The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Perennial disapointments

Female asparagus

Last fall, I wrote that the offspring of my all-male asparagus plants looked like they might be all-male as well.  Less than half of the young plants had bloomed their first fall, but every bloomer at the time was male.  Unfortunately, it turns out that only the males bloomed their first year, because now asparagus alley is sporting lots of tiny green balls on the feathery fronds.  In fact, the planting turned out to be 60% female!  I could pull out the female plants now that they've identified themselves and add some new seeds, but the truth is that getting to eat asparagus next year from this planting trumps higher yields in the long run for me, so I'll leave it as-is.  But it's a handy data-point --- saving seeds from all-male asparagus doesn't necessarily give you any gender advantage in the offspring.

Hardy kiwi

Another problematic perennial that's come to my attention this week is our hardy kiwis.  We planted two females and a male in July 2008, and have been waiting for fruits ever since.  For years, I thought the problem was late spring frosts that inevitably nipped back the kiwis' young growth, but this year's cold spells missed all but the lowest leaves...and still no blooms.  Hardy kiwis are supposed to fruit by year 5 at the latest, and this is year 6.  Any ideas, or will I be forced to pull out my elegant vines, to be replaced with something more productive?  I've got newly rooted figs and gooseberries looking for a spot in the garden, so the area won't go to waste, but I hate to give up on my dream of homegrown kiwis.

High density apples

Lest you think our perennials are all depressing, I should note that several of our apple trees seem to be keeping their fruits.  In fact, apples on the Early Transparent (a variety that usually ripens in late June in our neck of the woods) are starting to hang pendant and to look like real apples!  I can hardly wait to taste apples from our own trees, and I'm thrilled that one of the first will be a taste test of the same variety in a high density method versus in a forest garden environment.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Our kiwis never did anything but grow. The friend we got our cuttings from had hers for many years and they never produced either. We eventually moved and left the kiwis behind so I don't what became of them...
Comment by Adriana Thu Jun 13 07:20:56 2013

We started with two females (Anna) and one male, and they have never bloomed at the same time but we still get copious amounts of fruit. I have heard speculation from various kiwi folks that Anna does not require a pollinator, but I have never heard that from nursery owners... I purchased mine from One Green World 25 years ago.

If you can get actual fruiting vines, you won't be disappointed, they are delicious and very prolific. The new growth gets nipped back here a little each spring by frost, but it doesn't seem make much difference. It might worth starting over with new plants.

Comment by Throwback at Trapper Creek Thu Jun 13 09:25:05 2013


I have two female and one male kiwi plants. They are growing like crazy right now but just in their third year. Living in New England I was told it might take between 7 and 12 years for the fruit to come. Give it one more year at least, I have tasted friends hardy kiwi from their gardens. It is worth the wait.


Comment by Jason Fraser Thu Jun 13 10:19:34 2013
Intriguing data points! Throwback at Trapper Creek --- do you remember how long it took for your plants to produce the first time? One of my females (the one that's doing better) is Ananasnaya, which I understand is supposed to be the same as Anna, although it came from Tripplebrook instead, so who knows. It sounds like if we do rip these out, we should try some kiwis from One Green World instead, but given Jason's information, maybe we should give the plants a few more years.
Comment by anna Thu Jun 13 13:11:57 2013

I also have never had fruit from my kiwi vines after about 7 years. But just grew them from seed from shop bought fruit (Fuzzy Kiwifruit (A. deliciosa), not Hardy Kiwi (A. arguta)) I thought maybe not enough chill hours here. It does seem to be a common problem though. I think I did read that pruning back hard can sometimes work.

Comment by Jeff Thu Jun 13 21:16:16 2013
We had scant fruit the third year, and then promptly decided to move the plants to a different location, so the next harvest was in year five and has been continuous since. One of our original females died so now we have just one male and female and the one plant produces more than we need. Kiwi jam is the best! And our dogs love them!
Comment by Throwback at Trapper Creek Fri Jun 14 09:11:04 2013

I think our hardy kiwis were about 7 years old when they first bore fruit. If an late spring frost gets the leaves, they don't have the energy to put out new leaves and also bear fruit until the vines get older. We have two Annas, two males and a Michigan State. We usually get fruit every 2 or 3 years because of late frosts. We've got blooms this year! Interesting about Anna being self-pollinating! I hope so because we've got very few blooms on our males this year.

If I were you, I would leave the kiwis in place and give them more time. The fruit is worth the wait. MI State is smaller and sweeter than Anna, which is delicious.

Comment by Anita Huffman Fri Jun 14 12:11:30 2013

My plants came to me from Miller Nurseries. Jack from the Survival Podcast suggested a few different mail order nurseries during a show two or three years ago. Miller was one of them. Their literature says first fruit in 5-7 years but it was a local permaculturist who said 7-12 years. By the way I enjoyed when you guys were on the Survival Podcast. Two of my world collided and it was a great episode.


Comment by Jason Fraser Fri Jun 14 15:19:35 2013
I have been debating whether or not to plant kiwi in my backyard. The Anna variety sounds interesting. I have also wondered if anyone has had experience with Arctic Beauty kiwi. I figured while waiting for the fruit to come in, at least the variegated foliage would be nice to look at. I am not sure if the fruit is as good. Thoughts?
Comment by J Thu Jun 20 14:25:12 2013

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