Kiwifruits grow in more than 50 species, with fuzzy and hardy kiwis being the most common. These are tropical fruits, but are hardy to 0 to minus 20 degrees F, respectively, and succeed in many areas of the country. The vines always require the right soil, nutrition and planting, with careful feeding schedules.
Site and Planting
Even hardy kiwifruit vines need warm-weather starts and protection during their youth. Plant these vines in mid-spring to void early frost damage. Put them in pots, or in garden locations that get full sun to dappled shade, with good air circulation. In outdoor sites, avoid low-lying areas, which collect cold air and frost.
According to the Oregon State University Extension, kiwis do best in quick-draining, slightly alkaline soil, with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. Standing water leads to root rot and death. Mix any kiwi planting site to a depth of 3 feet with 1 foot of quick-draining garden loam, sand or decomposed granite. Add 6 inches of organic compost or well-rotted manure for moisture retention and starting nutrition. The soil additions create a naturally raised bed for better drainage.
Kiwifruit vines respond well to frequent, heavy feedings. Start feeding the plants one month after planting with 1 oz. of 10-10-10 fertilizer per plant. Sprinkle the fertilizer onto the soil in a 12-inch circle around each plant and mix it into the top 2 inches of soil. Give the plants repeated monthly feedings until mid-summer. Always water the plants immediately after feedings.
Resume feedings in early spring of the second year, with 2 oz. of fertilizer per plant. Fertilize an 18-inch circle around each plant, and mix into the top 2 inches of soil. Increase to 1/4 lb. of fertilizer and a 24- to 36-inch circle in the third year and thereafter. Follow the same schedule of monthly feedings from March to June or July, and water generously after feedings.
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