Kiwifruit grow on vigorous large leaved vines that, if grown in the right conditions, can be highly productive. Kiwifruit are a warm weather plant, they can withstand some frost in winter when they are dormant but late frosts in spring can damage tender new shoots. Kiwifruit can be grown countrywide in areas that get winter frosts if they are given the protection of a greenhouse or conservatory – it will have to be a big one though. On the other hand dwarf Cocktail kiwi can be grown in containers and is a good option for colder areas where it can easily be protected in particularly cold spells. Kiwifruit are best eaten raw with their sweet tangy pulp scooped out by a spoon. They are also good for making into juices, sauces, ice creams, jams, preserves and puddings. Not only delicious to eat, they are high in anti-oxidants and vitamin C.
Companions Marjoram, lemon balm, French marigold
Quantity 2 plants per household. Male and female are needed for pollination.
Cocktail Kiwi a dwarf growing variety with tiny grape-sized fruit that can be eaten with their smooth green skin. Harvest in February and March. Plants usually come with a male and a female planted in the same pot. Ideal in containers and in a conservatory or greenhouse.
Hayward Female the most widespread variety grown here. Produces large, slightly flattened furry fruit in May. Fruit are greenish-brown, their juicy bright green flesh has many black seeds around a white centre. Grow with ‘Chiefton Male’ as a pollinator.
Plant container grown plants from spring into summer.
Plant kiwifruit in full sun with protection from prevailing winds. Kiwifruit are ideal grown over a large, strongly-built pergola where they will soak up summer sun and offer much needed shade to anyone sitting below. They can be grown through trellis and trained along wires fixed to fences and walls. They are also great for camouflage - grow one over an ugly garden shed.
The dwarf Cocktail kiwi can be grown in containers such as half barrels and wide pots where their shallow roots can spread. This means you can plant a pair in your sunniest spot – say on a deck or terrace - if your veg garden doesn’t happen to be big on suntraps.
Kiwifruit grow in deep, fertile soils that do not dry out too much in dry weather when plants are thirsty and forming fruits. If your soil is slightly sticky and you want to improve it, you can add well-rotted compost and grit or fine pumice to make a large mound at the time of planting and continue to mulch with rich compost as your plants get established. You can always grow kiwifruit in a raised bed filled with sterilized a mixture of topsoil and well-rotted organic compost if you have a really sticky clay soil.
Space plants at least five strides apart. Soak plants in water before planting them.
Prepare the planting area. Soil should be weed-free and well dug through to at least a full spade’s depth. Add well-rotted compost if necessary and mix with surrounding garden soil. Carefully remove kiwifruit plant from container by turning upside down and holding the plant across the base of its stem with a spread hand. Tap the bottom of the container until the plant and its root ball come loose. Handle plants by the root ball to prevent damage to stems and shallow roots. Place kiwifruit plant in a hole that is just larger than the container it came in. Back fill around root ball making sure there are no air pockets. Water well and mulch with a finger-thick layer of peat, pine needles, shredded bark or untreated sawdust.
If planting in a container ensure it is large enough. Half barrels and wide rimmed terracotta or glazed pots all look good with Cocktail kiwis. Use rich compost with plenty of organic material and a layer of drainage material beneath it. Add slow release granules or sheep pellets before planting. When Cocktail kiwis are grown in containers it pays to put them where you can easily monitor them to ensure soil is moist – particularly in dry weather. Plants are often placed against a wall with trellis on it to which they can be attached or with a metal training pyramid or cylinder standing above the pot.
Keep plants weed free and maintain constant moisture levels – this is especially important in the weeks during which the fruit swell and ripen.
Feed: As long as you maintain a nutrient rich layer of mulch around their base this should give them all they need but to give plants a boost you can feed them with a sprinkling of blood and bone meal around the base of the stem in spring and summer. Container grown plants may need more regular feeding with a constant layer of mulch maintained at all times and a sprinkling of blood and bone meal in spring and summer.
Flowering: Creamy open-faced flowers appear in spring. Kiwi fruit must be pollinated so you need a male and female plant that both flower at the same time. One male plant can plant up to 8 female plants as long as their flowering times are compatible. Bees and insects pollinate kiwifruit but the female flowers don’t produce nectar so plant borage, lavender, alyssum and cornflowers close by to attract them onto your plants when they flower.
Fruit ripen from March to July depending on variety. They are best if left to fully ripen on plants before picking by hand. They should still be firm when picked. Either break stalks off just above fruit or snip them with secateurs. Keep stalks short so they don’t damage each other when stored.
Storage: Fruit can continue to ripen after picking with sweetness improving over a matter of days depending on their state when harvested. Kiwifruit last well if chilled in a fridge and can be stored for several weeks like this.
Cutting them across the middle and scooping out the sweet pulp with a spoon is the generally preferred option but where tools are absent you can score the skin with your thumbnail and prize fruit apart in the middle. The delicious pulp can then be squeezed into a hungry mouth.
Pruning of female plants is carried out after plants have finished fruiting and plants are still dormant in winter. Old stems are cut out at this stage to make way for fresh new growth. Young vigorous stems have their tips removed or are fully cut out in summer to prevent plants from becoming unruly. Excess leaves can be removed over buds on female plants in summer to allow sunlight to get to developing fruits.
Pruning of male plants involves removal of stems that have flowered in summer. Any vigorous vertically arching water shoots are also cut back to help maintain a good framework. Cut out any messy grow and heavily entwined stems.
Kiwifruit are not without their issues. A number of fungal and bacterial diseases can affect plants and these can be attributed to damp, wet soils. Scale insects, aphids, passion vine hoppers, leaf roller caterpillars and thrips may have a go at them. Tiny worms – nematodes – can attack roots of plants grown in garden soil. Kiwifruit plants grow large and for this reason sustainable pest control can be an issue, try to give plants the right growing conditions and ensure you attract beneficial predatory insects into your gardens with companion plants.