillars eat is a surefire way to bring the butterflies. Dig into more tips on how to make a butterfly garden. 
Plant Groundcovers. Don’t want to deal with mowing so much this summer? Plant low-maintenance, weed-smothering groundcovers. See some of our favorites.  
Deadhead Flowers. Remove faded flowers (the process is called deadheading) from many annuals and perennials to promote extended bloom. For example, blanketflower, coneflower, coreopsis, phlox, salvia, Shasta daisy, and yarrow will rebloom after deadheading. Plus, removing faded flowers from varieties that tend to self seed prevents them from dropping lots of seeds and becoming weedy.

Watering a GardenKeep Up with the Watering.
As temperatures soar, it’s important to keep up with watering to keep your plants happy. If drought threatens, lay soaker hoses under your mulch to water landscape plants; doing this delivers water directly to the soil around the roots so there’s less moisture wasted to evaporation.
Enjoy Cacti and Succulents. Don’t want to have to water? Plant easy-care cacti and succulents in your container gardens, window boxes, and landscape beds and borders. They can go for weeks without water -- and if rains now and again, you may not need to water them at all.
Harvest Vegetables. If you’re growing vegetables, keep up with the harvesting to keep pests at bay. Many insects and diseases are attracted to over-ripe or rotting fruits. 
Watch for Pests. Keep an eye out for signs of pests and diseases on your plants. Removing a couple of diseased leaves, for example, can often prevent a disease from taking hold and infecting an entire plant (or an entire garden). 
Boost Summer Color. If any of your annuals need a refresh, replace them with easy-care, heat-loving varieties. Our top picks include angelonia, coleus, lantana, pentas, scaevola, and sweet potato vine.

Raise Mower Blades.
When the weather is hot and dry, you can keep your lawn a little happier by raising your lawn mower blade a setting or two. The longer the leaf blades, the stronger and healthier your grass is in tough weather.
Start Composting. If you don’t have a compost bin or pile, now’s a great time to start. Reduce waste and improve your garden or landscape over time by composting kitchen scraps, yard cuttings, and other materials. 
Enjoy Houseplants. If summer heat has you spending all your time inside, keep your thumb green with easy-care houseplants. Three of the easiest types are Chinese evergreen, snake plant, and ZZ plant.
Plant Fall Vegetables. If you want to enjoy fresh fall harvests, plant beets, lettuce, spinach, and turnip greens this month.

Aster flower in fallGet a Fresh Fall Look.
Decorate your yard for fall with asters, mums, and other fall favorites. Check out some of our favorite fall flowers.  
Enhance Your Landscape. Fall is a fabulous time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. With perennials in particular, planting now allows them to get established this fall so they’re bigger and better next spring. Learn more about planting perennials in fall.  
Divide Perennials. It’s also a fine time, now that temperatures have cooled, to divide perennials including daylilies, phlox, Siberian iris, and veronica. 

Plant Cool-Season Annuals.
Replace tired summer annuals with types that love cool fall weather. You can’t go wrong with flowering kale, pansies, and violas. 
Continue Planting Perennials. You can still plant perennials now for an explosion of color next year.
Keep Watering. Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean you should stop watering, especially if the weather has been hot and dry over the summer. This is especially important for evergreen trees and shrubs. 
Save Tropical Plants. Bring in houseplants that spent the summer outdoors and save any tropical plants before frost. If you have an especially sunny window, you may be able to keep tropical hibiscus and other beauties alive all winter long. Learn more about saving tropical plants before winter.  

Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs.
Here in Kentucky, in late October or early November, you can plant spring-blooming bulbs such as crocus, daffodils, and tulips for a riot of spring color. 
Get Ready for Winter. Do some fall cleanup now, including cutting back frosted annuals, perennials, and vegetables. Dig deeper into getting your garden ready for winter.  

Poinsettia for Holiday DecorDecorate for the Holidays.
Perfect plants for adding holiday cheer include Colorful Aglaonema, orchids, poinsettias, and Norfolk Island pine. Keep both in a bright spot protected from hot or cold drafts.