Position – Give your vine full sun or partial shade. New plants cannot tolerate extreme midday heat and require shelter from the sun’s rays. Shade cloth is advisable.
Kiwi vines cannot handle extreme winters, Gauteng frost is fine but beware of temperatures below zero for long periods.
Size – The kiwi vines can grow up to 7 meters tall and become extremely heavy when laden with fruit. Therefore, strong supports are required.
Soil Type – A slightly acidic soil is ideal for kiwi vines. The soil has to drain well for the vines to survive.
Mulch – All plants and trees benefit from mulch. Good mulch helps to keep the roots moist and protected from harmful UV rays. Mulch also adds nutrients to feed the plant. Use pine bark or pine needles to lower the pH of the soil and to add organic matter.
Remember that, when using mulch on top of the soil, it’s essential to keep it about 15 centimetres away from the branches of the plant. If it touches the plant, it may cause the branches to rot and get infected.
Watering – Kiwi fruit vines require water every day after transplanting until the roots are established. If the leaves droop and turn brown, they need more water. During the growing season, it will need about 5 centimetres of water per week. Be careful not to overwater it, don’t allow the ground to become chronically soggy.
Fertilising – Use a slow-release fertiliser that contains nitrogen in spring and again after the flowers have faded. Kiwi roots are quite sensitive to fertiliser. They are well suited to organic gardens as they respond well to cow manure (when used sparingly).
Pruning – Kiwi vines need to be pruned in order to keep their shape tidy and to get optimum fruit production. During the first year, develop a central trunk by cutting any shoots until the trunk has reached the height of the trellis or fence. The male plant may be pruned after it flowers in summer. The females should only be pruned in winter to remove dead or diseased wood and stems that produced fruit in the summer.
Pests – Leaf roller caterpillars and spider mites are common kiwi pests, but can be kept at bay by using a Neem oil solution. This solution does not affect beneficial insects.
Harvesting – Kiwi fruits are ready to pick when the skin turns brown. The fruit should still be firm. To test for ripeness, cut one fruit open. If the seeds are black, they are ready to be harvested. Keep them at room temperature for about a week until they soften. Should you wish to keep them longer, refrigerate them while they are still hard. They will stay fresh for about 5 weeks.