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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 4, 2008

Backyard pineapple is hard to beat

By Jari Sugano and Steve Fukuda

Pineapples (Ananas comosus) have played a significant role in Hawai'i's agriculture history. Many kama'aina remain connected to agriculture because of their previous involvement with this industry, whether it was working in the cannery, summer internships or harvesting fruits.

Growing pineapples in backyards is simple to do and does not require much space. Pineapple plants are established by rooting suckers which develop in the leaf axils of mother plant, slips which are produced from the peduncle, or crowns which are commonly known as pineapple tops.

Plants established from suckers can produce fruit in about 18 months; slips, 22 months; and crowns, 24 months. Crowns are the most common planting material because they are the easiest to obtain; however, they take the longest to fruit. Remove lower leaves of crown material and allow to dry and cure for a week before planting.

Pineapples are best planted in well-drained soils with a pH of 4.5 to 6.0. Black plastic mulch could be used to cover the soil surface, helping to reduce weeds, retain moisture and increase soil temperature. If grown in containers, allow about four or five gallons per plant. They prefer sunny days with cool evening temperatures.

Pineapples need a wide array of nutrients to develop, such as nitrogen for vegetative growth, phosphorus for root establishment and potassium for fruit development. Fertilize soil with a complete fertilizer such as 15-15-15 at a rate of 1 ounce per plant every other month. Supplement on alternate months with a soluble or foliar fertilizer high in iron.

Irrigate regularly and target the soil area surrounding your plant. Flowering occurs about 12 to 14 months after planting. The flower spike, similar to that of a bromeliad, takes about six to eight months to fully develop. Pineapple will be ready to harvest about 18 to 24 months after planting. Commercially grown pineapples are "forced" to flower. Flowering of pineapples in backyards can be erratic and may take longer. Pineapples will be ready to harvest when they turn from green to a golden yellow color.

Because pineapples are vegetatively propagated, it is important to look at the plant's characteristics, such as size, sweetness, acidity, etc. Growing pineapples takes a lot of patience, but it is well worth the wait. There is nothing like growing and consuming the fruits you sow. Chill, cut and add some li hing powder for added enjoyment.