Why You Should Start Growing Kiwis
People have enjoyed this fuzzy fruit for centuries. They’re refreshing to eat, with a pale green or yellow flesh and a trademark ring of small, black seeds. That’s right, we’re talking about the kiwi fruit.
Largely regarded as one of the most expensive fruits to grow and harvest, kiwis are usually grown in places with a mild winter season, meaning that temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit but with little to no frost. The cold is needed for the fruit to set, so you’ll find them grown largely in places like California, China, and New Zealand.
There’s a huge demand for kiwis around the world, so why not plant your own? Not only will you get your own fruits, but you’ll also have beautiful, spiral vines to adorn your backyard with. Here’s what you should know to get you started on growing your very own kiwis.
1. What types of Kiwi Fruit are there?
The first step to growing your own kiwi fruit, or any fruit really, is to decide on a variety. For most fruits, you can definitely choose based on taste or durability, but for kiwis, it’s best to choose based on your climate. Different varieties thrive in different climates and locations, so pick the variety that’ll thrive where and when you intend to plant them.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the most common types of kiwi that are grown:
- Arctic Kiwi: As the name suggests, this is the kiwi variety that survives best in colder temperatures, even in the hard New York and New Hampshire winter. Because of the weather, the fruits are also smaller — about the size of a large grape! You won’t find this in all supermarkets as it’s rarer than most varieties.
- Hardy Kiwi: Hardy kiwis, or Actinidia Arguta, come without the fuzziness that most kiwis are known for. In fact, it bears more resemblance to a grape than a kiwi, and you can pop them straight in your mouth without peeling the exterior fiber. However, rest assured that it tastes like a regular kiwi, only smaller and sweeter. It’s native to Russia, China and Korea, and adult plants can survive gradual temperature drops up to negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fuzzy Kiwi: These are the most commonly found kiwis, and you’ll find them all over the world. Also known as the Actinidia Deliciosa, they are pretty large compared to the other varieties; the size of a large hen’s egg. It’s mostly grown in China which exports about 50% of all kiwi supplies worldwide and can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the specific species, this variety is usually sweet, though the inner core can be tougher than most.
2. What weather is needed to grow Kiwi Plants?
For starters, the weather is one of the most important things to note. It differs by species as stated above, but in general, kiwi plants thrive in temperate weathers — so not too hot or too cold, not too rainy or too dry. However, it does have a higher tolerance for colder weather, so you can grow them even if you’re in Chile, Australia, Turkey, Iran, India, or Japan amongst other places. In the U.S., zones five to nine have the perfect climate.
Apart from the right temperature, you also need a good balance of shade and sunlight to grow the kiwi plant. In fact, kiwi plants can die in long exposure to the glaring sunlight of low winter to early spring. Consider planting them north-facing for just the right balance, in the shade towards the end of winter and start of spring. It also protects the young blooms from cold air pockets in spring that might be damaging.
3. What soil is needed to grow Kiwi Plants?
Kiwi plants are essentially vines, so you need soil that is well-drained with little to no standing water. Loose and loamy soil is perfect for that. Also, in light of that, if you intend to plant kiwis in an area with a lot of rain or monsoon days, do plant them on high ground to prevent flooding.
The soil should be slightly acidic, so you’ll need to maintain a soil pH level between 5.5 to 6.5. If your soil is too alkaline, you can acidify it by mixing organic material like manure, compost, even sphagnum peat moss. If the soil is too compact for that, try elemental sulfur or iron sulfates instead.
4. How should I plant a Kiwi Plant?
Generally speaking, kiwi seedlings will flower at four to five years of age or one to two years for Hardy kiwis. The kiwi fruit season starts in the middle of March and ends mid-May, so you should start planning for it early. It’s considered quite a fast-growing crop, and you can probably harvest about 30 to 40 times from a healthy plant — so you just have to get it right the first time and you’ll have kiwis just about every year from then.
You can germinate kiwis from seeds or transplant seedlings. For seeds, buy them at a store or collect them from mature fruit. Test the seeds by putting them in water. The ones that will germinate will sink, while the others will float. Then, wrap the seeds with tissue paper and place it in a polybag, then put the whole thing in a pot. Allow it two to six weeks to sprout, then remove the tissue and wait for two to three more months for it to grow into a seedling.
From here, the process is the same as if you just bought a seedling from the store. Simply till a hole in the soil, leaving about 12 to 18 feet apart between plants. Bury the roots and add kelp meal, compost, and rock phosphate to fuel growth. It might take years to get the usual-sized kiwi fruits, but you should start fertilizing from the first year with nitrogen feeders.
Kiwi vines are one of the easiest to grow, but they have a very long lifespan. As such, remember to prune them once a year and care for them by watering frequently. Weed them as and when needed, and you’ll see the literal fruits of your labor in a couple of years.