Cape Gooseberries, also known as Physalis and Chinese Lantern, are not widely grown in this country, although they are comparatively easy to grow and are in most seed catalogues.
They are an exotic fruit but can be grown outdoors in a mild climate or in a greenhouse. They are a half –hardy plant that is grown exactly the same as Tomatoes; so if you can manage to grow outdoor Tomatoes where you live, you will be able to grow Cape Gooseberries. One word of warning though, especially if you intend to grow them in a greenhouse, they take up a lot of room.
Soil Conditions and Siting
Cape Gooseberries need a fertile soil that is well drained and plenty of organic matter. The pH of the soil should be between 6.0 and 7.0. The site should be sheltered and sunny.
Cape Gooseberries are usually grown from seed. Sow the seed in March in trays of compost, in gentle heat. Pot on into 3" pots when two leaves have formed and then, when large enough, plant out in May under cloches for further protection. When frost danger is past, the cloches can be removed. Allow 30" between the plants.
When the plants get larger, insert 4ft stakes next to the plants to help support them when they are fully-grown.
Nip out the growing tip of the shoots when they reach 1ft high to encourage fruiting branches.
When the first fruits start to form, begin feeding with a high Potash fertiliser. Liquid Tomato feed is ideal for this.
Cape Gooseberries can be picked as the fruit ripens in late autumn or can be left on the plant and gathered all at once. Ensure that they are all gathered before the first frost though, as once they have been touched by frost they go mushy and are unusable. Any unripe fruits can be picked and put on a windowsill indoors to finish ripening.
Pests and Diseases
Birds and Aphids are the most common problems. (See pests and diseases section for prevention's and cures. This is accessed via the Main Index Page)
14 December, 2003
© copyright 1999, P. A. Owen