Tips for Growing Gooseberries
Of all the different bush fruits,have traditionally been the most popular in gardens; and rightly so.
What other fruit takes up so little room compared to the crop it produces and whose fruits can be either cooked in the early summer or eaten fresh as dessert later on? They are also an extremely hardy fruit and this makes them especially popular in the north.
When gooseberries are grown as conventional bushes, plant them 5ft (1.5m) apart. Where space is limited, they can be grown as ‘U’ cordons. For these, the young bushes are planted 2ft (60cm) apart and are trained into two vertical arms 1ft (30cm) apart. They should be grown against fixed canes either in the open or against a wall or fence.
For best results the cordons should be summer pruned towards the end of June. This is done by shortening the new shoots back to 5-6in (12.5-15cm) so that more sun can reach the ripening fruits. Ordinary bushes benefit from this treatment as well.
Normal winter pruning should follow in November along the following lines.
Because gooseberries (and ) fruit best on spurs that form on the main branches, the first job is to create a branch system. After planting a young bush in the winter; therefore, retain just four or five strong shoots and cut them back to half their length; remove the rest. These pruned shoots will give rise to probably two more shoots each which, in the following winter; are treated similarly Any other new shoots are cut back to about two buds.
Thereafter, all branch leaders are cut back by about a third and all other new shoots to two buds. This will soon build up a good branch system well furnished with fruiting spurs.
The worst pests of gooseberries are the caterpillars of thesawfly. These will completely destroy the foliage if action is not taken against them. Spray with a contact insecticide in about mid-April when the caterpillars may first be seen. They can, though, appear at any time over the following two months so keep your eyes open.
The worst disease is American gooseberry. This turns the young shoots white with fungus in the summer; but, even worse, it coats the fruits with a pale brown felt that makes them useless. Keep an eye open for this very serious disease and spray fortnightly with a mildew fungicide as soon as it is seen. The new variety Invicta is extremely resistant to mildew.
From the many varieties of gooseberry, the following are amongst those recommended for gardens:
A mildew-resistant, dual-purpose variety.
A mildew-resistant, dessert variety. Heavy crops of large, well-flavoured berries.
Heavier crops and near immunity to mildew so a possible replacement for Careless. It grows into a large and thorny bush.
The main commercial dessert variety. Good cropper and of first-rate flavour. Excellent in gardens, but needs good growing conditions.
A good garden variety for dessert. Excellent flavour; but not as heavy cropping as Leveller.