Gooseberry for the home grounds

Gooseberry

The gooseberry, Ribes
grossularia, is
native to Britain where it has
been cultivated since the thirteenth century at least.
Being self-fertile and productive, it is ideal for the
small garden. Gooseberries excel in the cooler areas
of the Midlands and North.

They
are tolerant of most soils but not of waterlogging.
Growth may be weak on poor gravel soils or soft and
disease susceptible on heavy clays. Both these extremes
benefit from enrichment with garden compost, peat or
leaf mould. Gooseberries are very sensitive to potash
deficiency.

A position
in full sun is best for early ripening; bushes can be
planted against north or east walls to give extra-late
crops. As gooseberries flower early in the spring it
is important not to plant them in low-lying, frosty
areas. For economy of space, they may be planted between
plum trees as both appreciate generous manuring.

Besides
the more usual bush forms, single, double, or triple
cordons can be grown for special dessert or exhibition
berries. Standard gooseberries are easier for elderly
people to grow and pick.

Cultivation
Gooseberries are propagated from hardwood cuttings
in mid October, choosing well ripened shoots 20-23cm
(8-gin) long. The lower buds are removed to prevent
suckers from forming. The prepared cuttings are planted
l0cm (4in) deep in a slit trench with sand or grit in
the bottom. Standard gooseberries are formed by grafting
scions on to Ribes aureum rootstocks with stems
of the required height.

Planting
is carried out from November to February on ground previously
enriched with farmyard manure. Bushes should be set
out 1.2-2m (4-6ft) apart each way; single, double and
triple cordons at 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7m (1, 1.1 and 2ft)
respectively; standards at 1.2-2m (4-6ft) apart.

Bushes
and cordons should have a 16cm (7in) stem devoid of
roots and shoots to prevent suckering. Cut off the topmost
roots if need be.

Plant
firmly, covering the roots with 8-l0cm (3-4in) of soil.
Shorten the leading shoots by a half and side-shoots
to two buds. Give generous mulch in the spring and thorough
watering in dry spells during the first summer. Keep
the soil weed free by hoeing shallowly deep cultivation
damages the surface roots.

Gooseberries
demand an ample supply of potash, particularly on light
soils; potash deficiency induces poor growth and premature
defoliation. Feed annually in the spring with 28-56g
(1-2 oz) per sq. m (sq. ft) of sulphate of potash, not
muriate of potash which causes leaf scorching. Scatter
bonfire ash round the bushes to give extra potash. Avoid
promoting lush growth susceptible to American gooseberry
mildew disease by excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizers.
Summer prune the side shoots to six leaves in July to
promote blossom bud formation and to remove mildew-infected
tips. Tear out suckers cutting only induces more to
develop.

Thinning
the crop produces larger berries. Defer thinning until
the small berries are worth being picked for cooking
(about Whitsuntide). Late varieties mature about the
end of August. Harvest the berries when they are under
ripe for cooking or when fully colored and soft for
dessert use.

Winter
prune the bushes in November or defer pruning until
the spring where bird damage to the buds is known to
be severe. Shorten leading shoots by one third. Spur
prune side shoots to 4cm (1.5in) for heavy crops or
to two buds for large dessert berries. Prune upright
bushes to outward-pointing buds, weeping bushes to upward-pointing
buds. Keep the centers of the bushes open.

 

Apple
tree

Apricots
Blackberries

Cherries
Gooseberries

Grapes
Loganberry
Peaches and Nectarines

Pears
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries


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