Sour Cream Currant Pie

We have a currant bush in our backyard. Last year the birds got to the currants before we did, but this year the grapes were hiding the berries pretty well, so we were able to harvest them.

I noticed them on a Monday night in mid-June as I was watering my garden. It was about 7pm, and Paisley (age 9) and Cosie (age 7) were about to get ready for bed. I told them I had a job I needed help with, so after some grumbling they got their shoes on and came outside with me. We spent the next half hour or so picking red currants. We had fun picking the berries together and finding “jackpots” hidden under branches and grape leaves that had encroached on the currant bush. Currants aren’t particularly tasty — they have lots of seeds and are quite tart.

We took our berries inside and gave them a quick rinse. I measured them and saw that we had 4 cups from our one, sickly bush (it has some kind of borer in it).

I was trying to decide what to do with all these currants, and ultimate chose to make pie. I actually thought what we had were gooseberries, so a quick search brought me to two highly rated gooseberry recipes: One was a straight gooseberry pie and the other was a Sour Cream Gooseberry Pie.

It turns out that currants can replace gooseberries just fine in a pie. The girls really wanted to help make it, even though it was getting rather late. So upon discovering that we were out of tapioca, which was used to thicken the regular pie, I determined we would make Sour Cream Currant Pie.

I had never made a pie like this from scratch before, and I had never actually eaten currant pie, so I thought this would be interesting.

I had never actually made pie crust either, but it was pretty easy. I used half of this recipe, but it didn’t quite make enough. Here is the recipe I’ll use next time (which will make the right amount):

Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup, 1 tablespoon butter (or shortening)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup water
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, shortening, sugar, and salt. Blend together until crumbly.
  2. In a small bowl, mix egg with water. Then blend into flour mixture. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. When ready to use, flatten dough using flour to prevent from sticking. Place dough in pie as desired.

While one of my daughters was working on that, I had the other work on the pie filling. The ripe currants worked really well as they were fairly mushy but still sweet enough. We used this recipe, but modified it with extra currants:

Sour Cream Currant Pie

  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups currants
  • A little less than 1 cup sugar (but depends how sweet your currants are)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pie crust (see above)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, gently stir together the currants and sugar. Let some of the currants get smashed and keep others whole. Let stand for 15 minutes. Press one of the pie crusts into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Mix in the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Add the currant and sugar mixture, and stir to coat evenly. Spoon into the pie crust, and place the second crust over the top. Crimp the edges to seal, and cut some decorative slits in the top to vent steam.
  3. Bake for 55 minutes in the preheated oven.
  4. Can be eaten hot, or refrigerated (or both!).

Even though my Sour Cream Currant Pie wasn’t completed until about 11pm, I had to try a little slice with ice cream. It was delicious! I then ate it for lunch for the next few days since my wife is not a fan of pies.

Fortunately I have enough currants in the freezer for another pie once I’m ready. I’m looking forward to it!

Harvest Schedule

These are the approximate times that my yard (near Boise, ID, zone 7a) produces food. I will update more as the season progresses.

Strawberries: first berries in the last week of May in 2013; by the first week of June I was picking >2 cups per day; still picked lots of strawberries through June

Raspberries: Starting in June

Gooseberries: we picked berries in the second half of June (2016)

Yellow Squash: Beginning late June (2016)

Boysenberries: late June / early July (we always have these for the 4th of July parade)

Peas: Depends on the year and how early they are planted. I’ve picked them in May through early July.

Growing Strawberries

We freed up a spot in our yard last year and I decided that it would be nice to start growing strawberries. I went ahead and ordered two varieties from Gurneys: Ozark Beauty (25 plants) and Gurney Whopper (10 plants).

The plants arrived in mid March. Unfortunately I was really busy with work at the time, so one night I got home at about 8pm, after dark, and decided to plant them. I put on a head lamp and took a bit over an hour to plant ~35 plants in the drizzling rain. Strawberries can be planted as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. They are also quite hardy. We had several weeks of ~20 degree high temperatures this winter and my strawberries all survived without any problems.

I planted most of my plants on a mound, but not all 35 plants would fit, so I planted 12 or so plants on the south side of a fence under my grape trellis. My grapes aren’t big enough to provide any real shade yet, so all the strawberries are in full sun.

The strawberries almost all survived at first. I got a few strawberries the first season, but nothing significant and I pinched off most of the blossoms so that the roots would develop. The plants quickly grew and started spreading. However, when the heat of July and August hit I found that my sprinklers didn’t cover the top of the mound very well. I lost about two thirds of the plants on the mound. To my surprise, the backup strawberries I planted on the south side of my fence really prospered. As of the first few days of June this year, I have picked at least 15 cups of strawberries, and there are still plenty on the way. It turns out strawberries need lots of sun, but also plenty of water so they don’t burn up.

My strawberries yielded a nice harvest even though I had picked the day before!

One thing that I’ve learned about homegrown strawberries is that they are way juicier and sweeter than store bought. When you cut into a homegrown strawberry, it is often red/pink all the way to the core. When you cut into a store bought strawberry (even a very red one) it is usually white in the middle. I assume that this is because the shipping time requires retail strawberries to be picked prematurely, while my homegrown strawberries can ripen on the vine. It may also be due to the variety.

Here’s a view of one store bought strawberry (on the left) and two homegrown strawberries (on the right). You can see that they’re similar in size. The middle (homegrown) strawberry is slightly more pink on the outside than the left (store bought) strawberry, while the right (homegrown) strawberry is the most red.

Homegrown vs Store Bought Strawberries - Top

But look at the difference when I cut into them! See how much more white the store bought strawberry is in its center, even though it was more red than one of the homegrown strawberries? This has been my experience about 95% of the time with homegrown vs store bought strawberries. Note how red the homegrown strawberry on the right is.


Homegrown vs Store Bought  Strawberries - Cross Cut

Homegrown strawberries can be much smaller than store bought. This can be attributable to the varieties used. My Ozarks are pretty small (but tasty!) but my Gurney Whoppers are actually about the same size as store bought. Strawberry size also decreases with the age of the plants. It generally takes 3-4 years and the soil and plants need to be rejuvenated.

You can encourage strawberry growth by limiting the number of shoots that the plants send off (just pluck off the shoots before they root). It is also good to compost around the plants and add 10-10-10 fertilizer. As I mentioned above, strawberries need lots of sun and need to be watered regularly (I water mine the same as I water my grass).

Finally, my number one strawberry enemy is the birds. They love strawberries. I actually expected them to be pretty hard on my strawberries since they have decimated my blackberries, blueberries, and peas (yes, peas) in past years. Interestingly, I haven’t used nets this year and birds have only eaten <10% of my berries. If that continues to be the case, then I am willing to share (or at least I’m more willing to share than to bother with nets). It seems that the large strawberry plants hide a lot of the berries from the birds’ sight. I also scare them away whenever I can. Robins seem to be the main culprit in my yard.

Growing Basil in a Grow Light and the in the Garden

Basil can be a great herb to include in your cooking. My wife makes Thai Chicken with Basil that is very delicious. One issue with basil is that it can be fairly expensive, especially in a basil-intensive meal. The Thai Chicken meal that my wife makes takes $2-$3 worth of basil each time she makes it. However, basil seeds are really cheap and growing basil can be pretty easy.

I’ve had great success growing basil under a grow light and then transferring it to the garden. Basil is sensitive to frost, so if you want to get an early start you’ll need to use a grow light. You can plant the seeds directly in your garden soil if you prefer, but not until after the last frost. I plant basil under the grow light in early February, at the same time I plant onions. I plant 6-8 seeds in a ~3″ deep baking tin, so the seeds have 3″ – 5″ between them. You can probably get away with planting them even closer. Plant them in good potting soil if possible as they will be in there for a while. Keep the soil fairly moist and they should germinate in about a week. I continue to water every 2-3 days. If you start getting moss-type growth on the soil, then water less.

This is basil after about 55 days under my grow light - it's just about ready to harvest

It takes about two months for the basil to be ready for it’s first harvesting. If you only need a few leaves you can harvest prior to two months. About 45 days after planting, the basil plants start to grow very rapidly and can double in size in two or three weeks. The picture above shows my basil after about 55 days.

You can harvest basil without killing the plant. Just cut the main stem about an inch below the lowest set of good leaves. The basil will keep growing and you’ll get several good leaves that you can cook with.

Basil before cutting:Basil in grow light - Before Cutting


Basil after cutting:Basil in grow light - After Cutting 

Harvested Basil:

Harvested Basil

Once all danger of frost has passed (about mid-May where I live), you can transfer the basil to your garden. Let the tin you planted in dry out a little bit (not completely). Then just dig a little indentation in your garden that will fit the tin. Try to take the whole chunk of dirt and basil plants out of the tin in one group and stick it in your little hole. Now just water it with the rest of your garden, and pretty soon you’ll have more basil than your family can possible use. Basically those 6-8 little plants will grow into a basil bush. When the basil tries to make seeds, just clip off the buds so that the plant keeps growing. As long as you do this, your basil should last until the fall frost. Basil can be used to make tomato sauce, so if you’ve grown some tomatoes you might use your basil when you’re canning.

Here's the basil after transplanting it to my garden from the grow light

You can even dry basil leaves if you’d like. By the end of the summer, our family is usually sick of basil so we just let the plants die and then start the process again the following year.

Thai chicken with Basil:

Thai Chicken with Basil

Growing Onions from Seed

After getting my peas in the ground, I decided to go ahead and plant some onions.

Onions can be planted “as soon as soil is workable” according to Ed Hume Seeds. This makes them one of the first things to go in the garden. Onions can be planted directly in the garden or can be transplanted from a grow light. Many people use onion sets to grow onions, but I have had success by just using seeds.

Ed Hume Walla Walla Onion Instructions

One nice thing about onions, is that you can be pretty cost-effective by planting your own onions versus buying them from the store. One $2 packet of seeds can result in over 100 nice onions. I like to use seeds instead of sets since they are a bit cheaper. Sets are easier to plant and more dependable, although I haven’t had much trouble with seeds so far. Buying seeds can also allow you to get more variety. Onions come in many flavors and sizes, so seeds are a cheap way to experiment. I had very good success with Walla Walla last year. I’m replanting those as well as some other varieties this year.

Onion Seed Packets

Onion seeds were the first thing I planted in my grow light in early February, along with some lettuce and basil. You can plant seeds in the garden in February, but it was still cold and my garden wasn’t ready, so I didn’t plant in the garden until early March.

If you’re using a grow light, plant onions in a tray with 1″ to 3″ of dirt. I just make little rows with my finger and then drop a seed every half inch or so. The seeds only need to be 1/4″ deep. Seeds will sprout in 10 to 20 days. Onions won’t begin to produce bulbs until there is about 14 hours of sunlight, or 12 hours of sunlight for short-day varieties. The little seedlings will have a few delicate roots. Once they are about 6 weeks old, or about 5-7″ high, take the tray to your garden. Carefully take each onion seedling out of the tray and transfer it to your garden soil. You might need to separate the seedling roots from each other depending on how close you planted them. You can also cut an inch or two off the top of the onion seedling when you transfer it since the seedlings are a bit top heavy.

You can see my onions left of center under the grow light in the picture below. I tried experimenting with a peat tray last year, but this year I’m using metal and plastic flats which are easier to work with and easier to extract the onion seedlings out of.

Grow Light - Side View - Full of Plants

You can plant onions in “patches” rather than rows if you want to preserve space. Big onions typically need 5″ to 6″ of space, while smaller onions require less. To make a patch, just make a grid with the onions separated by ~6″ in each direction. Basically this is the same as making rows that are 6″ apart. You can pack quite a few onions in a small space. For example, in a 5′ by 5′ area, you could place 121 onions (11 x 11) if you separate them by 6″, and 169 (13 x 13) if you reduce that to 5″.

If you don’t want to use a grow light, or if you’re like me and you want to get onions at different times and diversify your planting method, then you can also plant seeds directly in your garden. To do this, I make a small indentation in the dirt to form a row. I put down the measuring tape and drop a seed about every 4″. This way if some don’t grow I won’t be wasting much space. Then I cover up the row. If they’re too close, I can either pick them a little early or thin them out. This year I marked my rows, which are 6″ apart, using sticks on either side. Soon I’ll add my grow light seedlings where my rows stop. I’ll have a decent size patch when everything’s planted.

Planting Onion Seeds in the Garden

Last year I only planted a few onions, but they worked very well and lasted a couple of months for our family.

Onions and Peas Growing in the Garden

As the onion bulbs expand, gently pull away the dirt from them so that the bulbs just sit on top of the ground. This will prevent rot.

You’ll know it’s time to harvest once the tops start falling over and turning brown. You can cure the onions to preserve them by placing them in a warm, dry area with plenty of air circulation but out of the sun. You can put them on some kind of wire mesh or newspaper — something that will keep the moisture from building up. It takes around three weeks for onions to cure. Once they’re done, cut the tops to about 2″ from the bulb and store them in a cool, dry area with air circulation. Some bulbs will store better than others. If you don’t cure the onions they will likely start growing again, even if they’re just sitting in the garage.


Growing Peas

I finally had the time and weather decent enough to get in the garden on Saturday. I spent a few hours mulching last year’s leaves, stems, etc., then I tilled and raked until I had a nice, smooth surface.

Harvested Peas

Since I had enough time, I decided to go ahead and plant peas. In Southwest Idaho, we are about eight weeks from the average last frost, which is a good time for peas to go in the ground. According to the instructions on my Burgess seed packet, peas should be sown “as early as possible in the spring.” This jives with other information I’ve read indicating that peas should be planted about 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Peas like full sun, but it’s important to plant them early enough that they get a start on the summer. Some pea varieties can be planted in partial shade. Peas don’t need fertilizer as they produce their own nitrogen.

Peas are fun because they are one of the first things to go in the ground. Certainly they beat all the post-frost plants like tomatoes, peppers, beans, etc.

Peas need something to climb on. I use a couple fence posts connected by some chicken wire. I place some bamboo sticks at intervals in the chicken wire to keep it steady and to allow the peas to keep climbing. I’ll probably add additional bamboo and twine later on depending how tall they get.

Pea Trellis in Garden

On the left side of this picture from last year you can see the peas clinging to the trellis.

Onions and Peas Growing in the Garden

This year I’m planting sugar snap peas and Oregon Sugar peas. This way we can eat some whole and include some in stir fry. I’m the only one in my family that likes plain peas, so I decided not to go through the trouble of planting traditional peas this year (which I’d have to shell then eat myself).

Before putting up the trellis, I started soaking my peas in water. I left them in for about 20-30 minutes. This ensures that the peas know it’s time to grow. My understanding is that if any float to the top, it means they aren’t good for planting.

Peas Soaking Before Planting

Peas can be planted in double rows, meaning two rows about 3″ apart. I plant a row on each side of my trellis. If you want more than one double row, then you’ll need about 2 1/2′ between the double rows. Plant peas 1-2″ deep. I use a stick or my finger to punch a little hole in the soil. Then I stick the pea inside the hole and pack it in. This year my 5 year-old daughter helped me by putting the peas in the holes after I punched each hole.

Pea Trellis with Measuring Tape and Paisley

Separate the peas 1.5″ to 3″. I’ve seen some people say to separate them as much as 6″, but I’m not sure that’s necessary. It may depend on the type of peas you’re growing. I lay down a measuring tape to help me judge where to put each seed (you can see the tape in the picture above).

Now we just water and wait. Last year a flock of sparrows actually ate the leaves off my new pea sprouts (this made me furious). I suppose this is because peas are one of the first things to sprout in the spring, so the hungry birds probably couldn’t resist. The sprouts recovered, but it was certainly a setback. This year I plan on putting up a little netting until they are big enough to handle a few birds.

Here is a picture of some of the peas I harvested last year.

Harvested Peas from 2012


How to Make a Grow Light for your Garage

Grow Light - Side View - Full of Plants

Gardening in cold climates may require that you get a jump-start on the season. Cold weather and long winters may also leave gardening fanatics with an itch to plant something. Both of these issues can be resolved (at least partially) by building a grow light. While many grow lights are designed and built for indoor use where the climate is controlled, I was able to build a grow light that works well in my garage even during the winter.

Grow Light Size

The size of your grow light will depend mainly on three preferences that will vary from person-to-person:

  • How much do you want to grow?
  • How much space to you have?
  • How much do you want to spend?

The first two of these can be mitigated using the grow light design that I used (modular). Spending can also be mitigated depending on how patient you are and what types of scraps you happen to have laying around.

I designed my grow light to be approximately 2′ x 4′ x 3′, or two feet wide, four feet long, and three feet tall (with only about half of the height available for the plants). However, the design is also modular, so after my first module was successful, I added a second level which was 2′ x 4′ x 3′, with most of the height available for the plants. I’ve found that this size is pretty reasonable. It allows about 8 square feet for plants and the height is enough to grow basil, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and many other crops so that they’re tall enough to transplant into the garden.

Grow Light Design and Materials

The grow light design is fairly straightforward.

List of Materials (these can be altered depending on your preferences, but this is basically what I used for my grow light):

  • Four 2×4’s at 36″ long — these form the four vertical corners
  • Two 2×4’s at 45″ long — these run lengthwise about a foot off of the ground
  • Two 2×4’s at 24″ long — these run width wise
  • Two 2×4’s at 27″ long — these go across the top, width wise
  • Three 2×4’s at 48″ long — these go across the top, length wise
  • A piece of chicken wire approximate 2′ by 4′ — attached to the level where the plants will sit on
  • Metal strips used with chain-linked fences
  • Two 12″ x 48″ T8 fluorescent light fixtures OR Three 7″ x 48″ T8 light fixtures (the more light the better)
  • Either four or six 48″ T8 fluorescent light bulbs (depending on how many fixtures you want to use
  • A 5-6 light incandescent fixture, the type that are used for lighting bathrooms
  • A couple 60W Halogen flood lights and or a few 60W incandescent lights (before they are outlawed…)
  • A timer to shut the heat on and off
  • A piece of clear plastic about 10′ x 8′ to cover the whole thing

The 2×4’s will basically form the structure of the grow light. This has been described a bit above. Basically just use the 36″ pieces like legs of a table. Then you will have 2×4’s connecting these legs on the top side, and another set of 2×4’s connected them about a foot off the ground.

Grow Light - Top View 1

On the 2×4’s that sit on top of the contraption, connect the fluorescent light fixtures. Use adjustable chains so that you can keep the light close when the plants are sprouting, and then move the light higher as the plants grow. You want the lights to be about one inch above the plants, but be careful because the plants will quickly burn and dry out if they touch the lights.

The chicken wire is used to form a level platform to place the plants on. It is stretched and nailed to the 2×4’s that are about a foot off the ground. However, since the chicken wire flexes, you first need to place some stronger strips of metal across the 2×4’s every foot or so, then put the chicken wire on top. This way, when you have a tray full of heavy, water-logged dirt, it won’t cave down the chicken wire. You can kind of see the chicken wire in the photo below — it’s doubled over (two layers). If you look at the photo at the very top of the post, you can see one of the strips of metal just under the tray of yogurt containers.

Grow Light - Baby Helping

Under the chicken wire (on the ground), you will place the 5+ light fixture and put a couple of halogen or incandescent light bulbs in it (just regular bulbs, you don’t need reptile bulbs or anything). These provide heat for the plants resting on the chicken wire. This method is way cheaper and easier than warming-mats. It also uses less power (I think). However, I’m not sure about the fire hazard. I place it on my cold cement floor in my garage, so I’m not too worried about the fire hazard. When I was thinking about how to warm my plants, a guy at Home Depot didn’t think this method would work. But it does! Especially if you place your plants on metal trays or cookie sheets. They warm up quite nicely. In fact, I recommend placing a simple $10 timer on the plug that connects to the light fixture so that the plants don’t burn — just cycle the fixture on and off every hour or so. You’ll get a good idea of how warm it is when you check the plants every day or two. Look at the photo on top of this post and you can see the light fixture under the plants.

The photo below shows the plastic covering. The cover keeps the heat inside — most of the heat provided for the grow light comes from the halogen/incandescent light bulbs below, but some also comes from the fluorescent bulbs.

Grow Light - Covered

Just fold it back to access the plants.

Grow Light - Top-Side View - Full of Plants

I’ll let the pictures provide some other detail. Basically, the dimensions aren’t super important, it’s a very easy design.

One nice thing about this design, is that you can easily expand it vertically by building something similar right on top of it, as I have done. I also added some wheels so that I could move it without having to drag it around.

I water the plants in my grow light every two days or so. Basically just moisten the dirt whenever it starts to get dry. As you can see from the photos, I’ve tried many different containers. My favorite containers for single plants are yogurt containers. They keep the moisture in really well, the plants and dirt slip right out of them, and they are free if you eat yogurt anyways. Just cut a few holes on the bottom edge to let them drain a bit (make it look like one of the black pots you get at the nursery). I don’t like the peat pots — although you can see that I’ve tried them. They dry out too quickly and are harder to plant unless you’re willing to plant the whole thing (I just don’t trust that the roots can get through them…). For onions you can just plant in a big, ~2-3″ deep baking sheet. If you want to plant basil, plant about 6 seeds in a ~4″ deep aluminum sheet. You can harvest the leaves under the grow light a few times. When the frost has past, you can just plant the whole tray of dirt into your garden (try to keep it all in one chunk when you take the tray off). Then they’ll grow into a big bush.

Lettuce (great to give it an early start), cilantro, and onions:

Grow Light - Lettuce, Onions, Cilantro, Basil - Close Up

Flowers in back-left, basil in back-right, carrots in front-right (these didn’t really do great — maybe I could have transplanted them, but I’m not sure), and some tomatoes that haven’t sprouted yet.

Grow Light - Carrots, Flowers, Yogurt Containers Close up

Lettuce again…

Grow Light - Lettuce Close Up

I switch off the fluorescent bulbs in my grow light every night when I go to bed and let the warmer lights cycle about every hour depending on the temperature in the garage. Contrary to what some may say, I don’t think plants actually need a “night-time” to grow properly. You can probably just leave the lights on all day and night. Photosynthesis has a “Light Reaction” and what is sometimes called a “Dark Reaction.” However, the “Dark Reaction” is more properly a “Light-independent Reaction” — it can happen in the light or the dark. Nevertheless, I figure the plants don’t need more that 16 hours per day and I don’t want to kill my electricity bill.

Cost of Running the Grow Light

To calculate the cost of running your grow light, just add up the watts of all your bulbs. For example, I think I use six 30W fluorescent bulbs, and two 60W halogens. So the total is 6*30 + 2*60 = 360. Divide this by 1000 to get the kilowatts/hr –> so 360/1000 = 0.36. Now look on your utility bill to see how much you pay for electricity. I pay about $0.09/kilowatt hour (electricity is cheap in Idaho). Therefore, my hourly cost is $0.09 * 0.36 = $0.0324. Assuming I run it 16 hours a day, that’s 16*0.0324 = $0.51/day, which is $15.55/month. Not too bad. You can grow enough tomatoes, peppers, and onions to justify the expense of running it. Also, if you extend it vertically, it gets a little cheaper per square foot.

Have fun!

Grow Light - Girls Planting 6 Grow Light - Girls Planting 4 Grow Light - Girls Planting 3 Grow Light - Girls Planting 2 Grow Light - Girls Planting 1 Grow Light - Baby Planting Grow Light - Girls and Baby Planting

Hardy Kiwi – Actinidia arguta

After looking through this year’s Burgess catalog, I was really intrigued by the Hardy Kiwi for sale. I haven’t been gardening for too long, but so far I’ve only heard of one person trying to grow Kiwi in Idaho, and that was my Uncle Steve. He mentioned it in passing one time, and he stated that his attempt failed. Nevertheless, I figured that for ~$14 for two female and one male kiwi plants, it would be worth a try. I have some spare room along one of the fences in my backyard and I’ve been looking for something fun to plant there.

In this post, I just want to write down some notes from the research I’ve done about Hardy Kiwi. It’s still winter, so it will be a while before I plant anything and maybe a couple years before I actually harvest anything (assuming it survives).

Hardy Kiwi’s can supposedly grow in Zones 4-10. They bear fruit that is much smaller than a commercial kiwi, but is also sweeter and tastier. Hardy Kiwi needs about 150 no-frost days to yield fruit. There’s about a 50% probability of this in my area near Boise, Idaho, but the fruit can also finish ripening in the fridge after picking it, so there’s some wiggle room. Hardy Kiwis usually ripen in October. Also, kiwi vines can endure a gradual (but not a not sudden) fall frost. NOAA has a great site to look up frost information for your area.

Hardy Kiwi is much smaller than commercial kiwi (Hayward)

Kiwis are dioecious, meaning that each plant is either male or female. In order for the female to bear fruit, it needs a male nearby to pollinate it. Most information I’ve found says that you need one male for every nine females for proper pollination. I’ve decided to purchase one male and two females just because I don’t have room for much more that that. Besides, at this point I want to see if they actually survive. I’ve seen information indicating that the plants will bear fruit anywhere from 2-4 years after harvest, with maturity around 5 years.

Hardy Kiwi’s are said to grow similar to grapes. They grow as a vine and climb up trees and other sturdy objects. The Burgess catalog says that kiwis can grow as much as 5″ per day in optimal conditions. Vines can grow as much as 20′ in a single season. The plants can eventually get 40′ long. A trellis or something similar is required to grow and harvest the fruit. I plan on building a fairly small trellis, and being fairly aggressive in pruning. Hardy Kiwi should be pruned two or three times during the growing season and once during the winter to encourage fruit production.

At this point, I am unsure exactly where to plant. Various sources say that kiwis should be planted on a north side so that the winter lasts a little longer (more shade in spring) and the vines don’t jump the gun before the last frost. I plan on planting on the north side of a fence, so this isn’t an issue. What I’m more unsure of is how much sun they need. I’ve read some sources that say full son is fine; however, most people give this same information for blueberries, and I found that to be very wrong in Idaho where summers are hot (105F+ max) and dry. I’m thinking I will plant the hardy kiwis close enough to a tree to get some afternoon shade, which works best for the blueberries I’ve experimented with.

Hardy Kiwi is susceptible to root rot, so mix in organic matter when planting and plant in well-drained soil. Soil pH should be 5.5-7.0. Kiwis are also very sensitive to fertilizer, so avoid fertilizing them at planting. After a year, minimal amounts of fertilizer may be applied.

Hardy Kiwi can be propagated using cuttings. Both hardwood and softwood cuttings work, but softwood cuttings work better. Take hardwood cuttings during the winter when the plants are dormant. Take softwood cuttings in July. You can also plant the seeds from the fruit, but half will be male and half female and you won’t know which is which when you plant it. Kiwis can bear in two years from cuttings and in three years from seeds.


References and Resources:

2013 Garden Planting Schedule

Last fall while the garden was still fresh in my mind, I jotted down some notes on what to plant and when to plant in 2013. I’ve made some tweaks since then, and surely I will make more alterations, but here is a rough planting schedule for my 2013 garden. The season is coming right up and I’ve received three catalogs in the mail, so I’m starting to get excited!


  • Week 1
    • Trim grape vines and gather some cuttings to give to friends and family later on
    • Trim raspberries and transplant some of the blueberry plants to a better spot (they are getting too much sun)
  • Week 2
    • Plant onions (Walla Walla, maybe some other varieties) in a tray under the plant light
    • Plant some lettuce under the plant light as well
    • Plant basil under grow light (this will be harvested a few times under the grow light before being transplanted after the frost)
  • Week 3
    • Try grafting Dad’s apple tree into my crab-apple tree (failed last year!)


  • Week 3 or so
    • Prep garden soil
    • Plant peas in garden (supposed to be ~6 weeks before last frost)
    • Transplant lettuce into garden (depending on size)
  • Week 4
    • Plant tomatoes under grow light (Beefsteak, Amish Paste, maybe another variety)
    • Plant peppers and eggplant under grow light


    • Week 1
      • Plant flowers under grow light
      • Plant carrots directly in garden
      • Plant more lettuce in grow light
      • Transplant onions to the garden, also plant some other onion seeds directly in the garden soil
    • Week 4
      • Plant canna lilies in yard


      • Week 1
        • Plant beans directly in garden
      • Week 2-3 (after frost)
        • Transplant all frost-sensitive plants (tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, flowers, etc) from grow light into garden
        • Plant cilantro in garden


      • Week 2-4
        • Boysenberry Harvest!


      • Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, peas, beans will all start ripening