The smooth skinned green fruit are the size of grapes and taste like a sweet tropical kiwi without the fuzzy skin. But this hardy kiwi has the added benefit of being able to set fruit without a cross-pollinator. Although smaller than its relative, the larger and fuzzy kiwi fruit, they are no less deliciously sweet!
Choosing a location: Hardy kiwi (or “Issai”) can be grown in any garden soil but does best in between a 5.5 to 7.0 pH level and do not tolerate poorly drained soils. They benefit from adding some compost (“organic matter”) before planting. Vines perform best in full sun and when planted in late spring, well past the point of any frosts. They also will need a support system or “trellis.” Kiwifruit trellises are usually in the shape of a “T.”
Planting Instructions (in ground):
1) To plant the kiwi in the ground, choose a well-drained spot with either partial shade or full sun. Dig a hole with a spade that is twice as large as the root ball and slightly deeper.
2) Plant the vine against a fence or add a trellis at the time of planting, as the vines need support. Avoid adding it to the vine later.
3) Place the kiwi’s root ball in the hole and center it. Hold it straight while backfilling the hole in with a mix of quality topsoil and organic material, such as compost. Once the hole is filled, push down on the soil firmly but gently.
4) Water the planted vine thoroughly, but do not leave the kiwi sitting in puddled water. Make sure the ground drains well. Keep the kiwi watered during the growing season to keep it from stress. (see watering instructions)
Winter cold bites hard at plants of all species their first two or three years in the ground, especially with intense sunlight. A wrapping of corn stalks, burlap, or similar materials will shade the developing trunks and help with the cold.
Delay protecting the trunks until frost has penetrated the ground slightly; the plants must be exposed to some cold in order to properly acclimate to the cold months ahead. Where winters are severe, either due to very low or fluctuating temperatures, this wrapping may be advisable even for mature plants.
Planting instructions (potted kiwi):
A) Preparing your potting mix:
1) Purchase soil-less potting mix. Make sure it is well draining and has at least one-third organic material.
2) Make your own mix as an alternative by combining equal measures of peat moss, perlite or pumice, and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow or large container. Mix well with a shovel.
3) Add well-composted manure in the quantities recommended by the manufacturer (see label). Mix well with the shovel.
1) Put the pot next to the trellis, arbor or pergola that will support the hardy kiwi fruit vine.
2) Fill the pot two-thirds full with the potting mix anchoring the bottom portion of the root ball into the potting mix.
3) Add more potting mix to bring the soil line up to the level the plant had in it’s original container. Tamp the soil firmly to get rid of air gaps. Add more potting mix if necessary, but leave 2 to 3 inches of head space for watering.
4) Put a plant stake next to the newly planted vine if necessary to lead it to the support trellis as it grows. Use planters tape to fasten the vine to the stake at intervals. (Planters tape is inexpensive and commonly found anywhere that sells plants/trees).
Trellising: Build trellises before or soon after planting to accommodate the rapid growth of plants. These can be similar to grape trellises but must be strong. Posts should be 4″ to 6″ diameter to support plant and fruit weights and 8 ft to 9 ft long. A post should be set 2 ft to 3 ft deep to prevent winds from tipping the row over.
Run 8 to 12 gauge wire, at 6 ft high. The wire allows vines to grow with easy access to fruits hanging from the underside. Be sure the trellis is sturdy. A common failure is the construction of inadequate trellises for supporting the weight of heavy fruit crops. A “T” trellis can be made from this system, which provides more area for the vine.
Watering: If summer brings about an inch of rainfall every 7 days or so, you won’t need to use the hose. If rainfall is sparse or your area is suffering from a drought, you will want to water your plants (about a gallon per plant – this is equivalent to about an inch of rainfall) every 7 to 10 days. The best way to do this is to let your garden hose trickle slowly. This gives the water a chance to soak in instead of running off. You can also use a soaker hose to water several plants at once.
If you are expected to get an inch or more of rainfall during the course of 7 to 10 days during the first year of growing for your kiwi plant, you will not need to supply additional water to the plants or you will risk drowning the roots.
If your area is prone to heavy rains, especially during the growing season, you will want to be sure your kiwi plants are rooted in a well-drained location to prevent waterlogged (drowning) roots.
Pollination: In most cases you need 2 kiwi plants both male and female, but there are many different kinds of kiwi and Issai Kiwi is one that is self-pollinating, so you only need ” one plant ” to have tasty treats and what is nice about the Issai kiwi is you eat skin and all, no need to peel them, even the skin taste good and is not “fuzzy.”
Pruning: Pruning is necessary both during the dormant season and during the growing season. Trim flowering shoots back to 4 to 6 leaves beyond the last flower. In the dormant season, remove canes that fruited last season, as well as dead, diseased or tangled cane. Plants benefit from a thick layer of organic mulch, which helps control weeds, adds organic matter to the soil, and aids in moisture retention.
Fertilization: Do not fertilize kiwis the year of planting. In early spring of the second year, sprinkle 2 ounces of 10-10-10 (balanced fertilizer) around each plant. Increase this amount by 2 ounces each year until the plants are receiving 8 ounces, then do not exceed this amount.
Harvesting: Most hardy kiwis take about three years to bear fruit but the ‘Issai’ often bear the first year after planting. Fruits are picked hard-ripe, then allowed to soften off the vine, like avocados and fuzzy kiwi. 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 few at a time to ripen. Eventually, all of the fruit on the vine will soften, but if you wait that long, you will have an overwhelming harvest of fruits that will last only a short time.
Regardless of when you start to harvest, be sure to pick all the fruits before the first frost.A single mature hardy kiwi plant can yield up to 50 lbs of fruit! Hardy kiwis are also made into jam, but they’re also delicious simply sliced in half and drizzled with fresh cream.