Wee Kiwi

Five years ago I saw Kiwi vines for sale. Cold hardy to Zone 7, the tag said. One variety, ‘Michigan State,’ was listed as cold hardy to Zone 3. That familiar feeling kicked in: Must Have That In the Mary Snoddy Garden. Most kiwis need both males and females in order to obtain fruit. I bought three females and two males. One of the males and one of the females croaked during the first winter. I replaced the female with the cultivar ‘Issai’ which is listed as self-fertile.

The type of kiwi I grow is not the fuzzy brown egg-sized type you find in your grocery store (Actinida deliciosa), but the smaller, slick skinned, bright green kind commonly called kiwiberry (Actinida arguta). Taste is the same. No peeling is required for the slick-skin type. Eat them whole.

Ison’s Nursery in Georgia sells the vines and also has an excellent Growing Guide that gives specific details on trellis construction, watering, pruning, and fertilizing.

Kiwi is an extremely vigorous grower. It requires a sturdy trellis similar to the type used for grapes. Flowers are produced on current season’s growth from last year’s buds. They need frequent and drastic pruning to avoid becoming a thicket. It seems that I have just pruned mine  when I walk by a few days later and the vines look like Medusa’s head, snaking everywhere. Japanese Beetles can turn the leaves into lace overnight, but it doesn’t seem to impact the plants. They just grow more leaves! They have a shallow, fibrous root system, so be careful with your weeding and don’t be stingy with the watering.

My kiwis produced a few fruits their second year. A late freeze killed all my flower buds last year, so it was a zero harvest. This year looks like a bumper crop.


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