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How to Grow Kiwi: A Growing Guide

Kiwi is a fruit native to Eastern Asia. It is an introduced fruit crop to America that is gaining popularity as a backyard fruit. Emerald-green flesh with small, black edible seeds.

Hardy Kiwis (Actinidia arguta) grow well in USDA Zones 4–9 and have smooth edible skin. For the self-fertile Issai Hardy Kiwi, fruiting is satisfactory even in mild winters.

Tender Kiwis (Actinidia deliciosa) are the traditional fuzzy fruits and grow well in USDA Zones 8-9. The tender kiwis require both a male and female vine to bear fruit.

Kiwis will start to fruit anywhere from one to six years after planting depending on how well they are cared for. Kiwi grows best in areas with mild spring and fall weather and high summer temperatures. Early fall frost or late spring frost can be detrimental.

Heeling In

When you receive your kiwis they will be boxed securely. If you are not ready to plant or if the temperatures are too cold, immediately place them in a sheltered location, safe from frost. A root cellar, basement, or garage works well. It’s important choose a place where the temperature stays between 38–45°F. This is important so the roots neither freeze, nor warm enough to break dormancy. It is essential that the young roots have plenty of time to become established before the plant begins its spring limb growth and bud break.

Planting & Growing

Kiwi can be grown in a wide range of soils, as long as the soil is well drained. Choose a planting site that is protected from strong winds. Plant 10–15’ apart. Kiwis need a good deal of water for healthy growth; do not let the vines dry out. Water frequently and deeply in very hot weather.

Fertility

Ripe Kiwis
Nitrogen fertilizers should be applied only after the first year. Apply in early spring, mixed into the the top 6” of the soil in a broad ring approximately the diameter of the vine canopy (the “drip line” of the vine). In the long-term, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, along with sufficient nitrogen, will significantly enhance vine health and fruit quality. High quality composts are also recommended as they contain a naturally balanced blend of nutrients, minerals, and pro-biotics. Natural kelp (Peaceful Valley Organics Liquid Kelp or Maxicrop) compounds are a great addition to fertilization regimes, whether added to irrigation water or used as a foliar spray between bud coloration and 1” fruit size. Avoid synthetic fertilizers as these can destroy many of the naturally occurring beneficial soil organisms that nurture healthy root systems. Synthetic fertilizers also tend to produce overly lush and unnatural top growth that attracts common insect pests and micro-pathogens. In late summer or fall, do not fertilize and taper off water to avoid encouraging frost-tender new growth.

Pruning

Vines can spread up to 30’ and need to be supported by trellis or arbor or espalier. Most fruit is produced on new growth that emerges from 1 year old wood. Prune only fully dormant vines. Pruning after the buds swell results in loss of sap and weakened vines.

Harvesting

Fruit must be picked hard and then softened at room temperature. Signs of ripeness include the skin color turning from green to full brown or when the first fruits turn soft. Once harvested, kiwi can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 months or at room temperature for 2 weeks. If picked too late, fruit will not store well and if picked too early the fruit will be tart.

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