These are numerous, but can be classified according to colour of the ripe berries.
Red ones include May Duke, very early; Lancashire Lad, mid-season; Winham’s Industry, mid-season, a very profitable all-round variety for picking green and for jam making and dessert.
Yellow berries include Broom Girl, early; Leveller, mid-season, very large when ripe; Cousen’s Seedling, late, an excellent bottler.
Green berries include Keepsake, very early for picking unripe but late in ripening; Lancer, late.
White berries include Careless, mid-season, excellent for jam; White Lion, large and very late.
It is worth digging the ground 18 in. deep, without bringing the lower soil to the top, and burying whatever manure is available. A good surface dressing of slaked or hydrated lime, in advance of planting, is advisable if it is suspected that the ground lacks lime. Special attention should be paid to this preparation where planting is to be done at the foot of a fence or wall, for there the soil is too often poor in quality and apt to dry out very speedily in rainless periods. Old stable manure worked in, or hop manure at the rate of a double handful per square yard, will give the soil body and help it hold moisture.
When and How to Plant.
If planting can be done at the end of October the bushes or cordons will have a chance to establish themselves before winter sets in. It can, however, be done at any time up to
February when the soil is free of frost and not too wet to work comfortably.
Planting holes should be wide enough to take the spread-out roots without cramping, and roots are to be covered to the depth shown by the soil mark on the stems. Soil should be trodden firmly round and above the covered-in roots. If, however, the ground is too wet for treading, the firming should be completed later, when the soil has become reasonably dry. The top inch of soil should be raked or hoed, after the treading, and left loose. Bushes should be 4 ft. or 5 ft. apart, single cordons 12 in., double cordons 2 ft., treble cordons 3 ft.
Bushes do not need staking, but cordons should be secured back to fence or wall with loops of sacking or stout cloth and nails, with tarred twine to wire supports in the open. These wires should be strained between stout end posts, one wire a foot up from the ground, another at 2 ft.
Watering and Feeding.
Generous watering in dry weather (spring and summer) assists berries to swell and ripen and helps new growth. Planted against fence or wall, surface soil should be loosened shallowly with fork or hoe to ensure the water running in. Old manure, or wet hop manure, put down around plants keeps moisture in the soil and provides food for the roots. One of the special bush-fruits complete artificial fertilizers may be given in March, 2 02. per sq. yd., and hoed in, with great advantage to the coming crop.
Weeds should be hand-picked, or uprooted with the hoe; deep forking is likely to do injury to the shallow roots.
Keeping Birds at Bay.
Considerable damage can be done by birds, sparrows chiefly, pecking out young leaf buds before these open. This trouble is prevented if the buds are made distasteful by dusting the bushes with old soot. So that this shall adhere it should be scattered over them whilst the bushes are damp with dew, or immediately after rain. Or quassia solution, bought in small tins with directions for mixing, should be applied as a fine spray. Either treatment will need repeating after a downpour of rain.
Later, fishing nets or old lace curtains thrown over the bushes, or draped down the front of fence cordons, will keep birds from the ripe fruit.
The Caterpillar Plague.
Gooseberry bushes are sometimes stripped of leaves by caterpillars. If cordons are attacked, hand-picking in the very early stages is effective. Or these may be dealt with in the same manner as bushes – dusted or sprayed with Derris insecticide just after flowering, or with hellebore powder (poison) up to within about three weeks of picking the fruit.
American mildew is very destructive and spreads rapidly. It appears in early May as powdery white mildew on shoot-tips and the undersides of leaves, later on the berries. Immediately it is noticed, bushes should be sprayed with lime sulphur – one part of lime sulphur to 10o parts of water. An alternative spray consists of ii lb. of ordinary washing soda and ½ lb. of soft soap dissolved in a little hot water, more water then being added to make a 10-gal. solution.
European mildew is less destructive than the American. It appears in late summer, on the upper side of leaves and not on the fruit. As a preventive, where it has been troublesome the previous year, use either of the sprays already mentioned.
Black-knot disease appears as black warts, or knots, on stems after these have been killed by the fungus concerned. This particular complaint is first apparent in the wilting of leaves. Affected branches should at once be cut off and burned. Coral spot, which shows as pink warts on live as well as dead wood, should be dealt with similarly. Cluster-cup disease shows as bright orange patches on leaves and fruit, which should be collected and burned without undue delay.
When growths die back, botrytis disease is present. It will sometimes kill entire bushes. Leaves attacked become yellow at the edges. The fruit may be affected – the skin browning, an ashy-grey mould appearing later, followed by the rotting of the berry. All dead growths and affected fruit should be removed and burned.
Wood of this description must never be left lying about. It should be consigned to the flames before the day is out.
Spraying with tar oil winter wash, between early December and the middle or end of January, will clean the bushes very effectively of all manner of dormant pests. Details are explained in the section How TO DEAL WITH FRUIT PESTS AND DISEASES.
Pruning should be carried out in February. Centres of bushes are to be kept clear of growths, and weakly, exhausted and dead or diseased branches cut out.
Berries are produced not only on spurs but on short young side shoots; the latter should be left untouched. Longer side shoots should be cut back to within about I in. of their base, to become fruiting spurs. Strong growths required to take the place of missing or worn-out branches are to be shortened by a third of their current season’s growth.
The summer’s growth at the end of each main branch – there should not be more than eight or ten of these to a bush – should be shortened back to within about 6 in. each spring until the bush has reached the desired size, when no further extension should be allowed.
Summer pruning consists in shortening the longest new side shoots by one-half.
Cordons are to be kept un-branched. In summer, all side shoots should be cut back – or severed between thumb-nail and first finger-nail – halfway, then pruned back to 1 in. or so in February.
Propagation. Strong, disease-free shoots of the current year’s growth are taken as cuttings in late September or early October. Full details are explained in the section How TO PROPAGATE FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES
Gathering the Gooseberries. One advantage in keeping the centre of a gooseberry bush open – clear of growths – is experienced when fruit is to be picked; produced on the outsides only, it is an easy matter to get at it.
Berries should be picked from a number of plants at once, sufficient for immediate requirements. A bush should not be stripped at one go. If a little time is taken over the job some useful thinning out of crowded fruit will be achieved. If extra large berries are required, thinning out should be done early and rather severely – all the thinnings being used, of course; those that remain gain by exposure to light and air.
How to Keep Gooseberries.
Methods are explained in the section EASY HOME PRESERVATION OF FRUITS.
Preparing for Table.
Berries for dessert should be topped and tailed, with scissors, washed in cold water, and dried with a clean cloth. The gooseberry is of special value in the diet of dyspeptics and those with bilious tendencies.