September and October find Kentucky gardeners busily harvesting apples from any number of apple tree varieties. The key is choosing a variety that is resistant to as many diseases as possible, and still be able to survive the winter in USDA hardiness zone 6. In the higher elevations of eastern Kentucky, apples ripen a week later than those in western counties; mountainous areas should choose apple trees hardy in USDA zone 5, just to be safe.
Developed in Australia, the light green-skinned fruits of the Granny Smith apple tree variety are considered a dessert apple since they make exceptional pies and other pastry fillings. Moreover, the fruits store for exceptionally long times after harvest, which typically happens in mid-October to the first week in November, according to extension horticulture specialists at the University of Kentucky.
A highly disease-resistant apple tree that requires minimal need (if any) for pesticides, Enterprise yields red apples ready for picking around October 1. The firm, sweet fruits are great all-around for fresh eating, cooking, juices, sauces or pies. Occasionally Enterprise tends to prematurely drop fruits before they're ready for picking, according to the "Sunset National Gardening Book."
Ripening in the middle to latter half of September in Kentucky, Golden Delicious apple trees' fruits are rich yellow with faint blushes of red on their skin. The large apples have a crisp and sweet flesh. This variety is a dependable producer of fruits, and according to the Lexington Examiner, it's also the perfect orchard tree to have to cross-pollinate other apple trees to increase their fruit set.
The deep red fruits of Empire apple trees are also ready for picking around the middle of September. An attractive tree because of its branching structure, the Empire is the result of genetically crossing the McIntosh with Red Delicious varieties. The taste of Empire apples is juicy, crisp and mildly tart. One major drawback to Empire is that it flowers so early in spring that ill-timed frosts can greatly diminish subsequent fruit numbers.
Producing beautiful red and yellow blended apples in large numbers, the Gala apple tree is ready for picking around or just before Labor Day. Sweetly aromatic with a firm, crisp, juicy and sweet yellow flesh, Gala apples are best eaten fresh as their quality wanes the longer they remain in storage. Be advised that this tree variety has bendable branches that break easily from the weight of fruits, and the fireblight disease can quickly wreak havoc on the plants' overall health.