Planning a Pie Garden


It’s only just about to be fall and I am already looking forward to spring. But isn’t that the way it always is? As the mornings start to come crisp and cool, we know the snow is coming, too, and our minds turn to the dreams of spring that warm us through the long, cold months of winter.

This year, after past attempts that failed for various reasons (some our mistakes, some related to chickens), we actually managed to get some blackberry and blueberry bushes in the ground and see them survive. They are planted along the outside of the garden fence and enclosed with wire for protection.

It will be some time (years!) before those bushes are producing enough to be satisfying, though. What am I to do in the meantime? I need berries!! I need pie.

I was very excited after reading this post about ground cherries and chichiquelites, which go from seed to berry in one season and are also prolific reseeders, delivering more and more, year after year, but most especially delivering great satisfaction the first year.

Great satisfaction in the form of pie. These are sweet little fruits that can be used in all the same ways you’d use blackberries, blueberries, and other berries–for jams, jellies, pies, and more. Best of all, I can have a good harvest the first year!

And so I could hardly wait to get the packets of seeds even though I can’t plant them till spring. I can fondle them all winter and let them feed my dreams while I prepare them a place to dwell.

These are ground cherries. They aren’t “real” cherries–they’re actually akin to tomatillos, but can be used as cherries.

Photo by Sheryl Gallant.

After harvesting, leave the ground cherries sitting at room temperature until they are mushy over-ripe. Slit them open to remove the seeds if you want to save them. You can wash the seeds and dry on a paper towel to plant more! (Store cool and dry until planting.) If you’re not seed-saving, you don’t need to remove the seeds before using the fruit–the seeds are tiny and soft.

These are chichiquelites.

Photo by Sheryl Gallant.

Leave the chichiquelites on the vine until mushy ripe. If you want to save the seeds, squish them out to rinse and dry. As with ground cherries, chichiquelite seeds are tiny and don’t need to be removed otherwise before using. Chichiquelites are also known as garden huckleberries, which is how I shall refer to them henceforth because you can’t make me type chichiquelites again!!

I’m going to plant the garden huckleberries and ground cherries in one of our box beds. It’ll be a pie garden!

I have a plan. A plan, I tell you, a plan! Here’s my plan:

Do my drafting skills amaze you? I’m practically like an architect.

Wire all around the garden, with a hinged wooden frame on top to be lifted back and to open from the front. The chickens will be foiled!

Chickens love to get in box beds.

And chickens are hard to foil.

Unlike just draping wire over the garden as we tried with our other box bed this year, it will be easy for me to get in and out to the plants. This draping method was a real pain to deal with when it came time to get the herbs out of there. (And as you can see, above, it wasn’t entirely chicken-proof.)

The only thing I have in my future pie garden bed now is mint. And a bunch of weeds. I’ll tear the mint back some, but I like my mint, and I like it in a box bed where it can’t take over the farm. The garden huckleberries and ground cherries will have to learn to live with it.

I can’t wait!

Thank you to Sheryl-Runningtrails for her pie garden mentorship. She sells her seeds here at her Farm Store. (That’s where I got mine!)


  1. Mafong says:

    Where can you purchase the chichiquelites seeds. I have looked on line and in several catalogs and I cannot find them. I would love to grow them in my garden next year. Any help would be appreciated.

  2. Mafong says:

    I’m sorry that I didn’t read in you post about Providence Acres. will order from there. i will read more carefully next time.

  3. chershots says:

    Cool ~ I think half the fun in gardening is in the planning!
    Party on my friend, plan away!

  4. Nancy in Iowa says:

    Two more things I’ve learned about on your blog! Never heard of either of them! No place here for even window boxes, but I’m going to keep that in mind when I move back to the SE – I will look for a place where I can plant something! It’s been years since I had flowers and veggies, and I miss them.

    Now you’ve got something to get you through the winter – planning your pie garden!!!

  5. Barbee' says:

    Pie Garden… what a delightful concept!

  6. farmershae says:

    I tried ground cherries for the first time this year. Didn’t have too much luck due to the weather, but what I did get were really neat!! Kind of a cross between tomato and pineapple. I will definitely be growing them next year. I can see these in a preserve… :sheep:

  7. jean says:

    I had ordered the ground cherries last year thinking they would be actual cherry type fruits. When I did a little research I thought they were more like tomatoes and didn’t plant them. Are they sweet like cherries? Do they get sweet when they are over ripe or do they have the flavor at all times?

  8. Darlene in North Ga says:

    Will the ground cherries and huckleberries be as invasive as the blackberry bushes will be? I’d like to know so I know whether to plant in a large container to contain the roots or just plant in my regular raised beds. I know that the blackberries that I have in my backyard spread like CRAZY and fences are a joke to them. (Blackberries/raspberries are the chickens of the gardening world. You can’t hardly fence them in/out. lol)

  9. lauren says:

    I love the idea of a pie garden πŸ™‚ the high yield of the ground cherries really appeal to me so I ordered some. We are in the city and only have a small yard Im trying to pretend is a farm LOL with chickens and gardens πŸ™‚

  10. Runningtrails says:

    They are both annuals so you don’t need to contain the roots. They are, however, prolific reseeders.

    Just a bit more info:

    I think Ground cherries taste like a sweet pineapple and tomato cross too! They’re delicious in salad!

    The ground cherries don’t need to be over ripe and mushy to eat, just to save seeds for the following year. They do, however, need to be golden ripe and not green. Often the ones that fall off are still a bit green so you will need to let them sit on the counter and ripen before eating. The green ones in the picture are still ripening, but they ripen buch better if you leave them in the husk. The very green ones knocked off by mistake don’t usually ripen at all. Unfortunately, I planted them too close together and had to crawl underneath in the berry jungle, so I knocked off a lot of green ones… Make sure you separate the rows by a lot of space.

    The ripe ground cherries are very sweet. The green ones are not.
    They make great jam and I have a jam recipe. I will post it in the Farm Bell Recipes when I can (probably early Monday morning). I have made pastry turnovers with them too and they’re delicious! I thought they tasted like peach turnovers but hubby says that’s just because they look like peach turnovers and I’m suggestible … you try it and let me know, please πŸ™‚

    Since they produce until the frost takes them, you will get more fruit if you start early indoors. Ditto for the chichiquelites.

    The chichiquelites get sweeter as they ripen too. To get them at their ripest, wait until the entire small cluster is black before picking them.

    Also, they are bland when raw but have a lot of flavour when cooked down with sugar for pie filling or jam.

    I do have both seeds for sale on my farm site at:

    Please feel free to ask if you have any more questions or concerns πŸ™‚

  11. RockWhisperer says:

    I bought seed for both of those last year but my eyes were bigger than my land. Next spring though, after having moved, I’m finding a place for them. Thanks for reminding me! –Ilene

  12. Helen says:

    Do you think that if you put some of those whatchamacallit seeds in a flower pot and put it in a sunny window, you could have fresh berry pie in the middle of winter?

  13. Runningtrails says:

    The chichiquelites sprawl, each one getting about 3′ around and about 2-3′ tall. The ground cherries are taller, probably 3-4′ tall and about 3′ across but it depends on how nurished and happy they are where you grow them. I have reseeded ground cherries in the field that are barely 1′ across.

    They sprawl even more when a big puppy walks on them…

  14. Patrice says:

    I can’t say that I’m looking forward to spring. I need some distance from the gardens and all of the work on a farm. I love fall. I love winter. Then, when I’ve had my share of winter, I will look forward to planting. After Christmas, the garden catalogs start pouring in. That is when we do the easiest farming- sitting in an easy chair.All those seed catalogs make it look easier than the reality of having large gardens. I’m planning on planting the ground cherries and chichiquelites. I need some more things for jam and for pies.I’m so glad sheryl introduced us to them!

  15. Kris Sherrill says:

    We have the same problem with chickens here. I want them to free range but good grief already! I can’t have anything. So I went to Lowe’s and got some t-posts and netting. I put t-posts in each corner of the raised beds and put the netting around it. Why didn’t I think of this before? I had been putting the netting right on top of the boards and that just smooshes the plants. This way they can actually grow now! I am so happy! I have brussel sprouts, cabbage, onions, collard and turnip breens all growing now and very happy. Chickens aren’t though.

    And I love that baby! I could look at her all day.

  16. Runningtrails says:

    I love that baby too! She is just so beautiful!
    I apologize to those of you who wanted these seeds and found my site down yesterday evening. I had problems with the shipping calculator not adding shipping. Its fixed and up again now.

  17. Runningtrails says:

    I have a pie garden too! Its so much fun collecting things for it. I have added a lot of berry bushes this year, little ones. They’ll grow! I also added a LOT of rhubarb too. We like rhubarb pie! I have some culinary herbs in there also. (I just had nowhere else to put them at the time.)

    I have red raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, honeyberries, salal berries, Saskatoon berries, black elderberries, black mulberries, strawberries (of course), ground cherries, chichiquelites, currents (if they aren’t dead). I have more honeyberries growing from seed in the kitchen, as well. The honeyberry bush I have in the garden is a Haskap ‘borealis’. Anyone else collecting berries?

    Ground cherries are also called ‘Cape Gooseberries’.

  18. becky3086 says:

    Baker Creek Heirloom seeds has both of these seeds as well. I have not tried the chichiquelites but have tried their “Wonderberry” huckleberry. I found the berries to be quite small, very seedy with very little flavor and the flea beetles just absolutely loved the plants, even so I always got some berries. They came back all over my garden for several years. I may try these chichiquelites and see if I like them better.
    The ground cherries I tried twice, none even germinated either time but I have been going to try them again.

  19. Runningtrails says:

    Oh my goodness! My ground cherries are a jungle and the fruit is covering the ground. I bring baskets full of them into the house weekly! We have so many we can’t possibly use them all and give them away to friends who are glad to get them. Ditto for the chichiquelites.

    They like full sun and a good soil. The chichiquelite berries are a lot smaller in the shade. I guess it also depends on how many you plant. I have 1.5 20′ rows of ground cherries, WAY more than we needed. I have one 20′ of chichiquelites, also more than we used.

    As mentioned earlier, the chichiquelites have no flavour raw. It’s not that they’re too tart raw, they have little taste at all. They’re surprisingly VERY good when cooked down with sugar, however, for pies and jellies, so you grow them for baking, not for cereal.

    When you rinse off the chichiquelites, the water is a bright, lovely, true purple colour, not bluish like blueberries. I am going to use them for organic soap colour very soon. I am hoping to make lovely purple soap with them. I’ll post it on my own blog when I do it, probably next week (time and fencing permitting). I just need to get more coconut oil.

  20. Runningtrails says:

    Becky3086, I start mine early indoors under lights. Maybe you could try that? That way if you don’t get good germination, you can plant more before garden time. Also try keeping the seed in the fridge or freezer through the winter before planting. Do you keep the seeds cool and dry until planted? I have talked with some people keep seeds on the fridge where it’s far too warm and wonder why they don’t get good germination.

    My ground cherries reseed and are growing in the field too, so I know they have no trouble germinating outside in the spring after wintering on the ground. Those field plants are a lot smaller, barely 1′ tall, in the weeds, grass and poor soil so we don’t use them. The ones in my garden in full sun with mulch, good soil and manure are 3′ tall.

  21. becky3086 says:

    Yes this time I will start the ground cherries indoors-in the greenhouse- in pots. When I bought the seeds (a few years ago) the package said they could be planted right in the garden but that didn’t work for me either time. (I had bought the seeds the year that I planted them so no need to store them). I think I will definitely try them both this year and see how it goes. The huckleberry Wonderberries, had little flavor, cooked or not.

  22. Runningtrails says:

    Two more quick pie producers are strawberries and rhubarb! They are both “next year producers”.

    If you plant some strawberry babies now you’ll get a few berries in the spring. You will also get all the plants you could possibly want in the form of runners by fall for producing berries the following year! They reproduce at an astounding rate! If you want the large berries like the ones you buy, plant June bearing. The everbearing ones are here and there and smaller.

    I planted three 20′ rows of strawberry babies this past spring. I had the plants, so I put them all in. Some I got in a trade and the rest I got form cleaning out my MIL’s garden. I’m overwhelmed at the invasively growing strawberry bed now! It’s taking over the entire garden and the runners are so thick, I’m going to have to clean them out now! I’m turning them back as they try to grow out into the field and lawn.

    If you plant some rhubarb now, you’ll get some big enough for cutting next year πŸ˜‰ I got several pies form just two large plants this year so I planted an entire 20′ of rhubarb roots in July. It’s growing well and I might get a small cutting from them before the frost takes it all. It’s a lot of rhubarb, I know, but I had the roots from cleaning out my MIL’s, so I planted them. I can always sell the extra stalks and give some to the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen in town.

    We like plain rhubarb pie, but strawberry rhubarb is good too.

  23. becky3086 says:

    I have planted both strawberries and rhubarb. The strawberries did well and I believe I will start a new bed of them next year. I just have trouble keeping up with taking out the old plants that aren’t producing. They do multiply like crazy.
    Rhubarb I would love to have here but apparently we don’t get cold enough in the winter. I have tried several times but the roots must rot before spring because they don’t come back up again.

  24. Runningtrails says:

    That’s too bad, Becky! I guess it does need a cold frozen dormancy.

  25. becky3086 says:

    Yup, I sure was hoping that we would be cold enough. I can remember us having a big patch of rhubarb at our old home in NH when I was a kid. My mother never did a thing with it-not even rhubarb pie but we kids liked it. They sell the plants down here, so I thought it must grow down here and it does, but just for one season and it never gets big like I remember from when I was a kid.
    There are a lot of things that grow down here in the South that would never grow in the North though and I guess I would miss them if I ever moved back but still..sometimes..I sure do miss things like mountains, snow, Indian summer and sugaring, gardens that don’t start with pure red clay…things like that. :happyflower:

  26. Runningtrails - Sheryl says:

    Those things are nice but I would love a longer growing season and a ground that doesn’t freeze solid! I so want another koi pond that doesn’t freeze in winter! I would also like to be able to grow luffahs to go with my soap. No luck so far πŸ™

  27. lisa b says:

    love the idea of the pie garden. I have blackberries all down 2 sides of the fence..but poison ivy has grown amongst alot of it now. Come winter i will have to pull the PI root out

  28. Rachel says:

    Enjoy the Garden Huckleberries! I bought and planted a packet of seed for them in my garden, then when my husband saw the plants come up he told me that stuff grows wild all over here, its a “pest” as its gums up the combines, and they call it “nightshade” which is a truth, because its a member of the nightshade family. He thought it was poisonous, and showed me a huge patch of it in the middle of our hayfield. I used them in jam with crabapples and wild grapes, kind of a “fall harvets” jam. Have fun with them!

  29. AtLast says:

    I just came across this thread today – so joining rather late. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, or has some for sale. I love, love, love their catalog! Last year I earmarked so many I would have been forced to triple the size of my garden to put in everything I thought looked good. My experience with the garden huckleberries mirrored that of several others; not very good. I think much of my problem could be chalked up to learning curve (I’m a newbie at planting). And not enough soil amending. That has been corrected; my broccoli is looking good thanks to good old cow patties. I plan on trying the huckleberries again.

Add Your Thoughts