By Helen Chesnut,
Q: When and how should kiwi vines be pruned? Our male vine bloomed profusely last year, while the female bloomed just a little. We've not had any fruit yet.
A: The usual pattern in kiwi vines is for the male to begin blooming one year before the female. The following year, the female will bloom a little. After, small crops gradually become more bountiful.
I prune quite heavily in summer, once fruit has developed, to open the fruit to as much sun-light as possible. Otherwise, the rapid, dense growth of the plants creates significant shade. Even before vines begin cropping, summer pruning is a good idea to keep the vines in bounds and to head back long side shoots.
The other main time to prune is January. The sap begins flowing early in these plants, and, like grapes, they will bleed profusely if they are pruned later, when the weather has begun to warm even a little.
The basic structure of a kiwi vine consists of a trunk and several main framework branches trained on a support structure. The purpose of the pruning is to launch the plants into the active growing season with the frame-work branches uncluttered, the flowering and fruit-bearing side shoots growing from them trimmed back.
Begin by removing any dead or broken growth. Then shorten the main framework branches where they have grown beyond the sup-port structure.
Where there is just one female and one male kiwi plant, you can prune the male quite severely since it has only the one female to service with its pollen.
Shorten the side shoots on the female kiwi vine by making cuts immediately above the second leaf node beyond the fruit stem stubs left from harvesting the plant.