The gooseberry belongs to the genus Ribes and is widespread in Eurasia and North Africa. Their fruit is also often used in German cuisine, especially as a dessert, jam or topping for cakes. Gooseberries reach a height of between 60 cm and 100 cm. Depending on the location and care, the shrub can grow up to 150 cm in height. As a deciduous shrub, the gooseberry is not only found in the kitchen garden, but is also popular as an ornamental plant. The dark-colored branches are covered with a cork skin, which creates a nice contrast to the green, slightly hairy leaves. Below the short shoots there are mostly three-part, very pointed thorns, which cause some scratches on the skin when the sweet fruits are harvested.

Flower and fruit

In Central Europe, the gooseberry flowers from April to May with greenish to reddish colored sepals. The berries are initially hairy. As soon as they have reached maturity in July and August, they glow with a smooth surface in green, yellow or purple-red. The gooseberry has been grown as a berry fruit since the 16th century because it is particularly resistant, produces fruit even in partial shade and is very easy to care for.

Careful choice of location

Gooseberries prefer a sunny location, but can also cope with light partial shade. However, they should only be exposed to the blazing sun for a short time, otherwise the fruits will literally burn. Ideally, they are planted in nutrient-rich and humus-rich soil that is as well ventilated as possible because they have a high water requirement. Therefore dry and light soils are out of the question for the gooseberry. With regard to the planting, the hobby gardener can choose between a shrub or a high stem. If gooseberry bushes are planted in a row, the distance should be 1.2 m to 2 m, depending on the height of the selected variety .

If possible, tall trunks are planted at a distance of about 1 m so that they have enough space to unfold without creating unsightly gaps. If the decision is made for a high trunk, it is worth adding a support pole at the same time. This means that the gooseberry trunk cannot kink even in strong winds. In addition, it will be well supported if, thanks to careful care, it should bear particularly abundant fruit. Before the gooseberry gets into the ground, this two spade is loosened deeply. The planting pit should be twice as large as the root ball. If you want to make the later harvest a little easier, you can plant along a trellis wire that is about 1.20 m high. The best chances of success for a successful planting are in the period from October to November. In contrast, container goods have the advantage

Proper care for magnificent growth

Gooseberries are basically frugal and easy-care plants. If you pay attention to a few essential factors, you will enjoy them for many years:

  • Support the gooseberry trees with a stake
  • water regularly
  • cover the ground with a layer of mulch
  • annual targeted pruning is important
  • fertilize organically in spring and summer
  • Shake off the snow from the bushes or crowns in winter
  • if the berries are abundant, pick some of them in May

The pruning or cutting of the bushes after the harvest is of particular importance in the optimal care of the gooseberry. If the bushes were planted in autumn, the first pruning is due in the following spring. The strongest shoots are shortened by about a third. The aim of this action is that at least 5 to 6 strong shoots develop. The remaining wood is cut off.

Since gooseberries always grow on the wood of the previous year, regular pruning ensures that there are always new shoots so that a rich harvest is also possible next year. The tall stems have 3 to 4 strong shoots that are cut back to 3 to 4 eyes. If a magnificent crown develops in the following years, 5 to 6 shoots should remain. All others, especially those below the crown, are cut off completely. If the careful care leads to a particularly abundant berry growth, a green pick can be made in May. Some of the gooseberries that are still green are already harvested and canned. As a result of this measure, the remaining berries ripen better, become sweeter and larger.

Mulching improves growth and lifespan

In addition to targeted cutting, mulching plays an important role in the care of the gooseberries. Since these plants cannot tolerate drought, they should be surrounded by a layer of mulch made of organic material. Comfrey is best suited as a mulch for gooseberries. This plant not only has a healing effect in medicine, for example to treat wounds. Comfrey has numerous other advantages that the ambitious hobby gardener can also use for his gooseberries. The large and rough leaves of the comfrey are cut into small pieces and spread on the ground around the bushes. Nettle leaves can also be mixed in. This is where they develop their protective and fertilizing effect because they have a particularly high potassium content.

Of course, mulching with comfrey also works with a detour via the compost. The material should form a layer of about 2 to 3 cm around the gooseberries, because this will suffocate weeds and strengthen the resistance of the bushes against pests. The mulch layer should not be much higher, otherwise mice will quarter here and nibble on the bushes. Therefore, it is advisable to spread the mulch about 10 cm away from the gooseberries. This also prevents harmful fungi from spreading.

Naturally fertilize with nettle manure

Hobby gardeners who avoid the use of chemical clubs as much as possible in their garden use the power of the nettle. The mulch from comfrey already has a fertilizing effect; With a dash of nettle manure you can intensify the growth-promoting effect in a very natural way. The production of nettle manure is child’s play. You will need:

  • Gloves (!)
  • scissors
  • Messer
  • water
  • Wooden tub or bucket
  • fresh nettles

It is not advisable to use a metal container to prepare the mixture, as there are undesirable chemical interactions between the metal and the liquid. Now the fresh nettles are put into the container except for the flowers, which is then filled with water to the brim. The vat is now covered with a grid or a wooden lid so that no animals fall into it and drown. In the following days the contents are stirred several times until fermentation begins. The somewhat unpleasant smell that arises can be prevented by adding valerian flower extract or rock flour. Experienced hobby gardeners place the cesspool in the farthest corner of the garden. When the liquid has turned dark after two to three weeks, the natural fertilizer is ready. But beware! This is not distributed undiluted, but in a mixture of 1 part fertilizer and 10 parts water. In the case of particularly young plants, it should be diluted even more by 1:20.

Different ways of propagation

Since gooseberries are non-root plants, they have the option of vegetative reproduction. This means that horizontally growing sprouts of the plant lower themselves towards the ground. If they come into contact there with a suitable substrate, they in turn form roots, even at some distance from the mother plant. The hobby gardener can support this process. A suitable sprout of the gooseberry is specifically fixed in a groove and covered with substrate. During this process, it is important that the end of the rung is still sticking out. If roots of their own have formed on the shoot after a while, it can be separated from the mother plant. The result is a completely identical gooseberry plant without any mutations.

Another variant of the propagation takes place in the context of the autumn pruning. The annual shoots with a length of about 30 cm below one eye are cut off and placed in potting soil. Only four buds should protrude from the earth. They can then be transplanted next autumn.

Diseases and pests

Mulching and fertilizing make the gooseberry more resilient; however, most varieties are endangered by mildew. As soon as the milky white discoloration appears on the leaves, action must be taken to ensure that the entire plantation is not infected. Heavily infested shoots should be cut off completely. If you don’t want to use the chemical club from the specialist trade right away, you can make a mixture of 50 ml of cooking oil, a little washing-up liquid, 3 sachets of baking powder and 5 liters of water and spray the infected areas with it.

The nettles are used again against aphids; this time, however, not the liquid manure, but the brew, which is created after 24 hours before fermentation begins. With this brew, the leaves are thoroughly misted, which usually drives away the nuisances. The gooseberry wasp can cause a lot of problems for the plant if it deposits its larvae here. These eat the leaves from the inside out until they are completely bald. Collecting the larvae can be helpful – but very painful because of the thorns. A sharp jet of water can also help, as can dusting with stone dust. Natural enemies of the gooseberry wasp are hedgehogs, spiders, birds and ground beetles. Those who design their garden so invitingly that these useful animals feel comfortable, in this way receives active support in the fight against pests. In this case, too, nettle manure can be used to save the gooseberries.

If the gooseberry flies tamper with the plants, you should also hurry because these pests also eat the bushes bare. If their natural enemies, the birds, are not hardworking enough, spraying the infected leaves with a soft soap solution to which a little salt, lime and spirit is added can help. Incidentally, garlic, lily of the valley and yarrow, which you can plant between the gooseberry bushes, help ward off pests and strengthen resistance and increase the yield.

Overwinter

Gooseberries are hardy plants that even frosty temperatures do not harm. However, if a lot of snow has fallen, it is advisable to shake it off the bushes and especially the high trunks so that they do not break.

Since tall gooseberry trees are also beautiful to look at as potted plants, they should definitely have an additional support post to protect them from kinking. It is important to note that the stake extends into the crown of the standard stem, which means that it is adapted to the growth of the plant.

During the winter, the gooseberry plant can stand in the bucket in a screened corner of the house so that a winter storm cannot harm it. If leaves and branches are distributed around the trunk, this provides additional security during the cold season.

When winter is over, weeds can already show up under the gooseberry bushes planted in autumn. Under no circumstances should this be removed with a rake, otherwise there is a risk of damaging the young roots. Simply pulling out the weeds by hand is sufficient in this case.

Conclusion
Anyone who has tasted them will understand why the gooseberry has been planted in German gardens since the 16th century. Even the sharp thorns cannot change their popularity. There are only a few care instructions you need to follow so that this resilient plant can grow and thrive for many years and ensure a supply of jam and sweet cake toppings. In the meantime, numerous different varieties have been cultivated, so that there is something for every taste.

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