Posts Tagged ‘gooseberries’

Growing Gooseberries from Planting to Harvest

November 29th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

growing-gooseberries-from-planting-to-harvest

People often ask “What’s the best fruit bush for beginners?” Well, one stands head and shoulders above the rest – the gorgeous gooseberry!

Gooseberry bushes grow well in most soils, they’re very easy to prune, are self-pollinating which means you can get away with growing just one, and generous gooseberries give up their sumptuous fruits in hearty profusion. In short, you really need to grow one! Read on or watch the video to find out how.

Types of Gooseberry

Choose from either culinary or dessert varieties. Culinary gooseberries are usually cooked with sugar to temper their naturally sour taste. They’re perfect in jams, pies, puddings and a gooseberry fool.

Dessert varieties are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush – a treat you’re unlikely to experience unless you grow your own. You can also pick some of the berries before they’ve ripened to use in the same way as culinary gooseberries.

The berries themselves are typically pale green, but look out for eye-catching red or yellow varieties too. Most plants are very thorny, but some varieties are easier on the hands with considerably fewer thorns.

Where to Grow Gooseberries

Gooseberries will thrive in most gardens, but to get the most from them grow them in a bright position in rich, well-drained soil.

Gooseberries naturally grow into bushes but may also be trained – as standards on a long single trunk, or against a fence as fans or single-stemmed cordons. Take heart if you really don’t have much space to spare or you only have a patio, because this hardy fruit can successfully be grown in containers too.

(Please note: in a few areas of the United States growing gooseberries is prohibited because they can serve as a host to white pine blister rust, a disease devastating to the lumber industry. Check for local restrictions before sourcing plants.)

How to Plant a Gooseberry Bush

Plant bare-root or container-grown gooseberries from late autumn to early spring – you’ll probably need to wait until spring if the ground freezes solid over winter where you garden.

Dig a generous planting hole then add some well-rotted compost or manure to the excavated soil. Place the gooseberry into the hole so that the previous soil level is flush with the new soil level. Feed back the enriched soil around the roots or rootball, taking plenty of time to firm in the soil as you fill to anchor the roots. Water copiously to settle the soil further, then finish off with a mulch of organic material to help suppress weeds and feed your new plant.

If you’re planting more than one gooseberry, space bushes at least 4ft (120cm) apart. Cordons can be planted much closer – just 45cm (18in) apart – but tie the stem to a supporting bamboo cane that’s in turn secured to horizontal wire supports.

Caring for Gooseberries

In moisture-retentive soils established bushes need very little additional watering, but regular watering in hot, dry weather is a must for young plants and essential for container-grown gooseberries.

Apply an organic, balanced fertiliser at the end of each winter to give plants a good start ahead of the new growing season. Then remove any weeds around the root area before topping up mulches to at least an inch (3cm) deep. Use organic materials like garden compost or bark chippings for this.

Pruning Gooseberry Bushes

Prune established gooseberry bushes to encourage an open, evenly spaced branch structure. This will let in plenty of light while allowing for good air circulation to discourage disease and pests such as sawflies.

Pruning is completed in winter when the bush is dormant. To start, cut out all dead or diseased wood, any shoots growing close to the ground, plus tangled or overcrowded branches. Now prune the branches that are left by cutting back the previous season’s growth by a half. Sideshoots coming off the main branches should be cut back to between one and three buds from the base of the shoot. Make all cuts just above an outward facing bud to encourage that all-important open habit. Finally, dig up any suckers – that’s stems growing from the ground away from the main stem.

Harvesting Gooseberries

Birds can sometimes pilfer fruits before you’ve had a chance to pick them. Stop them in their tracks! Cover plants with netting or grow bushes inside a purpose-made fruit cage.

Gooseberries are ready to pick from early summer onwards. Harvesting dessert or dual-purpose varieties in stages gives early, under-ripe fruits for cooking, then later fruits to enjoy sweet and fresh. The berries that remain after the first pickings will also be able to grow larger.

Handle the soft, plump fruits gently and wear thick gloves if the thorns become too painful to bear!

Gooseberries are at their sumptuous best immediately after picking, but they’ll stay fresh enough in polythene bags kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or freeze gluts for a well-deserved taste of summer later on in the year.

There are many ways to enjoy the glorious gooseberry! In jams, pureed with elderflower cordial for drying into fruit leathers, or boiled with other fruits to make a tangy, sweet compote to dollop onto ice cream or yoghurt. Give gooseberries a go! They’re reliable, hard-working fruits that deserve to be more widely grown.

If you have any gooseberry growings tips, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

August Gardening Advice

August 1st, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Mr-Fothergills-August-Gardening-Advice

Temperatures are soaring, the sun is shining; summer is well and truly here.

Flowers are bursting with vibrant colour. From golden heleniums to fiery dahlias, the reds, oranges and yellows have taken over from the pastel shades of spring.

But with scorching weather comes the ongoing battle to prevent plants from drying out. Watering cans and hoses are the gardener’s ally, but use water sensibly. Water butts, drip irrigation systems and water-retention gels are good items to have in your arsenal.

August is also the month for harvesting your homegrown fruit and veg. Try to manage your gluts by blanching and freezing any excess veg for a later date. Or, be the most popular person in your street by sharing produce with your neighbours!

Summer won’t last forever, but while it’s here, take the time to relax in the garden with a glass of something cold, and enjoy the fruits of your labours.

 

In the flower garden

HOLIDAY

August is traditionally the month to pack your suitcase and get away from it all. If you are going away, ensure you make plans to keep your garden from drying out. Ask a neighbour to pop over once every few days to water and check on your garden. If you have pots and containers, group them all together under some shade, to make the job easier. Keep greenhouses ventilated, and if necessary, create some shade to prevent your plants from getting scorched.

DEADHEADING

Deadhead regularly to keep flowers blooming into autumn. Fresh blooms not only look good, but continue to feed bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which are essential to a garden’s wellbeing. Sweet peas will be keen to set seed, so it’s important to deadhead daily.

PERENNIALS

With heavy blooms and ever-growing stems, plants such as dahlias and gladioli will need staking. This extra support will not only prevent damage, but discourage ground pests from attacking low-lying plants.

Summer-gardening-cut-your-lavender

LAVENDER

Stop lavender from becoming leggy by cutting into a compact shape, but don’t cut too far back as new flowers can’t grow on old wood. Use the cut flowers around the home. You could create lavender pouches to scent drawers or pillow cases.

WISTERIA

Ideally, you want to prune wisteria twice a year. Once in late winter, and once now in august. There’s been a lot of growth during the summer months, so cut these newly-formed long laterals back to the fifth set of leaves on each shoot, and tie-in where necessary. This restricts the growth, creates better ventilation, hardens the remaining summer growth, and encourages new flower buds for next year.

HEDGES

Hedges can become unruly in summer, so now’s the time to give them a prune. Whether you’re using shears or a hedge trimmer, think about how you want your hedge to look. Work from the bottom up in a smooth, controlled motion. Prune all sides and finish with the top. Wear protective clothing and use the correct height support if the hedge is high. Once completed, clear away all debris.

WATERING

This year, temperatures have been at their hottest, and our gardens and allotments are relying on us to sustain them.

Whether there’s a hosepipe ban in your area or not, using water sensibly is a good habit to get into too. Make use of water butts, re-use old dish water, and water early in the morning or at dusk, when the lower temperatures mean less water evaporation.

Keeping your garden well-weeded also ensures the water goes to the plants that need it.

If you’re planting up containers and hanging baskets, add water retention gel to the compost. If you’re growing tomatoes, create a drip irrigation system.

Every drop of water you save means less strain on our reservoirs.

POND

In the warmer weather, check pond levels daily. Remove any build-up of algae and weeds, placing it beside the pond overnight. This will give any captured wildlife the opportunity to return to the water. If you have water plants, now is the time to thin them. Clean the pumps and filters of any water features you may have.

 

On the veg patch

FEED

You should be feeding your tomatoes weekly now to ensure a healthy, tasty crop, but potash/tomato feed can also be used for cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, chillies and even sweetcorn plants.

MAIN POTATOES

As the leaves on your main crop start to turn yellow and wither, start digging them up. If you’re not going to eat them straight away, rest them on the topsoil for a few hours to dry the excess moisture, then place in hessian sacks. Ideally, the sacks should be stored somewhere with ventilation, where it’s cool, dark and pest-free. Check on them regularly to make sure none have spoilt.

ONIONS AND SHALLOTS

With foliage bent over and turning yellow, onions and shallots are now ready for lifting. Once lifted, leave them on the surface of the soil for a few hours to dry in the sunshine. Then, shake off the excess soil from the roots, careful not to damage them, and place somewhere warm so they can dry out. After a week, or two, they should be ready for storing somewhere cool, dark and dry. Either tie them together and hang them up, or place them in onion bags. Both storage methods should prevent mould, but check regularly to make sure none have perished.

Mr-Fothergills-growing-beans-from-sowing-to-harvestBEANS

Whether it’s runner beans or French beans, the key is to pick them regularly. By doing so, you’re preventing them from setting seed. Ensure they are well watered, and that the base of the plant is well-mulched. Once the plant reaches the top of its staked cane, pinch out the top.

PESTS AND DISEASES

August is the time for pests and diseases. Heat, humidity, and occasional rainfall are the perfect conditions to encourage blight. Check both tomato and potato plants regularly. If you see any signs of the fungal infestation, remove plant/s altogether. If you catch it at an early stage with your potatoes, leave the tubers in the ground, as they may not be affected. Do not place infected plants on the compost heap. Instead, either burn immediately or remove from the site altogether. To reduce blight, encourage a crop rotation system, and try to use blight resistant varieties.

Cabbage White Butterflies will be eyeing up your brassicas to lay their eggs. Check your crops regularly, and remove any eggs or pests you find. Net your crops, use brassica collars when planting out, and introduce nematodes to control caterpillars.

 

PICK REGULARLY

Courgettes, marrows and cucumbers will continue to produce so long as you pick regularly. Cut away excess foliage to help sunshine reach your crops and to prevent powdery mildew. Mildew can also be prevented by watering at the base of the plant rather than on the leaves.

FRUIT

With gooseberries now harvested, it’s the perfect time to prune the plant. You want to create a ‘goblet’ shape to encourage as much ventilation as possible. Remove the inner branches of the plant, and reduce the rest of the plant to about six leaves per branch. This will encourage fresh shoots to grow.

Keep an eye on plum and apple trees that might be weighed down by fruit. If the tree appears to be stressed, support and tie-in where possible. If you’re growing grapes, ensure the growing vines are being tied-in regularly.

Summer raspberry canes should have now fruited. Cut back the fruit canes, and encourage fresh new canes by tying them onto a support.

SOW

Although we’re mostly harvesting now, there are still things to grow. Succession sow salad leaves and spring onions for a continuous crop, and beetroot, kohlrabi and pak choi can also be sown now for a late harvest.

GREEN MANURE

As your veg beds start to empty, consider sowing green manure if you don’t plan to grow  winter crops. Not only will it improve the quality of the soil, but it will help suppress weeds.

 

 

Care and Cultivation of Currants and Gooseberries

March 3rd, 2015 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Upon receipt of your currants and gooseberry plants, unpack and check your plants immediately to ensure they are exactly what you ordered and in the condition you’d expect.

Soil Preparation and Planting

Gooseberry plants from Mr Fothergills'Prior to planting, give the plants a thorough watering. Choose a sheltered area of the garden, avoiding exposed sites. Both currants and gooseberries do best in full sun but will also fruit reasonably well in partial shade.

For best results, a fertile, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil is needed, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter like farmyard manure. Generous manuring is particularly important for blackcurrants.

All varieties can be planted in rows 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) apart, with plants 1.5m (5ft) apart in the rows. Spread the roots out carefully in each planting hole and, after refilling, tread the soil thoroughly to firm the bushes in.

After planting, cut all shoots of blackcurrants back to about 5cm (2in) or two buds above ground level.

Aftercare Tips

Blackcurrant plants from Mr FothergillsYour bushes will benefit from an annual mulch of organic matter, like well-rotted manure or good quality, weed-free garden compost, to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture. Spread it thickly every spring on the surface of the ground while the soil is still moist from winter rain. Gradually over the years it will improve the soil’s structure, drainage qualities and ability to hold plant nutrients in the root zone.

Each year in March, at the same time as you mulch, top-dress the plants with some balanced compound fertiliser and a high potash fertiliser to encourage flowering and fruiting. Blackcurrants also benefit from a high nitrogen feed at this time.

When you weed around your bushes, be careful with the hoe, since these are shallow-rooting plants which are easily damaged by an over-enthusiastic hand.

In dry weather, especially on light soils, give bushes a generous watering about every two weeks.

Pruning

Blackcurrants fruit best on one-year-old wood and the aim of pruning is to ensure that the oldest wood is continuously replaced with vigorous new growths.

At the end of the first growing season the only pruning needed is to cut out to the base any very thin or weak shoots less than 30cm (12in) long that may have been produced.

In later years, pruning consists or removing any straggly and broken branches and between one quarter and one third of the oldest growth, depending in how much new wood there is. New wood is easily distinguished by its lighter colour and pruning can either be carried out after fruiting or in the autumn.

Gooseberries, red and white currants fruit mostly on old wood and pruning aims to control the shape of the bush, keep the centre open and increase the number of fruiting branches.

After planting and each winter thereafter, cut back all main shoots by about half and lateral shoots to about 2 or 3 buds. At the same time remove any broken, very weak or crossing shoots, any suckers that might have developed from the ‘leg’ and any branches crowding the centre.

Make each cut to an outward-facing bud, unless you are pruning a gooseberry that has a rather drooping habit, in which case cut to an upward pointing bud.

The formation of fruit buds will be encouraged if you also summer prune lateral shoots to 5 leaves at the end of June.