University of Maryland Extension

Cultural Management

Cultural Management and Harvests


Soil preparation should include a soil test with all nutrients brought to optimal levels. Organic matter should be above 3.0% if possible. An initial nitrogen addition of 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre is recommended pre-planting.

For high tunnel production, plants can be grown from seed, sown indoors in late winter with adequate light to avoid tall, stretched seedlings. Plants, when at least 6 to 8 inches tall and with a stem base that is at least ¼ inch thick, can be transplanted as early as feasible. They are not cold hardy, especially as seedlings. Tomatoes are typically planted well-below their bases as they grow advantageous roots along the lower stem. Physalis plants do not grow these roots from the stem.  Past recommendations suggested the plants could be planted deep, however this may lead to crown rot. Make sure the base of the plants are not below the soil.  They will probably need some initial support (Figure 1).

After planting, watch for pest insects daily. More information about pests and diseases can be found in the pest and disease tab.

Within a week after planting the 1st of several fertilizations should be applied. Rates of between 150 and 200 lb nitrogen per acre have been suggested for tomatillo, a related species. Plants should get at least 100 lb of nitrogen per acre (in row). If 50 lb nitrogen has been applied before planting, add at least another 50 lb per acre in split applications throughout the growing season. Potassium deficiency (yellowing and necrosis of leaf tips) has typically developed in late July, so make sure your soil potassium is at high optimum at pre-plant. 

Some selective pruning at nodes where branches are growing upward can prevent plants from sprawling and train them to have more upright growth.


Flowering will begin to occur even as 4-week seedlings. The plants are indeterminate and will grow and flower throughout the growing season.  Flowers are pollinated by bumblebees and ants (Figure 3). Care must be taken with the use of pesticides to protect pollinators (See pest management tab).

The first harvests should occur within two-and-a-half months after planting. Fruit falls from the plants when ripe (Figure 4.). A catchment system for the fruit can be built for easy harvest or plastic can be laid on the ground to keep fruit clean.



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