By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Kiwis are noted fruits of New Zealand, although they are actually native to China. Most cultivars of the classic fuzzy cultivated kiwi are not hardy below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 C.); however, some hybrids exist that can be grown in most zones across North America. These so called “hardy” kiwis are much smaller than commercial varieties, but their flavor is outstanding and you can eat them skin and all. You must plan on hardy varieties if you wish to grow zone 6 kiwi plants.
Kiwi are outstanding vines for the landscape. They produce beautiful leaves on reddish brown stems that add ornamental appeal to an old fence, wall or trellis. Most hardy kiwis require a male and female vine to produce fruit, but there are is one cultivar that is self-fruiting. Zone 6 kiwi plants take up to 3 years to begin producing fruit, but during this time you can train them and enjoy their elegant, yet vigorous vines. The size of the plant, hardiness and fruit type are all considerations when selecting kiwi fruit for zone 6.
Hardy kiwi vines require full sun, although a few shade tolerant varieties exist, and even moisture to thrive and produce fruit. Too much moisture as well as long exposure to drought will affect production and vine health. Soil should be fertile and well draining. A site with at least half a day of sun is necessary for growing kiwi in zone 6. Choose a site with plenty of sun and where frost pockets do not form in winter. Plant young vines 10 feet apart in mid-May or after all danger of frost has passed.
Kiwis in their native habitat will naturally climb trees to support the heavy vines. In the home landscape, a sturdy trellis or other stable structure is necessary to support the plants and keep vines ventilated while elevating fruit to maximum sunlight for proper development. Keep in mind vines can get up to 40 feet in length. Pruning and training the first years is essential to create a strong horizontal frame.
Train the strongest two leaders to the support structure. Vines can get large so supports should ideally have a T-shape form where the two leaders are trained horizontally from each other. Prune 2 to 3 times during the growing season to remove non-flowering lateral stems. During the dormant period, prune out canes that fruited and any dead or diseased stems as well as those that interfere with air circulation.
Fertilize in the second spring with 2 ounces 10-10-10 and increase annually by 2 ounces until 8 ounces are applied. During the third to fifth year, fruits should begin to arrive. If you are growing a late fruiting variety that may be exposed to freeze, harvest fruit early and allow it to ripen in the refrigerator.
The hardy kiwis come from the Actinidia aruguta or Actinidia kolomikta cultivars rather than the rather tender Actinidia chinensis. A. aruguta cultivars can survive temperatures that dip to – 25 degrees F. (-32 C.), while A. kolomikta can survive to – 45 degrees Fahrenheit (-43 C.), especially if they are in a protected area of the garden.
Kiwis, with the exception of Actinidia arguta ‘Issai,’ require both male and female plants. If you wish to try several cultivars, you only need 1 male for every 9 female plants. A particularly cold hardy plant that is also shade tolerant is ‘Arctic Beauty.’ Ken’s Red is also shade tolerant and produces small, sweet reddish fruit.
‘Meader,’ ‘MSU,’ and the ’74’ series perform well in cold regions. Other types of kiwi fruit for zone 6 are:
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There is something special about growing a fruit-producing vine in the backyard. Not only do these plants fill empty spaces of a trellis or fence with lush foliage, but they also grow delicious fruits year after year. Fruit vines are also the perfect remedy for growing your own food in a yard with limited space.
There are many benefits to growing vertical, edible gardens. The plants climb their way up and around a structure, leaving a trail of green leaves in their wake.
Small flowers stagger their way through the vines, followed by dangling fruits waiting for you to pluck them during harvest time. While it’s natural to think of these vines as a sole means of providing fruit, they have more to offer.
We like to think of them as a four-in-one plant. They add visual appeal to the garden, create a private space, attract pollinators, and bring food to the table. And, to top it off, many of them are very easy to grow.
Hardy kiwi vines are native to eastern Asia, but they grow well almost anywhere with proper care and sufficient sun. Whether you're growing them for foliage, shade, or fruit (or all three), it's best to train the vines on a sturdy support structure, such as a trellis, arbor, pergola, or fence. They can be trained to form a broad canopy or to branch out horizontally in espalier form.
If you're growing kiwi vines for their fruit, be sure to plant both male and female plants for pollination, or choose a self-pollinating plant. You need at least one male for every eight female plants. Keep in mind that the vines typically don't fruit for at least three years, while some plants take five to nine years to begin fruiting.
There are very few serious pest or disease problems with hardy kiwi vine. Most issues have to do with its growth habits or damage from wildlife. Leaves and flowers can be damaged by frost, and a late spring frost on flowers usually means no fruit for that year. Also, keep an eye out for critters: Rabbits may eat the branches in winter, cats may eat the leaves, and birds and other animals often target the fruit as it ripens.
Hardy kiwi vines can tolerate a range of light conditions from sun to shade, but greater exposure to the sun often results in superior color in the varieties with variegated leaves.
Water sufficiently to keep the soil moist, especially after planting the vine. Weekly watering is recommended during dry weather. Mature plants may need no additional watering beyond rainfall, depending on the climate.
Plant kiwi vines in a loamy, well-drained soil. Some experts advise that planting in poorer soil may control the fast growth of the plant.
Hardy kiwi can survive winter in most areas, but it is susceptible to damage from late frosts. For this reason, choose a planting site that is not in a frost pocket or subject to particularly cold wind in spring.
This vigorous vine requires little in the way of feeding. A light layer of compost over the root area provides all the nutrients necessary. If you do want to feed the vine, use a slow-release or organic fertilizer, and apply it carefully to prevent fertilizer burn.
Today I am going to talk about growing kiwi fruit vines. I found an Issai hardy kiwi vine at our local garden center and decided to grow 2 of them, one for each side of the garden gate arch for them to climb. I have them started in the house getting them mature enough to put them outside after the first frost.
What I like about the hardy kiwi is you can eat them right off the vine. You don’t need to peel them, there is no fuss like the traditional kiwi’s. The hardy kiwi is about the size of a large grape. I think will be a great addition to the garden area. The mini kiwis are now being sold in the produce section of the grocery stores.
This exotic species is very promising given the horticultural advantages it has over kiwifruit, also known as kiwi berry, hardy kiwi, baby kiwi or mini kiwi. This vine has a high frost hardiness (down to −30 °C in midwinter) and relatively short vegetation period. This capacity for the kiwi berry to grow in a shorter growing season in colder climates makes it an alternative to the warmer climate kiwifruits of New Zealand, potentially allowing it to become the first Actinidia to be commercially cultivated in colder north European countries.
The hardy kiwi has been researched in some countries since the middle of the twentieth century, but its commercial production is relatively new and began on a small scale in the US and some European countries in the 1980s and 1990s. Currently the hardy kiwi is commercially cultivated in several countries including the US, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, China and most European countries, like, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Poland and Germany.
The hardy Kiwi is high in antioxidants and have the following vitamins and minerals.
Contains the following minerals
The hardy kiwi contain cartenoids, foods high in carotenoids have been linked to reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration and cataracts.
Flavonoids have high levels in the hardy kiwi due to the edible skin.
The hardy kiwi is a good source of fiber both soluble and insoluble. This taste treat contains no cholesterol and practically no fat, only approximately 1 gram from the tiny black seeds.
A great advantage of the hardy kiwi or kiwi berry (over kiwifruit) is its delicate, edible grape-like skin, which contains up to 15 times more antioxidants than the fruit pulp.
One of the great things about Issai Kiwi is they are self -fruiting which means you only need one plant to produce fruit. These fruits are juicy and flavorful, just like the fuzzy variety. The nice thing about these kiwi fruits is you don’t have to peel them to eat them. You can eat them right from the vine. This vine requires less pruning because of it’s early fruiting and spur type growth.
Issai Hardy Kiwi
When choosing a spot for the hardy kiwi, find a place where it will get full sun. The vine will do fine in just about any type of soil but thrives best in 5.5 to 7.0 pH, make sure the soil is well drained. Have a trellis, pergola or fence for it to climb on.
Dig a hole large enough to cover all the roots without bending or circling.
Set the plant in place so the crown (part of the plant where the roots meet the stem) is about 1-2″ below the soil surface.
Cover with soil to the original soil surface and water thoroughly. Use organic matter when planting.
Pruning hardy kiwi vines will be done during the dormant season and during the growing season. Trim flowering shoots back to 4 to 6 leaves beyond the last flower. During the dormant season, trim off dead, diseased and last years canes.
Do not fertilize the hardy kiwi in the first year. In the spring of the second year sprinkle 2 ounces of 10-10-10 around each plant and increase fertilizer by 2 ounces per year but do not exceed 8 ounces.
The hardy kiwi takes about 3 years to bear fruit but the Issai often bears fruit after the first year after planting. Starting in late August, pick a few fruits and let them ripen on a windowsill or in a paper bag. Taste them when the flesh is soft and the seeds are black. If they don’t ripen, wait several weeks and then test a few more fruits.
When you notice the first fruit softening on the vine, pick all the fruit. Store hard-ripe fruit in airtight plastic containers or sealed bags in the refrigerator. Take out a couple at a time to ripen. Eventually, all the fruit on the vine will get soft, but if you wait that long, you will have a large harvest of hardy kiwi’s that will last only a short time. No matter when you decide to harvest, be sure to remove all the fruit before the first frost.
From the research I did, it seems the hardy kiwi is better then then the original kiwi fruit, mostly because you don’t need to peel it and can eat it from the vine when it’s ripe. What is really nice is that it’s hardy and can be grown in zones 5 and 6. It seems pretty easy growing kiwi fruit vines.
Most research I found was zone 6 but the Issai showed it can be grown in zone 5. I am excited to see how these grow, I have never grown them before. These should look awesome on my new garden gates with arch to grow on.
I hope you found this post informative and helpful. Do you have any hardy kiwi’s growing in any of your gardens?
Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Fertilize kiwi vines in spring and early summer. They welcome a pound of nitrogen each year, especially in the form of compost or composted manures. Feed early, as too much fertilizer late in the year can delay ripening. Maintain shortgrass ground cover or heavy mulch under the vines, and irrigate during dry periods. In summer, prune lightly and regularly to remove poorly placed shoots and thin out overgrown patches. Pruning too heavily can stimulate the vines to regrow heavily.
The vines bloom from late May into early June, bearing delicate, white blossoms about as large as a quarter. The male blossoms only have pollen-bearing stamens, while females have both stamens and pistils. The vines bear fruit late in the season, from August into October. A mature vine can produce up to 200 pounds of fruit in a season.
Kiwis have a high sugar content, and sweeten quickly as they ripen. Commercial growers use Brix Refractometers to determine sugar content, and harvest their crop when the berries reach 7 percent sugar the percentage can rise to as much as 20 percent later. Rather than investing in an expensive piece of equipment, simply sample a berry every now and then to decide when to pick the crop. They can be picked a bit green and stored in your refrigerator for a month or so.
Photo by Getty Images/Caroline Anderson
Hardy and variegated kiwi have an incredible punch of vitamin C, higher than the equivalent amount of oranges. They also supply antioxidants, potassium, and dietary fiber. Because of these properties, they’re reported to be beneficial for heart health, blood pressure maintenance, improving sleep, and maintaining healthy skin. Plus, they taste great. These kiwis can be eaten fresh, made into jams or fruit leathers, and even baked into pies or pressed for kiwi-apple cider. Too much heat while cooking can destroy the brilliant emerald-green of their flesh, but does little to change their flavor.
If you want a taste of the tropics on your own homestead, or desire to distinguish your market stand from the rest, consider growing kiwis. Give them room, give them company (male vines), build trellises to last, and get ready to harvest lots of sweet, emerald gems. With a little effort, and an eye on the long term, you can bring a tropical flair to your backyard by growing this delicious fruit.
Andrew Weidman lives and writes in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He’s the vice president of the Backyard Fruit Growers (BYFG), a grassroots community of fruit enthusiasts dedicated to helping people grow healthy fruit in their own backyards. Special thanks to Lester Beachey, BYFG’s “Kiwi Uncle,” for his expertise and assistance.
Kiwifruits are usually cultivated in this fashion – evenly separated vines
The best site to plant a kiwi fruit tree is in a moderately sunny place, where they can
ramble across a trellising system. They will tolerate a light shade, if needed. Vines
should be protected from strong winds, since they can snap off new growth
The soil should be acidic, with a pH of about 5-6.5, rich in organic matter and not
too salty. If the soil is too basic, leaves will show nitrogen deficiency
Water is fundamental to kiwifruit plants: they should be planted on a well drained
soil and watered constantly, especially in summer when they usually undergo the most
stress. Water is the single most important cause of kiwifruit tree exfoliation: leaves
will usually turn brown and fall off if the plant has to endure constant stress
Kiwifruit trees need a lot of nitrogen, especially in the early season, so add a
nitrogen-rich fertilizer early on. Adding nitrogen in late season may cause the fruit to
store poorly, so it’s a best practice to avoid overdoing it. Early fertilizations can be
done with an avocado tree fertilizer, while watering well, around March. Subsequent
fertilization can be done in early summer.
Mulching is also recommended, using manure or straw, even though the mulch should not
come in direct contact with the vine
Pruning is very important for adequate fruiting: since the vine usually grows on a
wire or t-bar system, it should be pruned where it forms a “pigtail” shape, at the end of
the growth spurt.
Pick your kiwi when they’re still firm and have reached their mature size, before the first frost hits. If you’re not sure if they’re ready, pull one and cut it open to test. You can’t generally tell if kiwi is ripe by squeezing to test for softness.
Now for the fun part. How do you use your bountiful harvest? Kiwi makes an insanely good sorbet. It’s also a classic option for fruit pizza, fruit salsa, or used as a topic for yogurt or pudding. But don’t be afraid to get creative. Chopped kiwi is amazing on fish and meat.