GOOSEBERRY

Size: 1.2m by 90cm (4 by 3 ft).

Pollination: Self-fertile.

Climate preferred: Cool temperate.

Aspect: Sunny or partial shade.

Soil: Any, provided that it is well-drained.

Tolerant of chalky soil.

Yield: Four bushes are sufficient for the average family.

Planting and cultivation

Gooseberries can be planted any time between late autumn and early spring in soil which has been prepared by digging in plenty of compost or peat. The bushes should be set a little less deep in the soil than the nursery mark on their stems, and they should be spaced at least 1.2 m (4 ft) apart. In early spring feed them general fertilizer at the rate of 135gm per sq m (4oz per sq yd). In mid-spring surround the bushes with a thick layer of compost or moist peat. Take care when weeding not to damage the roots which are close to the surface.

Harvesting

Fruit for cooking should be picked while it is still firm. Fruit for eating fresh should be picked when it is soft and fully ripe.

Pruning and training

Cut back the leading shoots by half in winter; in late winter or early spring cut back the side-shoots to two or three buds. It may also be necessary to thin out the centre of the bush to let in light and air.

Pests and diseases

Aphids, American Gooseberry mildew (powdery deposit on leaves; fruit becomes brown – cut away infected shoots in autumn and spray in spring with a systemic fungicide at regular intervals), birds (bullfinches eat the fruit buds in winter – cover with netting) and sawflies.

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