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Fruit : Gooseberries

Planting | Training | Care after planting | Pruning | Pests and diseases | Varieties

Varieties

Bushes can be planted when dormant or from pots at any time of year. The variety ‘Invicta' is resistant to mildew. Although ‘Careless' and ‘Leveller' are grown too. Bushes should be spaced at least one and a half metres apart each way.

Planting 

Gooseberries are pretty robust and tolerate most conditions quite well. Extreme exposure to wind would not be ideal. They tolerate some shade but prefer to be in full sunshine. Red and white currants are very similar and grown in the same way gooseberries, and not like blackcurrants, to which they are also related.

Good, fertile, well-drained but moisture-retentive, slightly acid soil is the ideal for soft fruit. Poor soil can be made fertile by applying organic manures and fertiliser. Limy soil is fine, as long as it is well-drained. Gooseberries tolerate medium-heavy soil well. The ground should be completely free of perennial weeds before planting.

Training

Maintain the single stem clear of side-shoots for 25 centimetres. Allow the side-shoots to develop above this. Select four, five or six strong shoots well separated from each other. Allow these to grow out like the spokes of a wheel, keeping the centre open to prevent disease. These branches form the permanent branch framework.

Care after planting

Control weeds by timely hoeing. Apply 110 grams of general fertiliser per bush in February/March each year. If growth has been very vigorous, apply 55 grams of sulphate of potash instead, especially on limy soils.

Water newly-planted bushes if there is a prolonged dry spell. Some fruit will be produced two years after planting and full cropping is reached after five years. At that stage, each bush will yield between 4 – 8 kilos of fruit.

Pruning

Gooseberries carry most of their fruit on short spurs on older wood. The same spurs flower and fruit year after year. Pruning of gooseberries aims to set up this pattern and maintain it. Having trained the bushes on a ‘leg’ with about five main branches, annual pruning involves removing about half of the young side shoots each year, and shortening the remainder to within about 7 centimetres of the main branches.

Prune away any low-hanging shoots. Annual pruning is done in winter. If the growth of young shoots is very vigorous, remove some of them and shorten the others, during June/July. This summer pruning helps to counteract vigorous growth.

Pests and diseases

Bullfinches eat the buds and can seriously reduce the crop. Watch out for damage in winter and use nets if necessary.

Caterpillars of gooseberry sawfly may eat all the leaves off the bushes. New leaves will appear and the damage will not be too severe if it occurs just once every few years. Losing the leaves every year weakens the bushes, and control will be necessary in this case. Greenflies may attack in large numbers and need to be controlled.

Gooseberry mildew attacks the leaves, shoots and fruit. The fruit becomes covered with a whitish or brownish fungus, but it can be used if wiped clean.

Gooseberry mildew on blackcurrant

Gooseberry mildew on blackcurrant

Gooseberry cluster cup disease causes little orange spots on the leaves and fruit. It is little more than a curiosity except in areas near peatland and a spray of Dithane may be necessary, applied just before the flowers open.

Grey mould disease (Botrytis) occasionally attacks a few berries and can cause branches to die off. Affected branches should be pruned out.

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