Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Growing Gooseberries The Good Old Fashioned Way

Modern Gardens have seen a return to many age-old growing systems but none has become more prevalent than the art of growing your gooseberries as cordons or half standards. 

Two widely differing methods curiously enough fulfil the same basic needs. Both take up less space than a traditional gooseberry ‘bush’ and both are easier to maintain. With cordons the bushes are reduced to just one or two main stems, the small fruiting spurs come from this one or two branches and a row of 6 of these cordons can be accommodated in just a 9’ length with virtually no width required at all.

Train them against a post and wires or against a fence or wall. A very productive method and so easy to prune and harvest. Half standard gooseberries look just like a standard rose with the rounded gooseberry ‘bush’ on top of a straight clean 4’ standard stem. Neat and formal, very easy to harvest with no bending, if any gooseberry bush could justifiably be called attractive than it is these.

They produce the same yield as a normal bush. These growing methods have increased greatly in popularity recently as gardeners seek them out for more formal areas of the garden, potager, kitchen garden or in containers.

A standard is very specialised propagation technique, at the Nursery,  the bush has to be budded onto a pre-prepared standard stem, in other words its ‘glued’ on top because an ordinary Gooseberry bush would not be capable of producing such a long straight stem on its own. Happily when you receive it the hard work is already done and all you have to do is plant it, stand back – and admire!

Mildew Resistance – a boon to modern Gooseberry growing
Once the bain of Gooseberries every year, the dreaded powdery mildew ruined countless tonnage of fruit. Not any more. Painstaking selection has resulted in a slew of modern new varieties that remain as clean as a whistle and mildew resistant gooseberries.

What’s more they yield more heavily and with no loss of flavour. Here’s my recommendations.

  • Invicta With its massed clusters of pale green fruits all down the stems, a great variety for all culinary purposes and the number 1 Gooseberry variety.
  • Greenfinch An earlier maturing variety with bottle green fruits just waiting for a pie.
  • Rokula The first mildew-free ruby red Goosegog, it is so sweet it can be eaten fresh as well as made into all those wonderful Gooseberry treats.
  • Hino Red Is an ultra hardy European cultivar, it has more than a smidgeon of mildew resistance, crops its heart out, and has a lovely sweet taste too. Lastly you can have a thorn-free Gooseberry – and it has some mildew resistance too!
  • Pax (meaning Peace, presumably because the air wont turn blue every time you scratch yourself trying to pick the fruits) is deep red, sweet and a good grower. It also has some mildew resistance.

With Gooseberries increasingly unavailable to buy in the shops it’s good to know you can still grow your own gooseberries and all you need is just a single 3’ width to grow 2 cordons.

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