How to Grow Great Gooseberries

comments (27) August 15th, 2009

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Lee_Reich Lee Reich, contributor
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Hybridization has improved the flavor of gooseberries, and as a result, they are regaining popularity. Gooseberries can be picked underripe and cooked, or enjoyed ripe, right off the vine.
Gooseberry forms a medium-sized bush. The plants require winter pruning to keep them productive.
Infestations of gooseberry fruitworm can be controlled by applications of a microbial insecticide that contains Bacillus thuringiensis.
Hybridization has improved the flavor of gooseberries, and as a result, they are regaining popularity. Gooseberries can be picked underripe and cooked, or enjoyed ripe, right off the vine.Click To Enlarge

Hybridization has improved the flavor of gooseberries, and as a result, they are regaining popularity. Gooseberries can be picked underripe and cooked, or enjoyed ripe, right off the vine.

Photo: Linda Wesley

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Prune to keep 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old shoots
The usual way to grow gooseberries is as a “stool,” a huddle of stems that arise from the ground. New shoots come up annually, and the oldest ones are regularly cut to the ground. You’ll recognize them because the bark begins to peel on older stems, which also are thicker than younger ones. During the winter following the plant’s first season in the ground, begin training the plant by cutting away all but six of the previous season’s shoots. Do the same after the second winter, so that the bush has six 1-year-old and six 2-year-old shoots. Following the third winter’s pruning, the bush will have six each of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old stems, the status you want to maintain.

Gooseberry bush
  Gooseberry bushes can have a height and spread of 3 to 5 feet. When pruning, keep all 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old shoots and cut out anything older than 3 years.
 

In the fourth and subsequent winters, pruning consists of cutting down all 4-year-old shoots and all but six of the most vigorous, upright new shoots that grew from ground level the previous season. Also, shorten lanky shoots, if necessary.

Another way of growing a gooseberry plant is as a standard, or small tree. Standards look tidy, are decorative, and keep fruits off the ground. There is, however, the risk of losing a whole plant should its single trunk be damaged.

Train a standard by allowing only one stem to develop on a young plant, then staking this trunk-to-be upright. Nip out the tip of this stem when it reaches 2 to 3 feet in height, and side branches will form just below your cut. Prune the multibranched “head” of your mature standard as if it were a stool or let permanent side branches develop and periodically cut back stems arising from these, to maintain a constant supply of younger, fruitful wood.

White patches mean trouble

Powdery mildew
   
  Leaf spot
   
  Gooseberry fruitworm
  Gooseberries are vulnarable to several diseases and pests, including powdery  mildew (top), leaf spot (middle), and gooseberry fruitworm (above). Choosing disease-resistant varieties can heop minimize damage to a crop.
   

Powdery mildew is the most serious disease of gooseberries, ruining the fruit overnight on susceptible plants when days are clear, nights are cool, and spores are present. Powdery white patches, which eventually turn dark gray, develop on leaves and fruits. Much of the effort in gooseberry breeding in the 20th century has been directed, and successfully, toward developing mildew-resistant varieties.

I control disease on susceptible varieties in a few ways. Weekly sprayings of baking soda and summer oil—one tablespoon of each per quart of water—are supposed to be effective, though I haven’t found them to be dramatically so for me. I’ve had more success experimenting with a light mineral oil spray called Stylet-Oil, also applied weekly or biweekly.

I have also effectively eliminated mildew by cutting dormant plants to the ground, cleaning up all traces of leaves and stems, then moving the plants to a new site far from any infected gooseberries. (Rose and lilac powdery mildews are not threats because they are caused by different fungi.)

Leaf spot, which causes spotting, then loss of leaves, also can hit gooseberries. Fortunately, leaf loss usually occurs late enough in the season that I can ignore the disease, with no great harm done to my plants. Applications of Bordeaux mixture, beginning just after the leaves appear, are reputedly effective in controlling leaf spot, and lime-sulfur sprays are to a lesser degree. Varieties differ in their susceptibility to leaf spot diseases, and those previously mentioned as resistant to mildew are also resistant to leaf spot.

Two insect pests that require attention are the imported currantworm and the gooseberry fruitworm. I grew gooseberries for almost two decades without seeing either pest, or even mildew. But all three problems eventually found their way into my garden as I brought in new plants from around the country.

Currantworms begin their work just as leaves expand in spring, chewing at and quickly stripping the leaves. An organic insecticide, such as rotenone, applied as soon as damage is evident controls the currantworm, although subsequent sprays may be needed if the second or third generation becomes a problem.

Gooseberry fruitworm damages berries rather than leaves. Just before fruits ripen, these insects burrow into the berries, eat the pulp, then exit and spin a silken webbing joining fruits and sometimes leaves together. Damaged fruits color prematurely. A microbial insecticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis, such as Dipel or Thuricide, applied as soon as the webbing is evident, controls the fruitworm.

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posted in: berries, gooseberries

Comments (27)

Rohit Kumar writes: i like it
Posted: 6:02 am on September 15th
Dallinlarsen555 writes: I like it
Posted: 2:25 am on September 30th
Dallinlarsen222 writes: nice
Posted: 2:55 am on September 27th
Dallinlarsen4 writes: great
Posted: 1:26 am on September 17th
Dallin_larsen1 writes: Ultimate
Posted: 3:14 am on September 16th
Johnychamp writes: lovely gooseberries
Posted: 4:53 am on September 14th
DallinLarsen writes: very nice gooseberries
Posted: 2:05 am on September 13th
Parkevenew writes: i like it
Posted: 3:09 am on August 20th
matthewtweedie writes: I like gooseberries
Posted: 12:24 am on August 3rd
MacGarnett writes: cool
Posted: 1:44 pm on June 9th
Andrewlang writes: nice
Posted: 5:07 am on June 2nd
Kavinjose writes: creative
Posted: 5:54 am on May 23rd
jacobgravers writes: good one
Posted: 12:44 am on May 11th
Davidecristiana writes: i like goose baerries
Posted: 12:43 am on April 29th
alliancelimo writes: i love the information about gooseberries
Posted: 3:31 am on April 4th
DavidDRatliff writes: Thanks for sharing....Nice information..
Posted: 4:50 am on October 30th
RolandSharon writes: Thank u for updating with this information.........
Posted: 5:20 am on October 27th
RaymondBMeans writes: Perfect information... Such a nice article for Gooseberries lovers...
Posted: 1:31 am on October 26th
mickysingh writes: very nice
Posted: 5:53 am on October 23rd
mickysingh writes: nice

Posted: 1:04 am on October 20th
ajayind writes: i had gooseberries plant its nice
Posted: 2:25 am on October 16th
prophc writes: thanks for this information
Posted: 5:46 am on October 10th
Lissa53 writes: good work
Posted: 5:44 am on August 12th
dfreyer writes: i have had two plants for 6 years. The second year they each had one berry. Since nothing at all. What can I do to help them? I keep dreaming of Grandma's gooseberry pie.
Posted: 4:00 pm on September 16th
Daylily1940 writes: I could be wrong as its a long time since I lived in the Adirondacks (a large mountainous area in upstate New York) but I believe gooseberries are banned there because the serve as a host plant for pine blister rust. This fungal disease kills pine trees but it doesn't go from pine tree to pine tree but from tree to gooseberry or a current bush and then on to a pine tree. Since pine trees are big business in the Adirondacks everything is done to prevent this. You might want to check this out if you live in that area and are thinking about raising gooseberries or currents.
Posted: 8:10 pm on September 14th
mastermud writes: My goosberrie plants are the same size they were when I planted them 4 years ago, about 6 inches tall. Any ideas why?
Posted: 9:47 pm on September 13th
JadaE writes: Awesome! I posted a question about gooseberries a couple of weeks ago, and this is PERFECT! Great info...I think I'm going to try growing them for sure! :)
Posted: 11:37 am on August 18th
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