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Gooseberry

Ribes sp.
Varieties to choose from
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Invicta

The Gooseberry of Ribes, native to Europe, north western Africa and south western Asia. The gooseberry is indigenous in Europe and western Asia, growing naturally in alpine thickets and rocky woods in the lower country, from France eastward, perhaps as far as the Himalaya. In Britain it is often found in copses and hedgerows and about old ruins, but has been so long a plant of cultivation that it is difficult to decide upon its claim to a place in the native flora of the island. Common as it is now on some of the lower slopes of the Alps of Piedmont and Savoy, it is uncertain whether the Romans were acquainted with the gooseberry, though it may possibly be alluded to in a vague passage of Pliny the Elder's Natural History; the hot summers of Italy, in ancient times as at present, would be unfavourable to its cultivation. Abundant in Germany and France, it does not appear to have been much grown there in the Middle Ages, though the wild fruit was held in some esteem medicinally for the cooling properties of its acid juice in fevers; while the old English name, Fea-berry, still surviving in some provincial dialects, indicates that it was similarly valued in Britain, where it was planted in gardens at a comparatively early period.

Landscape Value

Try the plant espaliered against an west facing wall for morning sun. You could also grow as a hedge, small tree or as cordons.

Nutritional Value

Fruit has good levels of Vitamin C and fairly good levels of vitamins A, B, and are high in fibre, potassium, copper & manganese.

How to Eat

Rich in pectin, when they are slightly unripe so are ideal for sauces, jams, preserves, pickles & jellies. The tartness makes an excellent foil for oily fish, poultry or meat. They also make a good filling for crumble or suet pudding.

Expected Yield

4 kg s from a mature plant.

Generic Fruiting Time

J F M A M J J A S O N D

Growing

Sun

Do not like to grow in full sun and prefers partial shade.

Wind

Too much exposure to wind is likely to break branches, so protect from the wind in coastal regions. Hot winds will stress the plant. Plant so exposed to southern winds.

Climate

Gooseberries require some chilling hours to fruit but will fruit in Auckland south. They prefer mild summers.

Soil

Grow well in poor soils including heavy soils as long as they are well drained. Gooseberries grow well in cool soils so mulch with organic matter. They are not drought tolerant, will grow poorly in after recovering from drought. Regular moisture is essential.

Planting

Space plants at 1 to 1.5m apart, in rows about 3m apart. Because of their thorns do not plant beside walkways. Mulch well.

Fertiliser

Gooseberries are moderate nutrient hungry liking regular applications of a balanced fertiliser. With the additions of extra potassium and magnesium in the growing season.

Pruning

Much difference of opinion prevails regarding the mode of pruning this valuable shrub; it is probable that in different situations it may require varying treatment. Prune as a small bush or small tree (by single leadering then to open-vase shape). The fruit being borne on the lateral spurs, and on the shoots of the last year, it is the usual practice to shorten the side branches in the winter, before the buds begin to expand; some reduce the longer leading shoots at the same time, while others prefer to nip off the ends of these in the summer while they are still succulent.

Pests

The bushes at times suffer much from the ravages of the caterpillars of the gooseberry which often strip the branches of leaves in the early summer, if not destroyed before the mischief is accomplished. The most effectual way of getting rid of this pretty but destructive insect is to look over each bush carefully, and pick off the larvae by hand; when larger they may be shaken off by striking the branches, but by that time the harm is generally done; the eggs are laid on the leaves of the previous season. The gooseberry is sometimes attacked by the grub of the Gooseberry sawfly (Nematus ribesii) of which several broods appear in the course of the spring and summer, and are very destructive. For the destruction of the first broods it has been recommended to syringe the bushes with tar-water; perhaps a very weak solution of carbolic acid might prove more effective. If the fallen leaves are carefully removed from the ground in the autumn and burnt, and the surface of the soil turned over with the fork or spade, most eggs and chrysalids will be destroyed. The main disease is the Gooseberry Mildew which is brought on by humid conditions and drought stressed conditions. Keep well watered but not over watered. Fungicide spray from flowering is a preventive. An organic treatment (I have not tried) of 1kg washing soda and 0.25kgLux flakes in 45 litres of water. Spray at flowering time and as often as necessary afterwards.

Hardiness

-10°C

Special Conditions

 


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