Ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa) produce small yellowish-orange fruits in a papery husk, comparable in appearance to a small tomatillo. These amazingly sweet fruits grow on a tomato-like plant which thrives in the yearly vegetable bed throughout the summer season. Ground cherries can not tolerate frost and need three or more months of 65 to 85 degree Fahrenheit temperatures to produce at their very best. Plant seeds indoors about six weeks before the last expected frost in your area and set out the established seedlings in early summer so the plants have time to fruit well.
Fill 4-inch-diameter plastic seedling pots with moistened potting soil. Establish the pots on a tray to catch excess water which drains out of them.
Sow 2 ground cherry seeds per grass, planting the seeds one-quarter inch deep. Cover the pots with a plastic bag to help keep moisture and set them in a warm place — 70 to 75 F — to germinate.
Remove the bag when the seedlings emerge, approximately seven to 14 days following planting. Move the pots to a warm place that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day. Water the ground tomatoes when the soil surface begins to feel dry.
Set the pots outside in a protected place when the plants are just six weeks old and after frost danger passes, approximately one week prior to transplanting them to the garden. Leave them outside for a single hour the first day then gradually increase the plant’s vulnerability over the week-long period in order that they can adjust to outdoor growing conditions.
Cover a full-sun garden bed with a 2-inch layer of compost. Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 blend, at the rate of 1 1/2 lbs per every 25 square feet of bed. Till the compost and fertilizer into the top 8 inches of the soil.
Dig planting holes for every plant, making the holes about the exact same thickness as the seedling pot and twice as wide. Space the holes two feet apart in rows and space rows 2 feet apart. Lift the plants from their pots and plant them in the prepared holes.
Cover the soil with a 2-inch layer of straw mulch to prevent the soil from drying and to suppress weeds. Water the ground cherries one to two times every week and provide about 1 inch of water every time; the top 6 inches of soil should stay moist.
Harvest the ground Patch when the husks turn brown and papery and the fruit begins to drop from the plant naturally. Store harvested ground cherries in the husk for two weeks or more.