We have two gooseberry bushes which are now very old, and we would like to plant some new ones. Which variety would you recommend for dessert rather than pie fruit?
The first choice on most soils would be ‘Whinham’s Industry’. It is a vigorous grower and a reliable cropper, with dark red berries that are full of flavour and juice when ripe. ‘Leveller’, with its much larger yellow-green berries, would do well on really fertile soil. Another large yellowish-green gooseberry with good flavour is ‘Whitesmith’.
Our gooseberry bushes are difficult and painful to pick. Is it possible to grow them, like trees, on short trunks rather than as prickly shrubs?
Gooseberries can be bought on what is called a ‘leg’. The longer the leg the more space between the bottom branches and the ground. Why not grow your own long-legged bushes by taking strong 450-600 mm (18-24 in) cuttings of young wood in the autumn? Remove with a sharp knife all the buds except three or four at the top; then make a slit in the soil with a spade and insert the cutting with at least half its length below ground; firm around the cutting. They will be ready for transplanting the next autumn on a leg at least 300 mm (12 in) long.
In our district sparrows are a problem. Early in the season they attack the gooseberry buds, leaving far more on the ground than they eat. What is the practical, inexpensive answer?
Gooseberry buds start to move soon after Christmas, and that’s the time to do any pruning necessary, not before. Immediately after pruning, cover the bushes with netting; but make sure that it is held well clear of all branches, otherwise the sparrows will sit on the netting and peck out the buds they can reach.
My gooseberries did well to start with, but now the growth is poor. The leaves are small and most have brown margins. What is wrong?
The small leaves with brownish margins indicate that the plants are short of potash, and until this deficiency is corrected growth arid cropping is likely to be poor. Make a start by applying 65 g/m2 (2 oz/sq yd) of sulphate of potash around the bushes. In the future give them a Growmore fertiliser feed every February. It may be two years before the foliage is completely normal.
I have read with interest about cordon gooseberries. Are they difficult to grow, and how many years could I expect to crop them?
Cordon gooseberries are very easy to grow and take up little space. You must start with one-year-old plants with good strong leaders. Plant them sloping at an angle of 45 degrees, towards the north if possible; canes will be needed for supports. Each autumn prune back the laterals to within 75 mm (3 in) of the main stem. With care and feeding there is no reason why cordons should not crop well for 10 years or more.