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Home grown berries – Gooseberries
Mike & Katrine Juleff
Goose berries, Ribes Grossularia
Gooseberries were grown in Tasmania and Victoria originally but lost popularity. However, during the 19th century and early 20th century England there were Gooseberry clubs where members competed to grow the largest fruit.Planting and establishing
The woody bushes grow to about 1to 1/12 metres on well drained soil PH of 6 to 6.5 and are easily propagated by cuttings or layering. Plant 1 to 1.5 metres apart and mulch well as they don’t like weed competition. Pruning
They can actually be pruned and trained for many shapes and you could try espalier for ease of picking as they are very prickly. Remember to prune with a strong single stem first before pruning to a vase shape or sideways for espalier ( just prune any forward or back shoots).
The fruit is produced on 1 year old wood so light annual pruning after fruiting is recommended and removal of old wood to thin out every 3-4 years. Remove lowest outside branches as they drop and take root. The fruit is green at full size and ripens to a red/purple or light green depending on the variety. In Australia the varieties are generally limited to:
- Green Giant: large, yellow-green fruit. most suited to production of green fruit, but is also acceptable as a dessert variety.
- Roaring Lion: small, red fruit.
- Farmers’ Glory: medium sized, red, later than Roaring Lion; largest available red-fruited form. Most recommended for home gardens due to good yields.
- Yorkshire Champion: medium sized, green-yellow fruit.
- Captivator was introduced to Australia due to its thornless habit. Unfortunately its yield is unacceptably low.
Gooseberries like winter chilling like most soft fruit /berries to facilitate flower/bud development and growth.
We feed the plants at the end of winter with organic fertiliser pellets and mushroom compost. A little lime can be sprinkled before mulching if the soil is too acid.
The gooseberry varieties available now are all susceptible to American Gooseberry mildew, Symptoms occur firstly on new foliage in spring. Initially, emerging leaves appear a lime-green rather than the normal deep green colour. Affected leaves fail to fully expand, and develop a white powdered appearance. Clear off all leaves and burn. Do not compost.