Healthy, delicious and easy to care for in the right location, gooseberries are popular for a reason. However, everyone should follow these tips when growing gooseberries.
Gooseberries love loose, fresh and nutritious soil, as well as a preferably semi-shady location, preferably in the shifting shade of other woody plants. However, they should not be placed in full sun. There the fruits are threatened by sunburn and, if fertilized with too much nitrogen, also by powdery mildew. For this reason, you should choose resistant varieties when planting new bushes. When growing gooseberries, also pay attention to the following tips.
Gooseberrie – things to know
Grandma’s gooseberry pie is a fond childhood memory for many, but the tasty gooseberries were somewhat out of fashion for a while and even disappeared from many gardens altogether. Firstly, because of their prickles, which can make harvesting a bit of a misery, but more importantly because of the bush’s susceptibility to American gooseberry powdery mildew. But breeders have largely come to grips with both problems: There are now many varieties that are impervious to the fungus, and even some nearly thornless cultivars. So there is nothing standing in the way of growing the cherry-sized fruits with their characteristic tart, refreshing aroma. They are healthy and contain many vitamins – especially vitamin C – as well as minerals and fruit acids.
The gooseberry, Latin Ribes uva-crispa, gives its name to its botanical family, the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae). The currants also belong to this family. The cross between gooseberry and the closely related blackcurrant has also given rise to the jostaberry.
The original form of the gooseberry is widespread in Europe, Asia and North Africa, and there are also gooseberry species in North America. As with many cultivated plants, it is no longer possible to determine exactly where they were originally native and where they were first brought by man. The forefathers of the gooseberry grow in sparse, usually somewhat moist forests, on forest edges and in hedgerows on not too dry soils.
The gooseberry bush can grow up to 150 centimeters (5 ft) high and about the same width. In the case of standart stems, the height of growth depends mainly on the grafting height. The crown remains more compact overall in them than in the shrubby plants.
Location and soil
Gooseberries tolerate light shade, but in full sun there is a risk of sunburn on the fruit. Somewhat protected by larger woody plants, such as fruit trees, they are ideal. The shrubs can tolerate low temperatures in winter, but they should not be planted in locations prone to late frosts, as their early flowering can damage them. The soil should be loose, rich in humus and not too dry. Therefore, enrich permeable sandy soils with humus. Nutrient-rich, medium-heavy soils with sufficient soil moisture are ideal. The shrubs do not thrive on sites that are too dry.
Plant gooseberries deep
Gooseberries are offered in a planting container throughout the season and can be planted at that time. The plants have a solid root ball and grow safely in the garden. Actually, woody plants with root balls are always planted as deep as they were in the pot. Gooseberries are a small exception to this.
Gooseberries can be planted in the spring or fall. A gooseberry with a potted root ball can be planted basically throughout the season. However, in the summer you need to regularly water the freshly set plants, as they have a relatively high water requirement.
Plant gooseberries so deep that the root ball of the pot is covered with soil a good hand’s width. In this way, the branches of the lowest side branches are covered with soil a few centimeters high and the plants still form additional ground shoots.
Gooseberries are more sensitive to drought than, for example, currants. Therefore, for a rich harvest is important to have a good supply of water, and in the event of drought must be watered. The bushes root shallowly, so you should work the soil in the immediate vicinity only superficially and carefully. A thin layer of mulch is ideal, both suppressing weeds and protecting the soil from drying out.
Fertilize in early spring and as needed after flowering in May. Use an organic fertilizer, such as compost, horn shavings, or an organic berry fertilizer. Spread this widely around the plant, work it shallowly into the soil and water as needed.
Gooseberries love permanently moist soil in dry conditions and therefore appreciate regular watering. A layer of mulch about 5 cm (2 in) thick around the plants will keep the soil moist between waterings and also inhibit weed growth. Don’t just mulch after planting, but renew the layer regularly as needed each spring.
Bark mulch or a mixture of lawn clippings and shredded branches and twigs is ideal; pure grass clippings should be allowed to dry beforehand so that nothing rots. If you mulch with shredded material, spread horn shavings or horn meal beforehand to prevent a possible nitrogen deficiency when the branches and twigs are broken down by the microorganisms in the soil.
Growing and pruning
Gooseberries are offered as shrubs and as tall stems, and they can also be grown on trellises. Tall stems are easier to harvest, but are somewhat shorter-lived than shrub forms.
Prune gooseberries regularly
Gooseberries bear their fruit mainly on two- and three-year-old shoots. To ensure that the plants continuously produce many fruits of good quality and do not over-age, regular or annual pruning of gooseberries is necessary. In early spring, always cut off the oldest shoots close to the ground and leave the younger ground shoots. Cut back side shoots that were harvested the previous year to short cones with a few buds.
Also, cut off any thin shoots and those that grow very close to the ground. This is because such shoots lean further downward under the heavy berries and the fruits either get direct contact with the ground or, in any case, splash water from the ground. Such fruits are usually no longer suitable for consumption, they rot or get a layer of scab.
Although the flowers of gooseberries are capable of self-pollination, the best yields are obtained when there is abundant bee flight at flowering time and several varieties of gooseberries grow next to each other.
Harvest and use gooseberries
Gooseberries find many uses in the kitchen, especially in baking. Due to their special, fresh-sour flavor, they are popular for the preparation of cakes and desserts. In addition, gooseberries are ideal for preserving compote or making jam. If you want to enjoy your harvest months later, gooseberries are also great for freezing and preservation in glasses.
Depending on the intended use, gooseberries are harvested at different stages of ripeness: green, not yet fully grown fruits are particularly suitable for preserving and as a cake topping. They are picked from the end of May to the beginning of June. For jams and jellies, the fruits may remain on the bush a little longer. The berries should have reached their final size by then, but still be firm. If you want to eat the fruit directly, you should wait until July or August, depending on the variety. Then they turn white, taste much sweeter and reach their full flavor.
Gooseberries are quite easy to propagate. In late fall, after the leaves have fallen, you can plant one-year-old, well-woody shoot sections as cuttings directly into the garden bed or cut cuttings from half-woody shoots in summer. Both variants grow without problems. If you want to grow a standart stem, you must graft the desired variety onto stems of the golden currant (Ribes aureum) by copulation in late winter or occulation in summer. However, this requires some practice. Sowing is also possible, but it does not play a role for varietal propagation of gooseberries. It is only interesting if you want to cultivate new varieties.
Diseases and pests for gooseberry
Older gooseberry varieties in particular are susceptible to powdery mildew (American gooseberry mildew). Modern varieties are less susceptible or even largely resistant. The closely related currants can also be attacked. In general, shrubs on dry sites are more susceptible. The best protection is to plant resistant varieties. If brown shoot tips appear, this is usually a sign of infestation. Cut out the affected branch sections and dispose of them in the residual waste.
Gooseberry red mite, spider mites and scale insects can infest shrubs. Curled leaves are usually a result of gooseberry leaf aphid. Whitish spots on the fruit are usually a result of too much sunlight (sunburn).
There is also a butterfly whose caterpillar eats the leaves of gooseberries and currants: the gooseberry moth. Both caterpillar and moth are white with colorful spots. However, the moth is so rare that it is not usually considered a serious pest.