Let's see what pineapples have to offer to your permaculture design, and how other parts of your design can look after the needs of the pineapples.
Hardly any attention and not much water. In cooler climates they need a lot of sun, in very hot climates they like growing under a bit of shade.
Pineapples do appreciate thick mulch and good soil and compost. They may need additional fertiliser in the early days of their life.
Pineapples produce exquisite flowers, delicious fruit, and of course more pineapple plants.
Individual plants or clumps can be visual focal points in the garden. Their spiky nature makes them suitable for planting as a barrier.
Pineapples can be planted in zone two or even three (if you grow lots of them).
They can grow in marginal areas, that sunny slope that always dries out so quickly, that tricky corner that the sprinkler doesn't quite reach...
Planting them in clumps of three or four under fruit trees looks great and is a good way to use that space.
A nursery bed somewhere between zone one and two is a good idea, it means the young plants will get that extra attention and fertiliser when they need it. It saves you trekking all over your garden to find the hungry ones and fertilise them.
Growing them in single rows along driveways or paths makes for a nice edge, you always get to admire the new flowers, and you can pick the fruit, weed or fertilise them easily without getting scratched to bits.
Plant a half circle of pineapples below trees on a slope. The barrier will trap mulch and soil and slow down the movement of water down the slope. More water filters into the soil, and the soil and nutrients stay where they are needed: near the tree.
Planting pineapples in a dense double row makes a pretty good barrier. Anything getting eaten by possums? Plant it in the middle of a pineapple patch, that'll fix them! (Or put it in a pot and stick that in the middle of the pineapples as required.)
Everything getting eaten by possums? Sounds like you need a three deep pineapple barrier around the whole place...
Only half kidding. They do make efficient fences. Just keep replacing the old ones with suckers as required and grow legumes and native shrubs and trees amongst them to keep the soil from being depleted.
Here is another way I use pineapples as barrier plants in my garden: I grow sweet potatoes as a groundcover under many of my fruit trees (seemed like a good idea at the time, I talk more about it on the sweet potato pages...) and the wallabies discovered them. They dig up the whole place. Man, can they dig...
To protect my trees (citrus trees for example have shallow roots, they really don't like all this digging...) I have started growing pineapples around them in a double circle.
The idea is this:
Inside the circle the tree roots are protected. Outside the circle the wallabies clean up the left over sweet potato for me. (Sweet potatoes go rampant during our humid, wet summers and try to take over the whole place. Without the wallabies' help I would have lost the battle long ago.)
As the tree grows up I always plant new rows of suckers on the outside, the inside rows eventually get shaded out, die, and mulch the tree.
The outside rows increase in diameter, which is good, because pineapples are forever multiplying and I never know where to put them all anyway. This way I can plant more and more without running around looking for new places for them.
Leaves from the tree, spent flowers etc. drop down and mulch and feed the pineapples, and in my extreme climate the pineapples love that bit of shade the tree offers.
Other leaves and stuff get caught in the barrier and feed the pineapples and the tree as they break down. The pineapple barrier is on the edge of the crown and outwards a bit, exactly where the trees feeder roots are.
The insignificant pineapple root system doesn't compete with the tree. Rather the pineapple thicket acts as a mulch trap and makes sure that the area is always shaded, moist, and thickly covered in organic matter.
The trees are happy, the pineapples are happy, the wallabies are happy, I'm happy. All I have to do is dig up a sweet potato myself when I need some, and pull off any big pineapple suckers I see and stick them in ground while I'm there.
You see, win, win, win all around. Talk about turning problems into solutions...
(I admit I don't know yet how I will get to the fruit when the trees start fruiting... I guess one idea would be to put one or two pineapples in a tub in the circle, then you can take them out and have an opening... I'll work it out when the time comes... )
Do you have any permaculture ideas or solutions yourself? It doesn't have to be about pineapples. Anything that works particularly well in your garden? Tell us about it here!