What I’m Growing in my Fall Garden

I have a confession: I failed miserably at growing my own food this year.

A combination of a late start to the season, an unbearably dry summer and a lack of motivation killed my gardening dreams. While it is too late to start over with most fruiting plants, there is a second chance for many varieties I had planned to stock my fridge, freezer and pantry with. The fall garden is my second chance and I have been planting and seeding to get ready for it.

Growing your own vegetables is not an act that is sequestered to the warm summer months. Edibles can be grow in the fall and even winter if you plan ahead. Some varieties even prefer the cool and crisp fall weather to summer’s heat. Greens like spinach and lettuce wilt under the heat of the sun, while the fall garden provides an ideal growing environment. I’ve never had a problem with my kale in the summer, but it holds up equally as well in the winter. Last year, my kale survived until the snow hit and if I actually get things covered this year, it can survive right through the winter.

What to grow in your fall garden

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Why ground cherries are a great addition to the backyard garden

Ground cherries are a great addition the backyard garden. Not only are these tomatillo relatives a heavy producer but they also require little maintenance. | www.pickytoplenty.com

Ground cherries are a great addition the backyard garden. Not only are these tomatillo relatives a heavy producer but they also require little maintenance. | www.pickytoplenty.com

Would you look at those beauties? I grew those little lanterns from seed that I purchased from Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm in Wellandport. I had never heard of these relative to the tomatillo before stumbling upon them on Linda Crago’s website. I was instantly intrigued, especially by the fact that they are extremely productive.

According to the seed packet, ground cherries have been around since the early 19th Century. The variety I am growing, one of the most popular, is Aunt Molly’s variety. The earliest recording of this fruit was 1837 in Pennsylvania. This Polish variety is prized for its clean flavour.

Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries date back to the early 19th Century. They are a great addition to any backyard garden. | www.pickytoplenty.com

Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries are a great addition to any backyard garden. | www.pickytoplenty.com

The flavour is quite unique. It tastes like a pineapple crossed with a grape. It is sweet with a hint of citrus. It is delicious.

Plants can grow to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide, so they will need quite a bit of space in your garden. I grew mine in a square, raised bed garden that also include caped gooseberries, raspberries and blueberries (both of which now have to be moved because of these beasts). Next year, I think I will move them to a raised row garden.

Reason for this is how you harvest the little lanterns. You don’t actually pick the ground cherries, you collect those that have fallen from the branches. They will be a pale yellow at this point and the husk will be papery. I have read that they can be stored for as long as three months in a cellar if they are kept in their husks. They can also be made into a variety of preserves, from jams and jellies to hot sauces and pie filling. I plan to do a fair share of ground cherry and gooseberry canning, after all, plants can produce up to 200 pounds of fruit each. And the great part, they keep on giving.

Ground cherries start fruiting by the end of July and continue until frost.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous adding a crop that I had never tasted nor heard of, but I am happy to report that ground cherries make a great addition to the homestead. So far I have only been able to harvest what you see in the top photo, but I suspect I will soon have enough to make my first preserves.

Ground cherries, from the tomatillo family, are a productive fruit for the backyard gardener, producing up to 200 pounds of fruit per plant. | www.pickytoplenty.com

Ground cherries, from the tomatillo family, are a productive fruit for the backyard gardener, producing up to 200 pounds of fruit per plant. | www.pickytoplenty.com