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    Kiwi

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    Overview

    Kiwi is a productive and tasty candidate for the home grower—but only if proper attention is paid to site, water, support, and pruning. The buds, young shoots, and fruit of all species—regardless of hardiness—are very frost tender and need to be protected when temperatures fall below 30°F for any length of time, in spring or in fall.

    Cover at night to protect from frost damage, or use overhead sprinkling until temperatures surmount 32°F. Frost-damaged fruit emits ethylene gas in storage, thereby hastening and softening of other fruit. Kiwi vines can bear for 40 – 50 years.

    Yield and fruit size are optimized by light pruning and fruit thinning, rather than heavy pruning and no thinning. Thin before flowers open to about 60 fruit/ square meter.

    Harvesting Kiwi

    Allow fruit to ripen on the vine until the first signs of softening: it should give with a little finger pressure. Clip hardy kiwi with some stem. Snap off fuzzy kiwi, leaving the stem on the vine. Even minor damage causes ethylene production, which prematurely softens other fruit. In dry climates, you can leave the kiwi dry on the vine; they will become intensely sweet and keep about 6 weeks.

    Storage Requirements

    Remove soft, rotten, or shriveled fruit on a regular basis from fresh storage. Freeze whole kiwis in plastic bags; or freeze ¼ unpeeled slices and then pack in plastic bags. To dry, peel the fruit, cut drying process in half, dry ar 120°F for 2 hours; repeat it the next day. Whole fresh kiwis can be stored at 32°F for 2 months.

    Pests

    No significant pests reported in North America

    Diseases

    No significant diseases reported in North America

    Plant Characteristics

    Height

    Up to 30 ft. long vines.

    Spacing

    • Between plants: 10 – 20 ft.
    • Between rows: 15 – 20 ft.
    • Male and female within at least 100 ft.

    Root Depth

    Shallow (which means they are susceptible to crown and root rot in wet areas).

    pH

    6.0 – 6.5

    Bearing Age

    3 – 5 years, except for self-pollinating types, which can bear a year after planting.

    Pollination

    Cross-pollination between male and female vines required; 1 male can pollinate 8 female vines.

    Chilling Requirements

    Vines benefit from 400 – 600 hours below 45°F

    Site

    Full sun (minimum 6 hours), except for the Actinidia kolomikta which likes partial shade in hot climates. Wind protection is important. Prefers rich, fertile soil, but will tolerate heavy soil. In any soil, good drainage is imperative. Avoid soggy, low areas. The best spot is to the north of the building or tree to delay bud break. Cover vines if frost threatens in spring or fall.

    Water

    Heavy. Drip irrigation is best. Overhead sprinkling can protect fruit and foliage from frost.

    Fertilizer

    Heavy feeder. Apply slow-acting organic fertilizer, very thick compost or well-rotted manure in late winter and spring, several inches away from the crown. Don’t fertilize past mid-June. Kiwi needs high K and also Mg to prevent K-induced deficiency. Never apply Boron, as above-optimum levels can be severely toxic.

    Side-dressing

    Apply twice during the growing season; use only mildly nitrogenous substances.

    Training

    Requires trellis, arbor. T-bar fence, pergola, wall, or chain-link fence to support fruiting vines. Supports for females should be 6 feet tall, and for males 7 feet tall. Stake when planting.

    Pruning

    Is similar to grapes. Kiwis fruit on the base 6 buds of this season’s fruiting shoot, off 1-year-old wood. On planting, prune the main stem back to 4-5 buds. The first summer allows the vine to grow freely. Cut back females to 6 feet and males to 7 feet, and remove all but 2 or 4 of the strongest cordons for each. The second winter, head back female cordons to 8 – 10 buds, and males to ½ that length.

    Video Credits: Rob Backyard Gardenerr
    Image Credits: idaun

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