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Kiwifruit Vineyard Planning, Planting and Spacing

Vine growth and fruiting habit of both fuzzy and hardy kiwifruit are similar. The following information on vineyard establishment applies to all the aforementioned species unless differences are noted.

It costs from $8,000 to $12,000 per acre, not including land cost, to establish a kiwifruit vineyard and bring it to production. It takes 3 or more years after planting to produce a commercial crop.

Planting Design

For a T-bar trellis, vines commonly are planted 15 to 18 feet apart, in rows 15 feet apart, resulting in 160 to 190 plants per acre. For the pergola, you may want to space rows 20 feet apart (see Trellis Systems for Kiwifruit).

Kiwifruit vines are extremely vigorous. Canes grow 6 to 12 feet per year, and occasionally 20 feet. Higher density plantings may increase production in the early years, but in later years, overgrowth and shading will require excessive summer pruning (see Pruning and Training Established Kiwifruit Vines).

The kiwifruit is a dioecious plant — it has separate male and female plants (with the exception of a few self-fertile cultivars). Male vines are essential for pollination and crop production.

In general, plant the same species of male as the female vines. Although A. deliciosa males are reported to be good pollinators of A. arguta females, they are much less cold hardy than arguta males, and thus increase the risk of crop loss to cold damage.

Male and female vines must be present in a block and must flower at the same time. In general, plant about 1 male plant for every 6 to 10 female plants. For more information on cultivars available see Kiwifruit Cultivars.

You can achieve a 1:8 male-female ratio with the following design:

  • Plant only female plants in all outside rows.
  • Plant the following row with a male plant between every two female plants.
  • Plant the next 2 rows of all female plants.
  • Plant another row with a male plant between every two females.
  • Plant 2 more rows of all female plants.
  • Continue as above.

If you plant a male every third vine in every second row, the ratio is 1:6.

Male plants in these planting systems run at right angles to the rows. For T-bar systems, you may want to place males in every row, as there is some evidence that bees prefer to work down rows rather than across.

Planting

Self-rooted vines perform better in the Northwest’s cold winters. Although grafted kiwifruit are available from many nurseries, planting kiwifruit on their own roots in areas where cold injury may occur is recommended. Severe cold spells can kill a grafted vine past the graft union, thus killing the vine. On cold-injured, self-rooted vines, suckers can be trained up from below the winter-killed portion.

Using rootstocks in kiwifruit production could offer many advantages:

  • Reduced plant-to-plant variability
  • Vigor reduction
  • Greater tolerance for adverse soil conditions such as waterlogging
  • Greater physiological cold tolerance
  • Resistance to pests or diseases
  • More precocious and higher yielding vines

However, research needs to be done on rootstock possibilities in kiwifruit.

Plant 2-year-old bare-root or container stock. If grafted, the scion (fruiting portion) should have been grown for one season before purchase.

Purchase bare-root nursery stock as close to planting time as possible. Don’t allow the roots to dry out. Plant as early in the spring as possible. Container grown plants can be planted at any time except midsummer.

It’s a good idea to plant on raised beds to reduce risk of phytophthora. Carefully mark your field prior to planting. Planting all males first and then filling in with females is recommended.

Install your irrigation system before planting (see Irrigation Systems for Kiwifruit). Establish your trellis prior to, or just after, planting (see Trellis Systems for Kiwifruit). Place the row posts between plants so that if post repair is needed, the vine trunk is not in the way.

Make the planting hole large enough to accommodate the roots without bending them. You may trim the roots a little to make them fit the hole. Do not dig the hole deeper than needed. Do not add any fertilizers, including manures, to the planting hole, as the roots are very sensitive to fertilizer burn.

Plant vines deeply enough to just cover the top roots. Never mound soil around the plant. Keep the soil moist enough to promote root growth, but don’t over-water, which can cause anaerobic conditions that promote root rots.

You can paint the trunks with a mixture of 1:1 water and interior white latex to help prevent sunburn. Milk cartons also can protect against sunburn and rodent feeding. Place a trunk wrap around all species of kiwifruit vines. This helps reduce the risk of cold injury to the susceptible young vines.

Bernadine C. Strik, Extension Berry Crops Specialist, Oregon State University.


This fact sheet is adapted from Oregon State University Extension Publication EC1464, Growing KiwifruitGet Adobe Acrobat Reader.