Home garden fruit:Information and advice for those thinking of growing kiwi fruit at home

How to grow a kiwi fruit plant

There are two kinds of kiwi (Actinidia spp.) species grown in the United States. A. deliciosa, often referred to as the Cape gooseberry, has green-fleshed, juicy, egg sized fruit. A.arguta, the other species, is a twiner with emerald green smooth fruit. Kiwis are grown in the south and in California. Zones 8 and 9 are the best zones for growing kiwi.

Dormant plants can be planted in the spring. Kiwi requires a well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Well-rotted manure or compost can be added to the soil. The depth of planting should be the same as in the nursery. Pruning should be done to have the single shoot six to 12 inches long. Winter hardy stock can be purchased for areas that have late cold weather in the spring. When planting in a location without a lot of sun it may be necessary to mulch with pine straw on the part of the plant that is above the ground. The location for plants needs to be away from strong wind or well protected. Winds can damage and bruise the fruit. Wind breaks of other plants or trees may be helpful in areas with strong winds.

How to grow a kiwi fruit plant

Kiwifruit has female or male flowers so it is necessary to plant both. The ratio of one male to eight female plants is excellent. Some cultivars are self-fertile such as Blake and Issai. Blake is considered the best of the large-fruited kiwi. The Chico-male, Matura or Tomori in California will pollinate Hayward females. Matua is a good choice for an early flowering female. Bruno, Allison and Abbot are excellent choices for female varieties. For earlier flowering female varieties such as Abbott, Allison and Bruno, the male variety Matua is a better choice. Honeybees in the area will help the pollination process.
Space of 10 to 12 ft should be between rows. An overhead trellis can be used, or a Munson double wire to allow the vines to be managed. Kiwifruit vines can be trained to grow just as muscadine grapes. A cross arm can be constructed from two to 6-inch lumber that has been treated. For either the double or single wire plan, the wires need to be six feet in height. If using the double wire system the cross arms would be five to 6 feet in width with a well braced top. The vines should be 8 to 10 feet apart as the kiwi vines will grow rapid. Start the vine training by placed a shoot upward on the wire. When you remove the side shoots often, the main shoot becomes stronger and grows faster. The use of a tall stake will allow support for the vine to climb. In about one to two years, the shoots will have formed arms that will extend the length of the wire. Side branches will extend outward from the main shoots of the kiwi vine. By removing side shoots after the fruit new shoots will go outward from the arm. Pruning is necessary in the winter and summer to provide for better quality and larger fruit. In the winter, the shoots that have had fruit for the past two years need to be removed. Cut back the year before shoots to about one foot.

For the first three years, the vines should be watered by irrigation weekly. A sprinkler may be used for soil moisture as well as freeze damage protection. By keeping grass mowed between the rows the vines will not intertwine with tall grass or weeds. Fertilizer of 10-10-10 should be added a foot away from the plant in a circle and continued thru mid summer. You can use application of 1 oz of ammonium nitrate or 2 oz of calcium nitrate in place of the 10-10-10 fertilizer. The rate of fertilizer, nitrate, or calcium nitrate may be increased each year as the vines mature. Insects and pests are usually not a problem when growing kiwifruit.

Fruit will be in full production in eight to 12 years. The fruit can be harvested when the sugar content is 12 to 15% sugar. As the sugar content reaches its potential, the fruit will become softer. The life of the stored kiwifruit is lessened if storage near apples or pears. Kiwifruit should be stored at 31 to 32 degrees F. If you wish the fruit to ripen faster store it in a plastic bag with an apple.

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