While it is not native to the UK the kiwi fruit can be grown with ease in this climate. The compact bushes provide delicious, sweet furry brown fruit, with delicate bright green flesh. What’s more, when picked fresh from the bush, they taste fantastic, and have a much higher nutrient content than those that are transported across the world to reach our supermarkets. What’s more, if you grow your own kiwi fruit, you’ll be lowering your carbon footprint, as there will be les (or no) food miles involved in you eating your delicious kiwis.
Kiwi fruit bushes are vigorous plants that can grow up to 9m tall. It needs plenty of sunlight and shelter in order to thrive. The fruits grow on vines, and its large leaves are heart-shaped.
Growing Your Own Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi fruit bushes need to be carefully trained and pruned to provide you with the greater numbers of fruit. They grow best on a south or west-facing wall, but in mild areas they can be grown in the open on a sturdy support such as a pergola. Plant them 3-5m apart in fertile, well-drained soil that’s packed full of rich, organic matter. Maintain the plants’ health by regularly watering them and giving them an annual mulch of well-rotted animal manure or compost. A liquid feed may also be necessary each week during the growing season.
Kiwi fruit are best trained as espaliers on horizontal wires. Tie in the main vertical shoot to the support, then prune away vertical shoots and tie in horizontal shoots to supports. Pinch out the growing tips when they have filled the space given to them. Allow side-shoots to develop every 50cm, and pinch them back to just five leaves. These should fruit the following year. In winter prune the fruiting lateral branches back to two or three buds beyond where the last fruit grew.
Flowers and Pollination
Male and female flowers grow on separate plants, so you will need a plant of both sexes in order to produce a crop of fruit. If you are planning to grow a mini kiwi orchard, you’ll only need one male plant for every eight females.
The bushes will start to fruit when they are five years old. They fruit on the previous year’s wood and can produce up to 100kg of fruit per plant.
Harvesting the Fruits
Pests and diseases rarely attack kiwi fruits, but you should harvest the fruits as they ripen. They will store well in the fridge for up to six weeks.
Varieties of Kiwi Fruit
- Hayward (female) – the most widely grown variety. It is the least vigorous and latest-flowering cultivar. Its fruits are large, with a good flavour
- Bruno (female) – this produces plenty of large, elongated fruits
- Tomuri (male) – this plant flowers late, so makes a perfect partner for Hayward
Whether you have a large garden, or a small back yard, if you have a south-facing wall a kiwi fruit can make an attractive and interesting addition to your plot. They are loaded with vitamin C, and taste delicious, making them a serious consideration for the kitchen gardener.