How to Grow Gooseberries

How to Grow Gooseberries

Home-grown gooseberries are different to the green marbles sold in shops. If well grown, the berries can be as big and sweet as plums and eaten as dessert. A good gooseberry, well ripened, is a huge drop of nectar in a skin — available in red, green, white or yellow, each with a different flavour. A very forgiving crop, gooseberries can be trained in any form imaginable, but are easiest as goblet shaped bushes on a short leg. They need moisture and a rich soil and will tolerate some shade, but detest hot, dry spots.

Tomatoes and broad beans growing nearby are reputed to aid them and I always grow them with Limnanthes douglasii as groundcover.

How to Grow Gooseberries They can get American gooseberry mildew on the tips in dry conditions, which may spread on to the berries leaving them suitable only for jamming. Avoid this happening by keeping the plants well pruned, mulched and watered. Sodium bicarbonate sprays and sulphur-based ones (which burn the foliage on some varieties) are available to organic growers. Occasionally, often in the third or so year after planting, gooseberries suffer damage from sawfly caterpillars. First appearing as a host of wee holes in a leaf, they move on to stripping the bush. Vigilance and early action prevents serious damage — the caterpillars can be killed with a spray of derris. Better still is to put a sheet underneath, and shake the bush — the caterpillars simply fall off and are easily collected.

You can grow gooseberries without nets, but once they ripen they need protecting from the birds, which will also attack the buds in winter. So when you are pruning, leave the gooseberries until last. Epicurean attentions When you pick a dessert gooseberry, suck the contents out of the skin and then discard it. Birds, mice and especially wasps steal the fruit once they’re ripe. If protected, the fruit mellow and hang on till late summer becoming sweeter and fruitier, but only if the weather stays dry. Green gooseberry jam is exceptionally good — collect young green fruits in early summer, thinning them at the same time, and cook them at a low temperature or the jam will turn red. Gooseberries freeze well and are easier to top, tail and de-whisker once frozen.

Jostaberries and Worcesterberries are both very similar to gooseberries, but are larger, needing to be spaced three paces apart. Their fruits resemble a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant. Jostaberries have a drooping habit, crop heavily and are thornless, so a good choice. Worcesterberries are very mildew resistant, but have vicious thorns which make them excellent for boundaries. They sucker wildly and the trailing stems root at the tips, making an impenetrable thicket that means the fruit is practically unpickable — though it makes delicious jams and pies.

06. January 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening | Tags: , | Comments Off on How to Grow Gooseberries

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