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The Kentucky Division of Forestry offers seedlings now for spring planting

Walnut bed.

By Jennifer Turner

Department for Natural Resources

 Some people might not think of winter as the appropriate time to purchase trees, but the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF) is encouraging citizens of the Commonwealth to purchase seedlings now for spring planting.

The KDF’s first nursery was started 103 years ago and was located at what is now the Louisville Fair Grounds. The current two nurseries in use are located in Marshall and Morgan County and have been in operation for approximately 50 years. The seedlings grown and sold from these nurseries throughout the years have enabled citizens to carry out reforestation efforts throughout the Commonwealth. Ideally, the early spring (late February through mid-April) is the best time to plant, however, now is the best time to put in your order and reserve the seedlings of your choice.

“The division nurseries typically produces around 1.5 million seedlings per year and offers as many as 50 different species,” said Eric Gracey, the forestry program manager with the KDF.  “Right now we have 34 different species of trees remaining in stock for customers to choose from, and a total of over 700,000 seedlings for sale.”

Black Walnut and bur oak being planted by hand.

Black Walnut and bur oak being planted by hand.

According to Gracey, when purchasing trees for landscaping, the first thing to consider is if the tree is the right tree for the space.

“Too often allowances are not made for the increased size of the tree when it matures,” said Gracey.  “Most problems can be avoided by selecting the proper tree species for the available planting space.”

Gracey and the KDF offer these tips to consider before purchasing the perfect trees for your needs:

Locate and stay clear of utilities

  • Call (811) to have your underground utility lines marked. This service is free.
  • Plant at least 10 feet from the main overhead utility wires.
  • Avoid planting directly underneath lower overhead wires that connect to your home or building.

Plan for the tree’s mature size

Allow trees room to grow by considering distances from other objects.

  • Plant at least 10 feet from a building.
  • Plant at least three feet from sidewalks, driveways, patios and fences.
  • Plant at least 20 feet from other large trees.
  • Plant at least 10 feet from small trees.

Consider how tall the tree will grow

  • For shorter trees, Less than 30 feet tall: consider planting one of the many dogwoods, flowering plum, pawpaw, hazelnut or an eastern redbud.
  • Are you looking for something a little taller? Consider a tree in the 60 to 80 feet height range such as sassafras, persimmon, black locust, Virginia pine, shortleaf pine, blackgum, black oak, chestnut oak, chinkapin oak, pin oak, post oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak or willow oak.
  • Do you have a lot of space and want shade? Consider planting a white oak, sycamore, northern red oak, yellow-poplar, black walnut, baldcypress, loblolly pine, black cherry, bur oak, cherrybark oak, shagbark hickory or shellbark hickory (these tend to be our most popular varieties, so order fast while supplies last).

Plant for shade or a windbreak

Lower your cooling costs by planting trees to shade the summer sun.

  • Plant on the southeastern and southern sides to help shade your home from morning sun.
  • Plant on the southwestern and western sides of your home to maximize afternoon shading.

Why plant a windbreak?

  • To reduce wind speed.
  • To provide a barrier from sound, site and smell.
  • To protect livestock.
  • To reduce heating and cooling costs and add value to the landscape.
  • For wildlife habitat.

Plant idle or unproductive ground

  • Division seedlings are priced so landowners can inexpensively plant large areas converting idle or unproductive ground into growing forests while helping to control erosion and providing important habitat for game and nongame species.
  • You can call the division’s regional office serving your area for assistance on choosing the right combination of trees for converting your land.
  • For large plantings, the division also has tree setters for loan.

Nursery seedlings are priced quite reasonably, due to the fact the KDF nurseries are the only large scale producers of bare root seedlings in the state. This means that no dirt is attached to the roots of the seedlings.  This allows them to be easily planted with a mechanical tree setter, or planting bar to get many of them in the ground quickly and efficiently and also allows the seedlings to be shipped.

KDF has a long history of partnership with the Division of Conservation's annual seedling giveaways. Two such giveaways happened in the West Region's Butler and Ohio Counties.

Seedlings being prepared for shipment.

“We really want people to take advantage of this great program we have, where consumers can get affordable trees,” said Gracey. “If you are eyeing a particular variety you should get them today. They would even make a great holiday gift.”

Order your tree seedlings now by visiting the KDF website and accessing the order form at

You may also call your local forestry regional office to learn more about species and price. The KDF asks that you do not contact the nurseries directly.

Region office contact information.

Region office contact information.

For assistance with building a proper landscape plan for your yard, check out the Arbor Day website at

Photos courtesy of the Kentucky Division of Forestry.



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