Kiwi may be a fruit that you thought you could not grow in the garden. If you thought that though, you are incorrect. Hardy kiwis can be successful grown in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 1 through 5.
Starting Off your Kiwis
Giving your kiwis the right start can mean the difference between success and failure. Many kiwi plants die before their second year. There are several different reasons for this but one solution is to coddle your plants for at least the first year and possibly the second. What do I mean by this? Well, the environment can be a cruel adversary. The cold can kill your kiwi, it can drown in poorly draining soil and/or it can burn in the sun. While you cannot control the environment, there is one thing you can do for your kiwi and that is to plant it in a container.
Planting your kiwi in a container will allow you to control those environmental conditions. To begin this process, starts off with the container. Kiwis will need to be placed in pots that are 5 gallon in size. The container you choose also needs to have at least 1 drainage hole. Once you have selected your pot, the next step is to properly clean and sterilize it with bleach water. After it has been cleaned and rinsed, allow to dry before moving on to the next step.
The next step is to add drainage material to the container. This material serves two purposes. First, it keeps water from sitting in the bottom of the container. Second, it adds some weight to the pot so that it does not become so top heavy.
Once you have the drainage material add, the next step is to place a well draining soil in the container.
Kiwi plants can be sold in pots or as bare rooted specimens. If you have purchased a kiwi already planted in a container, what you will need to do is to remove it from the container. This is easily done by tipping the pot upside down, gently squeezing the sides and tapping the bottom. At this point, the plant should just fall out. If this does not happen, do not worry. Freedom for your plant can be achieved by simply cutting slits in the side of the container and lifting it out.
Take your freed plant and place it in the center of the pot. Fill in the container with the all purpose potting soil and water in.
If you purchased a bare rooted tree, the planting process is the same until you get to actually planting the kiwi. At this point, you will need to fill the container with soil and then dig hole deep enough to cover the roots. Place the kiwi in the hole and spread out the roots. Once that is done, fill in the hole with soil and water.
Planting your kiwi in the ground is easy but you need to do your homework first. The very first thing you need to look for is a well draining area. If the area is not ideal, you can remedy this by planting the kiwi up on a little island of soil but this will only work if the soil has a slight drainage problem.
The second thing you need to look for is sun. While you do need to protect the truck of the kiwi vine from sunlight, the rest of the plant needs full to slightly shady amounts of sun. To achieve this, consider planting your kiwi on a north facing slope.
The last thing you need to consider is space. Yes, I said space because kiwi requires a lot of it. When planting kiwi, plan on spacing them so that they have 200 square feet between them.
Pruning your Kiwi
Pruning is a chore that you should not skip on when it comes to kiwis. The pruning itself helps keep the plant under control while encouraging the plant to produce more fruit. The basic principle of pruning a kiwi starts off with training the trunk of the kiwi to grow against a pole. Tie the trunk to this pole. Next, cut the top out of the trunk. You will need to do this to encourage the cordon growth. Once you have done that, the cordons will begin to grow. The goal is to have one on each side. These cordons should be trained to grow along a trellis. Once you have selected these cordons, the next step is to remove any other growths along the trunk.
Fruiting arms will grow along the cordons. These vines should be wrapped around the support so that the vines grow on opposite sides along each cordon.
In the winter months, cut the cordons down so that they are not longer than 7 feet on each side.
While the creation of the fruit is up to Mother Nature, there are a few things that you do need to do to guarantee the production of fruit. First, you need both male and female kiwis. Yes, the female plants are the only ones that will produce fruit but you do need at least one male per eight females.
Next, you need to make sure that the plants are spaced properly for pollination. What this means is that the male should not be spaced any farther than 35 feet for proper fertilization.
The last thing you need to do is to encourage natural pollinators. This includes bees, and other beneficial insects but if you want to play around with pollinating the plants yourself, do not fret it is easy to do. To begin this process, one must first be able to recognize the difference between the male and female kiwi blooms. The male flower has a stamen while female blooms normally do not but they sometimes do. I know this is confusing but the female flowers with stamens produce sterile pollen.
Once you have selected your male blooms, take them over to the opened female flowers and rub the male inside the female. Repeat this process with additional female blooms before picking a new male flower.
Increasing your Yield
While kiwis do produce a large amount of fruit, girdling is a technique that will encourage fruiting. What the process does is it blocks the flow of nutrients. If this technique is done too severely or too deep, you run the chance of killing the plant.
To begin this process, you will need to take a sharp knife and cut two parallel cuts one sixteenths of an inch apart. Once that is done, remove the bark. Repeat this in a few areas up the trunk but be careful not to go overboard on this technique.
While kiwis do take work, they are a fun fruit to grow in the home garden.