Monday, 27 July 2015



Gooseberries are one of those garden fruit bushes that can be very rewarding, as they reliably crop every year, are easy to grow and the fruit is very nutritious and can be used in many different ways.
In the past success was limited to control of mildew which was a very serious problem, and gooseberry sawfly can still be a problem unless you take action to control it. Then of course the vicious thorns were a real pain at picking time. Time has moved on and the plant breeders have now brought out new varieties that are mildew resistant and some such as Iona bred at Dundee’s James Hutton Institute
is now almost spine free. It will be released to the trade in the near future. I have sampled this variety and have been very impressed, and picking was almost bloodless. I also grow Invicta, which is free from mildew but has so many spines that it is impossible not to have some blood spilled. However, it is such a great variety that the pain is worth the rewards.
Propagation and Growing
Gooseberries are very easy to propagate from cuttings of one year old shoots about nine inches long taken in the dormant season. Line them out about four inches apart, burying half the cutting in the soil and you should have some decent small bushes a year later ready to lift and plant out into permanent positions.

It is best to grow them on a leg (like a mini standard) at least a foot tall. This helps to keep the fruiting branches off the soil as heavy crops often weigh the branches down. They can also be grown against a wall and spur pruned to keep them in shape.
Plant the bushes about five feet apart into good well drained soil preferably in a sunny position up north. Sun helps to sweeten up the berries.
Pruning is carried out in winter and is quite simple. Remove any low branches hanging down to the ground and remove branches growing in the centre to allow easier picking. Cut a third off any long shoots and cut back several sideshoots again to make picking safer. This will encourage an open bush, allow developing fruit more light and space to grow which will give larger berries.

Pests and Diseases
The main pest is gooseberry sawfly, but can be controlled by destroying the overwintering pupae by cultivating the soil under the bushes several times in winter and early spring.  
Mildew was the main disease, but today there are plenty of good varieties resistant to mildew.
Invicta has yellow fruit and is mildew resistant. Hinnonmaki Red and Hinnonmaki yellow from Finland and Lancashire Lad are also mildew resistant and very popular. Xenia is mildew resistant, quite sweet to taste and has been bred for reduced spines.
Health benefits and use.
Gooseberries may not be classified as a superfood, but they tick most of the boxes for a healthy food product. They are high in antioxidants, dietary fibre and the vitamins A, B and C and contain the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron.
Gooseberries can be used for jam, and stewed and sweetened for compote and crumble and in summer puddings. They make great compote mixed with apple, and are favourite with the home brewers for a delicious dry or dessert wine.

Wee jobs to do this week

Soft fruit picking will be at its peak just now with strawberries, raspberries, black, white and red currants all getting picked for immediate consumption, jams, compote or freezing for future use.
The harvest continues with salads, beetroot, peas, dwarf French beans, broad beans and digging up a few shaws of the first early potatoes to sample a very fresh spud.


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