Top of The Crops - Pineapple

While many of us associate pineapples with tropical climes, Polynesian breezes and softly swaying palms, it is possible to grow them here in the UK. Yes – you heard that right! Savvy gardeners harnessing the power of the polytunnel can grow thriving, healthy and (most importantly) delicious pineapples right here in our less than tropical climate. 

While it does require a commitment of time and space, growing pineapples in a polytunnel does not have to be a complicated or intimidating task. By following our simple guide, you will be tucking into the flavours of the tropics within a few years time. Imagine impressing your friends and neighbours with pineapples from your own garden! Pina coladas, here you come. 

 

Growing Pineapples in Polytunnels


Many people mistakenly believe that pineapples grow on trees. This is understandable, as tropical fruits such as coconuts, bananas and dates certainly do. However, pineapples come from a stocky, hearty plant that grows along the ground. Their leaves whorl out from a thick, central stem, and the long (and sometimes very sharp) leaves can grow to more than 1.5 metres in length. 


If you tried to sow pineapple seeds or seedlings in your back garden, the results would likely be laughable. Even if the seed did sprout, over time the inclement British weather would certainly kill your baby plant. It simply isn’t possible without specialised supplies. 


What are they? Well, other than your seeds, the most important material you need in order to grow this luscious fruit in the UK is a polytunnel. A polytunnel is almost like a miniature greenhouse that anyone can install in their garden. It consists of an elongated wire frame wrapped with polythene, and it allows you to grow warm weather plants and flowers than would normally die in cooler British weather. 


By increasing the heat and humidity under the frame, a polytunnel mimics the weather conditions of the tropics, making it possible for pineapples to not only survive, but to thrive. You can plant your pineapples in spring and begin to harvest them approximately three years later. Admittedly, this is not a quick process! But the novelty factor keeps British gardeners sowing pineapples year after year. 


The polytunnel gives you a lot more options than planting in your garden in the traditional way. If we have an unexpected cold snap in the UK, your polytunnel, cloche or insulated fleece will protect your seedlings and prevent them from dying. Polytunnels are available for even the smallest gardens, but for pineapples you do need quite a bit of space. 

Ready to invest some time, love and effort into growing these tropical delicacies? Read ahead. 



How To Grow Pineapples


The most common way to grow pineapples is to plant the tops of the fruits. After eating a pineapple, you can save the leafy top and pop it into the soil, where it will take root. Do remember that each pineapple plant fruits just once every three years (or even longer), and they yield only one fruit per plant. Don’t plan on a massive harvest!


Here is a brief guide to planting pineapples in your garden:

  • Trim and prepare - Cut off the leafy top of your pineapple, approximately an inch under the leaves. Trim and remove the lower leaves, and peel off the outer layer of the pineapple at the bottom of the crown. You should find tiny brown root buds – ensure that these are exposed. 
  • Dry the crown - Leave your pineapple top to air dry for a few days before planting it. This can help to prevent the incidence of rotting when it is under the ground. 
  • Plant in soil - Once your pineapple crown is dry, plant it in a light soil mix, and keep the soil level just below the leaf base. 
  • Water – Once you have planted your crown, water it well and ensure that it is in indirect (but still bright) sunlight. Keep your plant moist and check on it for 6 to 8 weeks. After 8 weeks, pull the soil back gently to ensure that roots are forming. 
  • Bright light – In order for a pineapple to grow and thrive, it must receive approximately 6 hours of nice bright light every day. In some parts of the country, you will need to add some artificial lighting sources to meet this requirement. 
  • Do not overwater – Remember, only water as needed. Pineapples are used to hot, dry weather, and so it is a good idea to allow the soil to dry out between watering. Keep the temperatures inside your polytunnel at a minimum of 20 degrees C, and maintain the humidity at around 70%.
  • Ethylene can help – Ethylene, a chemical exuded by certain fruits, can help your pineapple to flower. Once it flowers, it will fruit. You can try placing fruits that exude ethylene in a plastic bag with your pineapple plant. 
  • Try laying the plants on their sides – Some gardeners swear by the method of laying their plants on their sides in order to encourage flowering/fruiting. 


How to Harvest Pineapples

Remember, pineapples will take between 2 to 4 years to flower, and from there they still need to fruit. In general, a pineapple will flower as soon as it reaches a big enough size. So, the happier your plants are and the warmer you keep them, the sooner your pineapple will flower and fruit. If you grow your pineapples in a polytunnel, you will find that you have a lot more success, and you will be making smoothies, fruit salad and savoury dishes a lot faster. 

To harvest, simply snip your pineapple off at the base using sturdy garden shears. Don’t forget to save the tops in order to start the whole process over again!



Summary 

Pineapples are an ancient symbol of good luck and welcome, and so what better way to treat your friends, family and neighbours than with a home-grown pineapple? Once they find out that this sweet treat was grown right here in the UK, in your very own garden? They are going to be even more impressed. Aloha!
 

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