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Growing Gooseberries

by Miguel Mori

Position your gooseberry patch so that they will have full sun. Gooseberries love to grow in a sunny site which has well-drained soil that is kept moist. Therefore a perfect fruit to grow in a large container, as under these conditions the soil's moisture content is easily controlled. However, gooseberries will really grow in any type of soil, as long as it has been enriched with well-rotted manure and composting material.

Gooseberries should never be planted where frost collects as they are frost-tender and as they flower in early spring, the frost will end up damaging the plant and subsequent fruit. 


How many Gooseberry Plants do you Need?
One mature gooseberry plant will usually suffice for a typical family, as you should get about 3.5 kg of fruit off your gooseberry bush during the year. However, if you want more gooseberries, then you will have to plant more of them.

When growing gooseberries the plants should be planted out in the autumn, with spacings between each plant at 1.5 meters. Mulch well with well-rotted compost around each plant to retain the moisture content in the soil and water well, never letting the soil dry out. Repeat the mulching process every spring.

In mature plants remove any shoots that appear at the base of the plant less than 9 inches off the ground. 


Your gooseberry bush will need to be pruned in summer and in winter. In winter make sure that any dead wood has been removed. Summer growth shoots should be cut back to one half to two-thirds to a bud. Wait for it to bud, so that you can see where to cut. Finally remove any weak shoots and prune so that sunlight will be able to reach the center of the plant.
In summer you can prune the side shoots back to about 5 leaves to encourage fruit buds to form. 


If you don't thin out your harvest when growing gooseberries you will end up with lots of small berries. However, if you want to increase the size of your berries you can start to thin them out when they are big enough to use to 1 inch apart. You can do a second thinning so that they are 3 inches apart. This will give you a smaller yield but a larger berry. 


Gooseberries can be propagated by raising cuttings, although they do not always root easily. Take cuttings in the autumn, about 15 cm long from the current season's growth which should include some leafy growth. Cut off the top 3 inches of soft wood and rub off all the buds from the lower end, leaving only 3 or 4 buds at the top.

Dig a trench about 15 cm deep and put a layer of sharp sand at the bottom. Bury your cuttings so that only 2-3 buds are showing, and they are about 8-9 cm apart. They will then be ready for transplanting the following autumn when they should have rooted by then. 

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