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How to grow pineberries

How to grow pineberries

I don’t even remember how I stumbled onto pineberries. I think it might have been a Veseys seed catalogue a few years ago. But as soon as I knew there was a fruit that tastes kind of like pineapple and looks like a white strawberry. Well, I was like SIGN ME UP! I mean how cool is that? I love growing things outside of what people think of as regular fruits and veggies. We are so sheltered in terms of what nature provides us in the form of edible fruits, veggies and greens!

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Now I did have these a few years ago, but they died due to my neighbour overwatering and my yard being “downhill” (its a gentle slope but the water still comes my way). They were planted right next to the fence and I didn’t notice they were waterlogged until it was too late. Which is a garden lesson in always being observant of your plants! It was an even harsher lesson as they become SUPER hard to find after that. It has actually been 2-3 years and then finally this year I was able to find them!

But enough about me and my pineberry woes… Let’s jump into some questions (and answers) you may have about these kick ass fruit!

Pineberries

What are pineberries?

Pineberries are a cross between the wild South American strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and the North American strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). The name pineberry comes a crossing of “pineapple” and “strawberry”. There are a few varieties of pineberries, such as:

  • White Pine
  • White Carolina
  • White D
  • Natural Albino
  • White Albino
  • Wonderful

Just don’t go expecting huge white strawberries these guys are much smaller that your run of the mill strawberries. But great things come in small packages. I learned that when I started growing alpine strawberries (but that is a post for another day).

What do pineberries taste like?

Word on the street is that they actually taste a bit like pineapple. As this is my first year really growing them its too soon for me to weigh in on the flavour personally.

What type of soil do pineberries need?

Pineberries are going to benefit from a rich soil that is amended with compost or manure. Like strawberries, pineberries have a shallow root system and they prefer slightly acidic soil. They are going to grow best in a soil which has a pH between 5.5-6.5. They do NOT like to be waterlogged, so make sure that they are planted in soil that has good drainage.

It is also best to avoid planting them (and strawberries) in soil that has previously grown peppers, tomatoes or eggplants. Why? Well, these plants can introduce pathogens into the soil such as Verticillum and Phytophthora which are very bad for pineberries. These pathogens can remain in the soil for more than a few years.

Where should you plant pineberries?

Pineberries are best planted in an area with rich soil, good drainage and at least 6 hours of full sun. Remember these are perennials and they are going to be in this spot for a long time. They are a great permaculture addition to any garden. They will also need space to spread out as pineberries produce runners, though not as many as strawberries do. Make sure the bed is free of weeds and rocks, add some organic manure and space the plants about 12 inches apart. When planting, make sure that their crowns (the thick part separating the leaves and roots) are not below the ground. Why? Well planting the crown under the ground will lead to crown rot and the likely death of your plant. Once planted, make sure to water them in with a good does of water.

When should you plant pineberries?

Pineberries are best planted in the spring when the ground has warmed and the danger of frost has passed. Pineberries planted in the spring will likely not bear fruit until the second year.

Another option is to plant the pineberries in the fall. This will allow the roots to become established and can lead to fruit in the spring. If you are using this method then winter mulching is crucial to providing the plants enough protection to survive the cold temperatures.

Where hardiness zones do pienberries grow in?

Pineberries can grow in hardiness zones 4-8.

Strawberries are needed to pollinate pineberries
My alpine strawberry in my wineberry patch

Will they cross-pollinate with strawberries?

Actually, to have the best possible wineberry crop you actually NEED to plant them with strawberries. It is best to aim for a 4:1 ratio, with 4 wineberry plants to every strawberry. I am growing mine with my alpine strawberries.

Can you grow pineberries from seed?

Nope. Pineberries are a hybrid plant, and like any hybrid you CAN save the seeds but you most likely won’t get what you expect. The seeds will grow, but they won’t produce the pineberry they came from. When hybrid seeds are sown the resulting plant tends to revert back to the form of one of it’s parents. But I’m always up for a good old garden experiment and who knows you may end up liking the resulting plant better! But whatever you do, don’t go buying pineberry seeds off the internet! You are just wasting your money and you won’t end up with wineberry plants.

Do pineberries have runners?

They most certainly do. Mine are actually just sending out some new runners right now. For me this is a win as the plants were so hard to get my hands on, that I am more than happy to for the ones I do have to create new baby plants!

If you have enough pineberries already then you can easily remove the runners so they don’t keep spreading. Another reason to remove the runners is because it takes energy away from the mother plant and can reduce its winter hardiness.

Pineberry runners
Some runners on my pineberry plant

Can you grow pineberries in pots?

Yes! You can grow pineberries in pots BUT there are a few things to take into consideration. While they do have a shallow root system, they are still going to grow best in a pot that is about a foot wide and at least 8 inches deep. Make sure that any pot you plant them in has good drainage. You will also have to pay more attention to the moisture level in the soil when they are planted in pots. Too wet and they can die, too dry and they can die. You get the picture.

Depending on your climate you may want to shelter the pots in the winter. The plants won’t have as much insulation in a pot as they would in the ground. So if you are planting pineberries in pots and your winter gets very cold then you may want to pop them in the garage to provide them a bit more shelter.

Finally, make sure that you are using a good quality potting soil and don’t forget they will need to be near some strawberry plants.

Do you have to mulch pineberries?

Pineberry plants will benefit from a good mulching. It helps to keep the fruit off of the soil and also helps with water retention. As an added bonus, as it decomposes it helps to add acidity to the soil. In the winter, the mulch helps to protect the roots and crowns from frost.

How do you water pineberries?

The soil should be kept moist but not wet. If possible a drip irrigation system is ideal, but not necessary. Make sure the soil has good drainage as well as your plants will not be happy if they become water logged. You will want to cut down on watering in the late fall to prepare your plants for winter.

Are pineberries self-pollinating?

No, unlike strawberries pineberries are not self-fertile so they need another cultivar to cross-pollinate. This is why when planting pineberries they need to be in a 4:1 ratio with strawberry plants.

Do you need to fertilize pineberries?

As pineberries tend to be everbearing, they can benefit from an addition of fertilizer which is high in phosphorus and potassium about every 2-4 weeks. Just make sure not to apply any fertilizer when it is very hot outside as this can stress the plants which are already stressed from the heat. Stay away from fertilizers that have too much nitrogen as while this will lead to bigger plants they tend to be weaker. As the cooler tempertures approach, make sure to taper off the fertilizer as we want to toughen the plants up before winter sets in.

Why can’t I buy pineberries at the grocery store?

There are a few reasons. First, pineberries tend to have smaller fruit and people have become conditioned to expect gigantic berries. So small pineberries are not always viewed as desirable by grocery stores. Secondly, there are not a lot of pineberry producers (due to the lack of demand) so there just aren’t many to go around. Lastly, they don’t travel well and have a short shelf life which makes distributing them to grocery stores difficult (much like charentais melons). So if you want to have them it is best to start up your own pineberry patch in your garden.

Where can you buy pineberry plants?

I am in Canada and I was able to find them from McKenzie Seeds. Years ago I also ordered some from Veseys but they don’t seem to have had them for a few years. Just make sure that you are buying your pineberry plants from a reputable source. They are not very mainstream so they are not always easy to find, at least not in Canada. You will most likely find bareroot plants, this is what I started with (video at the bottom of this post). Sometimes if you are lucky you may come across some potted young plants which will definitely jump start the whole process.

What pests eat pineberries?

When it comes to pineberry pests the common culprits will be birds and slugs. It may be worthwhile to use copper slug rings or make a beer trap to keep the slugs off your precious berries. When it comes to the birds you will be best served with some netting. Just make sure that pollinators can still make their way in (and out) to get to the plants.

How long does it take pineberries to grow?

Pineberries may not produce fruit in their first year and they tend to decline in fruit production after about 3 years.

How can you tell when pineberries are ripe?

Ripe pineberries no longer have a greenish tinge to them and they are a creamy white colour. If your pineberry plants are getting 10+ hours of sunlight they can take on a pinkish hue. But don’t worry it doesn’t change the flavour! Harvesting the ripe berries also helps to promote new growth and therefore more berries! If possible try and harvest the berries when it is dry so that the sugars are more concentrated. As pineberries are overbearing they can produce fruit from late spring and into the fall.

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