How to Grow Gooseberries

Planning the crop

Gooseberries do well in semi-shade or full sun. They need protection from cold winds and late frosts. Any moist, well-drained soil is suitable, but a deep, well-manured loam is preferable. Make sure the soil is free of perennial weeds.

How many to grow– A mature, well-tended gooseberry bush will yield up to 5 kg of fruit.

Varieties– Gooseberries fall into two commercial groups, those of European origin, bred from Ribes uva-crispa, with larger fruit, and the smaller fruited, mildew-resistant American gooseberry, R. hirtellum. Varieties have been developed for cooking or fresh eating. They include Crown Bob, Roaring Lion, Invicta, Hinnomaki Red and Jubilee. The jostaberry has been bred from the gooseberry and the blackcurrant. It forms an attractive thornless shrub with marble-sized fruit on racemes.

Growing tips

Work manure or compost into the soil, at least one bucketful to the square metre. At the same time, apply 25g of sulphate of potash per square metre.

Planting out– Plant bare-rooted plants from late autumn to early spring. Container grown plants can be planted at any time in favourable weather. Plant bushes firmly, 1.5 m apart, and leave 1.5m between rows. To grow ornamentally in tubs, you can train young plants as standards by removing sideshoots until the desired stem height is reached. Tie the stem to a cane or stake. Prune the head as you would a bush gooseberry. In winter, firm any plants that have been loosened by frost. Drape netting or fleece over plants from late winter onwards to give developing buds some protection against frost and also birds. Remove any suckers, and never let the plants dry out during hot weather. Every spring, feed the plants with 20g of sulphate of potash per square metre and give them a mulch of well rotted compost or manure. Remove any weeds by hand; using a hoe may damage the roots. Also thin the fruit so the stems do not become overcrowded.

Pruning– Prune the bushes in winter. In the first year, shorten the strongest three or four shoots on a one-year-old bush by about three-quarters and remove the other shoots at their base. Cut out any low shoots. In the second year, cut off half the new wood growing from the eight to 10 best shoots. Remove all other shoots. In the following years, prune twice a year, in midsummer and again in late winter, using the same method as red and white currants.

Raising new bushes– Raise from cuttings in the same way as red and white currants.

Pests and diseases

The worst pests and diseases to affect gooseberries are aphids, gooseberry sawfly, American gooseberry mildew and powdery mildew. If possible, use a fruit cage to keep birds off.

Harvesting and storing

Harvest the gooseberries that are most in shade first (that is, those in the middle and bottom of the bush). They should be used soon after picking.

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