How to grow gooseberries

Over the years gooseberries have seem to have become a lost fruit. It is rarely seen in the supermarkets and due to its reputation of being of becoming completely covered in mildew it is rarely grown in the allotments. Sadly this reputation has been well deserved but a lot work has been undertaken in recent years by clever plant breeders and as a result there are now a number of excellent mildew resistant varieties available.

Gooseberry botanical drawing
One of the best varieties is Gooseberry 'Invicta'. Not only is it one of the heaviest cropping varieties available, it can produce almost twice as much fruit as other varieties and has also been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's ward of Garden Merit in 1993. Other varieties to consider which also have been awarded the AGM are gooseberry ‘Careless’ (1993), gooseberry ‘Greenfinch’ (1994), gooseberry ‘Leveller’ (1993) and gooseberry ‘Whinham’s Industry'.

Gooseberries are usually bought as bare-root plants in the autumn or as 2-3 year old pot-grown plants grown as bushes in the spring. They will be happy on any well-drained soil but before planting, dig in plenty of well rotted farm manure or garden compost. Gooseberry bushes will do best gown in full sun.

Culturally, gooseberries are grown on a leg and given an open goblet shaped habit. This is important as it creates an open habit, allowing plenty of air movement which reduces the incidence of mildew. In order to maintain this habit, remove any shoots or dormant buds from the base of the plant as these will produce unwanted suckers later on.

Bare-root gooseberries will need to be planted between late autumn and early spring, while container-grown plants can be planted at any time of year so long as you avoid waterlogged, overly dry or frozen soil.

If you can, choose two or three-year-old plant with a well-balanced head of three to five main branches and a clear stem (known as the leg) of up to 6 inches above the soil level. Bare rot plants should have a good spreading root system.

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Plant gooseberries approximately 5 ft apart at their original depth. For bare-root stock, this level is indicated by a distinct colour change on the stem. Once planted, mulch the root area with organic matter, such as garden compost or bark chips, to conserve soil moisture.

Water gooseberry plants well for the first year until plants are fully established. Do not allow the soil must not dry out during hot periods, especially while the fruit is being formed.

Remove any suckers from the base of the plant, and consider netting the bushes once fruit begins to set to protect them from birds.

Gooseberry fruit is usually left on the bush until they have fully ripened in June.

Pruning is done over the winter. Begin by removing any dead, diseased, damaged or crossing stems, before thinning the remaining stems to create an upright open bush. Shorten the remaining stems by half. A seasonal a mulch of well-rotted farm manure or garden compost can be applied each spring.

For related articles click onto the following links:
BBC Gooseberry
BUY CAPE GOOSEBERRY SEEDS - Physalis peruviana
THE PIG FACE FRUIT - Solanum mammosum
What is a Fig?

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