Gooseberries are one of the earliest soft fruit of the year. The traditional method of growing was as a bush but modern techniques include single, double and triple cordons. In modern smaller gardens the growing of cordons is preferred as they can take up as little as 6" (15cm) of growing space. All the varieties are self-fertile, so only one plant can be grown if space is at a premium. The American varieties such as Welcome and Oregon Champion are less prone to Mildew than some of the traditional English varieties.
Recommended varieties: - Jubilee, Invicta, Welcome, Oregon Champion
Soil Conditions and Siting
Gooseberries do best in a soil with a pH of 6.5. The site should be sheltered and sunny.
Supports and Training
If growing as free-standing bushes no support is needed. Cordons will require wires, either attached to the fence or to posts.
Plant bare rooted stock in autumn or early winter. They are often sold in containers and these can be planted out at any time of the year. For bushes allow 5ft (1.8m) between plants and 6ft (2m) between the rows. Cordons should be planted out 12" (30cm) apart for single cordons, 2ft (60cm) apart for double and 3ft (90cm) for triple cordons.
Gooseberries are grown on a 'leg' or stem so cut back all the side shoots before planting. Apply 2 handfuls of Bonemeal to the soil when filling in and mulch with a well-rotted manure or compost to help retain moisture and reduce weeds.
Gooseberries have a high Potassium (Potash) requirement. To satisfy this need feed with 1 handfuls of Rock Potash the spring and mulch with well-rotted manure or compost. If growth seems poor give a further feed in early summer. A browning of the leaves indicates a Potash deficiency. To rectify this feed with a liquid foliar feed of seaweed extract and apply Rock Potash as above.
Prune free-standing bushes immediately after harvesting. Reduce side shoots to five leaves. Treat the main stems in the same way when they reach their required height. Cut out any damaged, dead or overcrowded stems. Prune cordons after harvesting by cutting any side shoots to 3" (7cm). Any secondary shoots should be cut back to 1" (2.5cm)
If the crop is particularly heavy, start picking before they are fully ripe. This allows the remaining berries to fully develop and ripen. The unripe berries can be used for cooking.
Pick the fruits when they are ripe. Fresh Gooseberries do not store well but may be bottled or frozen.
Gooseberry fruits can be damaged by frost. If there is a danger of frost cover the fruit with a fleece. Netting may be needed as protection against bird damage.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids, Birds, Mildew, Sawfly, and, Leaf Spot and are common problems. (See pests and diseases section for prevention's and cures. This is accessed via the Main Index Page)
14 December, 2003
© copyright 1999, P. A. Owen