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How to grow kiwi fruit

Wondering how to grow kiwi fruit in Australia? Look no further.

How to grow
Kiwi fruit will grow in most of temperate Australia - and with careful placement even in areas that seem unlikely.
Kiwi fruit MUST have chilling - 700 hours below 7°C; MUST have well drained soil; MUST have good watering for the first three years; MUST have mulch and water when the temperature is over 35°C for the first three years; and you MUST have a male and a female vine (or nine females to one male - but one to two females are more than enough for a kiwi fruit addicted family and all their friends and birds.
Avoid male and females grafted onto one vine - they almost always break down.)
If you've got all of those - it's easy.
Train your kiwi fruit onto a pergola, fence or up a tree in warmer climates. Be warned: the vine will get very big and heavy even if you prune it rigorously once a year - fences et al can well collapse under their weight.
The first year prune back to the central trunk, with two main arms. The fruit is produced on this year's shoots from last year's growth - in other words, you get fruit from one year old wood, and anything older needs to be pruned back.
If you don't prune, you'll get a jungle that even Sleeping Beauty's Prince wouldn't be able to hack through and rats love to nest in the tangles.
Every winter prune back vigorously - if you've trained it properly the first year or two, you'll have lots of long 'laterals' growing out of the two main arms.Keep about half of these and trim them back to a reasonable length. You'll also need to trim back any new laterals off the main arms in summer.
I know this seems complicated. In fact kiwi fruit are so vigorous that after five or six years, if you just cut it back to manageable size, you'll still have enough last year's wood and this year's shoots for masses of fruit. Just remember that if you do go for a very drastic cut back, you won't have any fruit next season.
Harvest
Fruit should appear after 2 - 3 years; some authorities recommend picking before frosts, but I find that frosts tenderise and sweeten them. Don't wait for the fruit to get ripe on the vine though - it doesn't. Pick and wait for anywhere from three days to two weeks for them to ripen indoors. The riper they are, the sooner they'll soften inside. If they don't taste sweet, they aren't ripe enough to pick and if they leave a furry taste on your tongue, they are definitely not ready. Note: Your home-grown fruit will be MUCH sweeter than shop bought stuff; and will have more flavour too - commercial kiwi fruit never seem to have much flavour at all, just vague sweetness and a hint of scent.
Pick the latest fruit first - kiwi fruit are best stored on the vine. We let the birds get most of ours - the display as they try to balance and peck is worth losing the fruit for - and, anyway, a few hundred kiwi fruit is more than enough for us.

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