Kiwi plants yield tasty fruit

We moved to our current location seven years ago and were amazed to discover two kiwi vines climbing over our gazebo. The female (this past harvest season) yielded easily six bushels of this luscious fruit, which we gave to everyone we could find who likes kiwi. Does anyone else in the valley have kiwis growing on their property?

— Carrie P., Gold Hill

Most folks picture New Zealand when they think of kiwi fruit, but there are other kiwi plants growing here in southwestern Oregon, Carrie.

Fact is, one SYA staffer has tried his hand at growing the fruit-bearing vine, albeit with limited success.

He swears by — yes, we have discouraged his swearing but have been met with the same limited success he has with growing kiwis — the Oregon State University Kiwi Growing Guide available at the local OSU Extension Service.

There are some 50 varieties available, but hardy kiwis are recommended locally because they can survive low temperatures. These varieties have smaller fruit than those imported from warmer climes, but they are fuzz-free, meaning they can be eaten whole.

The plants need a male and a female to produce fruit. They produce fruit within two to five years after planting.

The guide provides a complete how-to for neophytes wanting to grow kiwis, which can be a bit persnickety. For example, they like well-drained soil with a pH of between 5 and 6.5.

To protect the vine from strong winds, the kiwi grower will need to build a trellis for support. Consult OSU's kiwi guide for trellis-building directions. It also offers pruning tips.

When planting kiwis, the guide recommends mixing compost, rock phosphate and kelp meal to the soil. Growers should fertilize when planting and in the spring, but keep in mind the roots of a kiwi plant are susceptible to fertilizer burn, the guide cautions.

Deep watering a couple of times a week is recommended, particularly during a summer hot spell. Kiwi roots should never be allowed to completely dry out.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.


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