Growing kiwi fruit is not just about getting great-tasting Vitamin-C-rich fruit (twice as much Vitamin C as an orange, by the way)… it’s also a great way to add height and structure to your garden design.
Before you continue reading below, check out the following overview pages if you haven't done so already. They contain important general instructions that apply to most types of fruit trees...
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Some kiwi plants are sold on grafted rootstock, but if possible choose a plant that grows on its own rootstock. These are less likely to suffer the diseases that grafted plants are susceptible to.
You will need both male and female plants to grow kiwi fruit. Choose at least one male (non-fruiting) variety to pollinate up to eight female plants.
Kiwis need space to grow and can be expected to grow to around 15 feet (4.5 cm), so plan your garden layout accordingly.
Creating a trellis framework that is strong enough to support the plant is an essential part of planting kiwis. When considering the location of your kiwi plants, either plant near an existing support such as a pergola or arch or add your support system before planting.
To create a free standing T support, position a post so at least 3 feet (90cm) is under the ground. Use a five foot (1.5 m) piece of two by four (5 x 10 cm) wood to create a top section. You will need at least two posts, one for a female variety and one for the male. Attach wires that stretch across the top supports linking the two posts. This is essential for training your plant in the future.
After your supports are ready to go, dig a hole that is large enough to transfer your plant so that the roots are not cramped and can be easily covered. Don’t mound earth around the trunk, especially if you’ve planted a grafted kiwi.
Water well after planting.
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Kiwi plants need training or trellising as they grow as a vine. Train a shoot up each of your support wires or trellis. Tie this in using gardening twine. These will be the main branches of your plant and won’t need pruning.
Smaller lateral shoots will develop from the main branches, and your kiwi fruits will develop on these. You will need to remove all the previous year’s fruiting wood during the dormant season. It’s very important that you don’t neglect this job as completing this too late will result in vine bleed that makes your plant susceptible to diseases.
Also remove any misshapen fruit during the growing season. The plant will then put its energy into developing the healthy fruit.
Since male plants do not grow fruit they will put energy into their leaves and stems. Because of this they will need more pruning than their female companions. Don’t prune them during the winter… wait until flowering has finished.
In addition, you want as many flowers as possible on your male plants to help pollination. Cut back flowering shoots close to the main leader stem using sharp, clean clippers or secateurs.
Just like their native habitat, your kiwi plants should receive a steady water supply and should never be allowed to dry up. Water well at least once a week to avoid drought.
Kiwi roots can be damaged by over-fertilization, so take it easy when spreading an organic, granular, nitrogen-rich fertilizer over the soil each summer. Leave a gap of about 24 inches (60 cm) from the trunk. Don’t apply fertilizer after July as this will encourage too much late growth.
Kiwis taste better if they ripen away from the plant rather than on the vine, so they should be picked in early fall before they are fully ripe. To check whether kiwis are ripe, remove one or two from the vine and place them in the refrigerator. If they taste sweet after a few days, your fruits are ready to harvest.
Hand-pick fruit being careful not to bruise or damage them. They should be picked without their stem by breaking the fruit off at the point where the stem meets the fruit.
To avoid damaging your harvest, be careful not to leave your kiwis lying in the sun after you pick them, and place them in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
Kiwis can be stored for up to 4 or 6 months in the refrigerator. They must be picked before they’re ripe and refrigerated to achieve this storage life. This time will be reduced if they’re stored near apples or pears as these release ethylene.
Store in clamshell packaging or in plastic bags that have some ventilation. Kiwis will need to be taken from refrigeration and ripened for use at room temperature.
Refrigerating your kiwi fruit for five or six weeks after picking may improve the flavor for some varieties. Then start to remove them as needed and add to your fruit bowl to ripen for a few days before you eat them. Experiment with this timing for your variety and harvest each year.
Root rot can be caused by waterlogged conditions which is more likely to occur when planted in clay soil.
Kiwi plants are also quite appealing to cats. If you own cats or have them in your neighborhood you may want to protect the roots and lower stems with cloth or chicken wire so they are not damaged.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of Growing Kiwi Fruit. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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