To taste the kiwis in your garden, it is necessary to plant a actinidia, sarmentous shrub, sort of liana with deciduous foliage. There are now thirty species of which Actinidia chinensis, certainly among the most cultivated in the world, but there are also cultivars like the large fruit Hayward with excellent taste qualities. We don’t get carried away, however, because the patience is required, an actinidia can only produce kiwis after 5 to 7 years in good conditions and it takes about 10 years after planting to hope to harvest more than 250 fruits each fall. What about male, female and self-fertile feet? How to maintain your kiwi tree and when to harvest these good fruits bursting with vitamin C? Let’s do a check in.
Kiwi tree and pollination
In the vast majority of cases, actinidia is a dioecious plant. This means that each specimen is either male or female and that in theory you have to grow both to get kiwis. This is the very principle of cross pollination. Specialists advise to plant 1 male foot for 4 female feet, Maximum 5, in order to put all the chances on his side to one day be able to benefit from an abundant production of kiwis because compatibility must still be there …
However, you can also get a variety self-fertile, kiwifruit tree which can, on its own, produce fruit, that is to say even if there are no female specimens in its environment. For information, if we want to play the card of simplicity and grow only one kiwi tree, we therefore opt for example for a Actinidia chinensis ‘Solissimo‘, a Actinidia chinensis ‘Jenny‘or even for a Actinidia chinensis ‘Solo‘, all three being self-fertile since the same plant bears male and female flowers. However, they produce less fruit than dioecious species.
Plant a kiwi (actinidia) tree
So that this sarmentous shrub from the family of Actinidiaceae prosperous without difficulty, it is important to install it in a non-calcareous soil, rich in nutrients but also very well draining so that its roots are not suffocated by excess water.
This climber which can reach 5 meters in height must be placed under the sun. In the southernmost regions, a exposure half-shaded can be beneficial to it as long as it benefits from light shade during the hottest hours in summer. Regardless of the geographical area in which the kiwi tree is grown, it must be well sheltered from prevailing winds.
It is a fairly rustic fruit tree since it can withstand down to -15 ° C without blinking although he has a very clear preference for mild winters. In any case, beware of the frosts that are rife with the resumption of vegetation at the end of winter, because it is at this time of the year that the already well swollen buds are very vulnerable to negative temperatures.
Here are the steps to follow to plant kiwis
Perform the spring planting in regions with severe winters. Elsewhere, the early fall is ideal as long as it is outside the frost period. This allows the feet to take root well and sprout as soon as vegetation resumes.
- Prepare a mixture of garden soil, fruit soil and a little sand.
- Install a trellis with a solid wire, which will serve as a support for the kiwis, or plan to install these fruit trees originating in China at the foot of a pergola or a arbor.
- Dig a hole 50 cm in sides and as deep, and if you plan to plant several actinidias, space the holes at least 3 m.
- Place at the bottom a layer of perfectly decomposed organic fertilizer then a good scoop of the mixture prepared previously.
- Position one foot per hole, well in the center.
- Fill the planting hole with the rest of the soil, taking care to pack well all around the foot because there should be no air holes that could disturb rooting.
- Water abundantly when planting, even in rainy weather.
It’s important to leave enough space between the kiwis and the wall near which we want to install the shrubs: 35 to 40 cm are reasonable because this allows air to circulate between the foliage of actinidias and their support wall.
Caring for a kiwi tree
This fruit tree is easy to grow. You just have to meet all your needs.
It is essential not to allow the soil to dry out because drought is a real enemy of the kiwi. We therefore ensure keep the earth always wet, and the advice is even more valid in the first year after planting. Be careful, however, the water must absolutely not stagnate at the foot of the actinidia, especially when it is cold because this weakens the shrub.
Install a mulch
It is from the month of May, immediately after a very generous watering, that we install a mulch at the foot, to a height of 15 to 18 cm. This keeps the soil cool and at the same time limits the development of weeds.
In addition to the necessary amendment during planting, it is necessary to add fruit tree fertilizer or an organic fertilizer in granules each spring.
Cultivated kiwis in the ground are to be protected with a wintering veil during the three years following planting. Those grown in vats are stored in a bright cold greenhouse until April.
The lianas are to be trained as they grow. We guide them throughout their support by attaching them loosely with raffia for example.
Parasites and diseases
The kiwi tree can be infested withred spiders when it is very hot and dry. A misting of the foliage makes it possible to get rid of these parasites. We can also deplore the invasion of mealybugs which require mistings with a mixture of water, methylated spirits and black soap.
We dread the bacterial disease that we call the chancre. It is caused by the bacteria PSA (Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae). Affected actinidia begins to wilt, its leaves show brown spots surrounded by yellow, the buds turn brown, and a reddish ooze drains from the twigs. The fruits rot then fall and the tree dies.
Actinidia can also suffer or even perish as a result of infestation by Botrytis cinerea. This mushroom, whose development is favored in a hot and humid environment, is responsible for the gray rot. Botrytis cinerea contaminates flowers, fruits and more generally all living tissues of the host plant and then feeds on them when they are dead. This is what we call a necrotrophic fungus. The use of a fungicide is necessary.
Prune actinidia or kiwi tree
As long as fruiting has not taken place, pruning should be slight so as to allow a simple balancing of the shrub. Subsequently, the size is carried out as follows:
- In summer : we simply pinch the sarmentose shoots to 4 leaves in very young shrubs, then we reduce the new shoots to 4 or 5 eyes maximum in order to obtain more kiwis since this promotes fruiting.
- During the winter except when it freezes : more precisely during December or January, it is necessary to prune under the second eye which is located below the groups of fruits (bouquets). Keep only the twigs of the year. All the secondary branches which gave kiwis are to be cut above the 3th or 4th eye. Obviously, care is taken to keep the most vigorous branch so that it constitutes the frame actinidia.
Harvesting kiwis from the garden
In the North, the kiwi harvest, which is also called Chinese gooseberry, takes place in October or November, before the first frosts. In the south, the fruits can be picked a little later. The main thing is that they do not suffer frost because they cannot stand it, just as they cannot withstand an icy wind which lowers the perceived temperature.
If we are lucky enough to benefit from bountiful harvest, kiwis must be stored in a ventilated room, at room temperature of 5 ° C, where they can be stored throughout the winter period, that is to say for several months.