The usual response I receive after mentioning the hardy kiwis growing in my backyard is; “I didn’t know you could grow those here!” Hardy kiwis are smaller than the fruits you’ll find at the grocer and they aren’t covered with fuzz. Other than that they are very similar, productive, and suitable for cultivation in Northern climates.
This is the second season of growing my hardy kiwi vines and up to this point the focus has been entirely on training and getting the plants off to a good start. I planted an assortment of three female varieties for fruit production and a forth male kiwi to serve as a pollinator.
The female cultivars are Ananasnaya, Arbor-eat-um, and Meyer’s Cordifolia; the male is a Hardy Meader. I initially planted the vines in a row along the edge of the patio and spaced them roughly fifteen feet apart. The original plan was to train two shoots up from each vine to form the permanent trunks for the plants. It wasn’t until the end of last summer that I discovered that my plan wasn’t such a good one.
Providing Kiwi Vines with Space to Thrive
The problem is that Hardy Kiwis are very vigorous growers and require plenty of space to ramble and a strong trellis for support. While I made future considerations for installing a trellis system, I didn’t give the plants nearly enough room to ramble.
After consulting with Les, the local kiwi expert among the Backyard Fruit Growers, I decided to scrap most of my original plans and take things in a new direction. First there was the issue of overcrowding, Les pointed out that those closely spaced vines would result in a big battle down the road in an attempt to keep the vines contained and properly pruned.
A Trick to Enable a Single Kiwi Plant to Self Pollinate Itself
To address that issue I decided to raise one kiwi in the row where I currently have four planted. So there will be a single kiwi trunk rising up over six feet where it will meet the trellis wires and branch twenty-two feet in one direction and another twenty-three feet in the opposite direction.
That should make the pruning and management much easier as the kiwi matures down the road. If you’re thinking that I creating a new problem with my solution because kiwis need a separate male and females for pollination, you are correct. But to address that critical issue the plan is to graft sections of a male vine onto the female plant.
Using Grafts to Add Variety to a Hardy Kiwi Vine
I chose the Meyer’s Cordifolia as the mother vine because it seems to be a strong grower, has a reputation for producing very sweet fruit, and it happened to be the plant that was situated smack in the center of the future trellis layout. For now I will allow the other three vines to continue growing but will eventually remove them. In the meantime they will provide scion wood to graft on the permanent kiwi vine.
This way I’ll reap the benefits of a varied assortment of kiwi vines without devoting four times the space required to raise individual plants. It appears that I should be able to graft many different varieties of kiwis onto my Cordifolia. Les mentioned several others that sound interesting including a purple fruited cultivar called Purpurea and a flavorful one called Geneva that is a taste test favorite.
More Kiwi Cultivation Lessons to Learn and Mistakes to Avoid
So hopefully, my miscalculations with spacing the new kiwi plants too closely will turn out better than I had originally planned; I’ll have perfectly matched kiwi scion wood to graft with and if things are managed correctly, I may be able to see earlier production as I gradually remove the extra kiwi vines from the row.
That’s the major lesson learned about spacing kiwi plants but it wasn’t the only mistake that I made! Later I’ll share another one that you won’t want to repeat as I outline the early cultural requirements of training and pruning a Hardy Kiwi Vine
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