Grow a Kiwi Arbor for Shade and Fruit

Reader Contribution by Ilene White Freedman and House In The Woods Farm
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Before Sarah moved away, she bought the farm a gift: a pair of kiwi plants. Not only did she give us this gift, but she planted it too. She was wise. How often has a potted plant gone unplanted? She made sure the job was done, neatly planted on either side of the entrance to The Veggie Shed. It takes years to establish a beautiful kiwi arbor. I would say it took three years to get fruit and about five years to establish a good shady structure. Here is a little bit about how the past eight years has gone, raising up a kiwi arbor.

Sarah explained that one of the kiwi plants was the male and the other, the female. Both would grow flowers, leaving it to pollinators to carry pollen from the male’s flowers to the female’s flowers. The female plant will produce fruit. Sounds like a familiar story of the birds and the bees. 

The first few years, we matchmakers weren’t sure they liked each other. The first year, the two kiwi plants got settled in. The second year, the female produced flowers but not the male. The third year, the male produced flowers but not the female. It’s like they were trying to date but not getting the timing right. Then, hooray, in the fourth year, they both flowered. Synchronicity! A matchmaker’s success. Over the next few years, they grew, matured, intermingled vines, and offered fruit in most years. Like most delicate fruity flowers, if there is a freeze when the plants are flowering in the spring, you might not get fruit that year. We had a couple years like that. This year looks like a bountiful fruit year.

We anticipate cute little squishy fruit in the fall. We are not talking tropical kiwis here. This is Maryland, not Florida or Mexico. This plant is a Northern Hardy Kiwi. It thrives in northern (USA) states, producing one inch little kiwis, called kiwi berries. They aren’t fuzzy like tropical kiwis. Find the soft berries that look kind of rotten: those are the sweetest ones. Squeeze the fruit out of its skin and eat the soft fruit, quite sweet and impressively similar to the tropical kiwi flavor. 

My brother Ron built a trellis for the kiwis out of strong locust tree beams that we had planted and harvested for such a purpose. As the plants grew, Ron added branches as trellis supports. Expect a kiwi plant to need weight-bearing support for fifty pounds. The trellis provides structure and support to the kiwi arbor. The trellis is fully covered now. It took years to cover the trellis, but it is great to have a strong trellis established and waiting for the kiwi vines to creep over it. We added two more females a few years ago. It is their third year and they are looking awfully like males, since they had flowers but no fruit this year. We are hoping they just haven’t reached maturity and will fruit in the next couple years. Like a coming of age. Gotta give a girl some time.

We are going on eight years now. Who knew the kiwi arbor would be such a lovely addition to the farm. Well, probably Sarah knew. A gift that keeps growing. Sarah had volunteered at the farm for two years while she lived in Frederick, gracing us with her joyful learning spirit. As she apprenticed at the farm, she learned from us and she taught us things too. Like how to make fermented vegetables she called “Farm Chi”. Here is the blog on that. Our friendship continues, we have exchanged visits a few times, and we have watched Sarah create her own homestead and family. We are grateful for her gift and her friendship. Now the kiwi arbor is a beautiful structure on the farm, providing shade, beauty and fruit. 

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods Farm organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are 2013MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm’s Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.

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