(Genus: Actinidia chinensis - Family: Actinidiaceae)
The Kiwi and its origins
Native to China, the kiwi is a vigorous vine that has had many different aliases in its short history. From Chinese Gooseberries to the Sunny Peach, this perennial did not receive its more common name of Kiwi until the mid-twentieth century, following its widespread cultivation in New Zealand.
It is the national fruit of the Peoples Republic of China and was considered a botanical curiosity in Europe when it first arrived in the 19th century but became widespread during the 20th century.
Despite New Zealand’s affiliation with this fruit, it is in fact, Italy which is today’s largest producer of kiwis.
How to Plant Kiwis
For best results, plant kiwis in November. A relatively hardy fruit bush, it thrives in a temperate climate but copes with hot and cold weather conditions. Exposure to full sun is important to produce a superior fruit crop, as is exposure to a cold winter to set the fruit correctly. However, care should be taken to avoid frosts, particularly late-onset frosts that can damage the emerging fruits.
Soil should be rich and deep, prepared in advance with lots of organic matter. Clay soil is an excellent option but must be well-draining.
Fertiliser is essential to produce a good Kiwi crop. In late winter apply a dose of xxx using xxxxxxx g per m² and during the flowering period apply a second dose of XXX using XX g per m2 xx. Alternatively, use xxxxx every 2-3 months.
Plant 3-4m apart and apply the same fertilisers, using a dose of 100-150g per hole, mixing well before planting. To prevent iron chlorosis, distribute Xxxxxx, at a dose of xx-xxx and repeat 2-4 treatments, essentially one every 10-15 days.
Kiwis are a dioecious species, which means that there are distinct male and female plants and one of each is required for pollination. Each male can pollinate 6-8 females.
Kiwi fruits require regular watering but will struggle in stagnant water.
This deciduous climbing plant is a vigorous grower, therefore, it requires regular pruning to keep the nutrients focused and remove any deadwood. Kiwis will grow on branches that are a year-old or even older, however, production reduces with age and should be eliminated, making way for new shoots are selected with a dozen gems.
When to harvest kiwis
Reaching up to 10m in height, kiwis are fast-growing climbers that will attach to any available support to reach great heights.
The leaves are heart-shaped when young and become rounded as flowering begins. The flowers are a creamy-white colour and thanks to its dioecious nature, male and female do not appear on the same plant. Flowering occurs between June and August.
The fruits are oval with a brown/green skin that is covered with soft brown hairs. Inside, there is a central fibrous column surrounded by small dark seeds and a soft, sweet flesh.
Kiwis are harvested in late October and early November when the fruits are ripe but they can also be harvested prematurely when unripe and stored for a long time.
Kiwi fruits will last 3-5 days at room temperature but can be stored in a fridge for a much longer period. A quick tip for ripening kiwis is to place them in a bag with some apples.
Propagation of kiwi
Kiwis can be propagated by softwood cuttings or by seed. They are easy to reproduce by either method. Softwood cuttings are generally taken in the spring months and quickly take hold. It is also possible to use a graft.
Diseases and insect affecting kiwis:
Cats - are enemies of young kiwis as they scratch and gnaw the trunk, severely damaging the vine.
The kiwi is very resistant to pests, so, in principal, does not need pesticide treatments.
There may be attacks of: Scale insects, Metcalfa pruinose, Grey mould and Mites
Did you know?
Kiwis are rich source of vitamin C, approx. 85mg per 100g of pulp. The fruits are also packed with other vitamins including A and E, in addition to a wide variety of minerals; potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. This nutritious fruit is refreshing and purifying; it has diuretic properties and promotes the body's natural defences. It is also a natural laxative.
These fruits are recommended by many diets as they contain pectin which creates a satiated feeling and can also have a laxative effect.
The kiwi’s appearance in New Zealand followed a trip to the missions in China by a New Zealand school principal, Isabel Fraser. She returned home with some curious fruits and as a result the first kiwis in New Zealand were cultivated at the start of the 20th Century. First known as Chinese Gooseberries, due to their appearance, they did not take the name kiwi fruit until the mid 20th century and have since become one of the symbols of New Zealand