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Gooseberry - What are they all about?

 
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I recently was inside my local Tractor Supply and I was blindsided by a display full of different plants. Being weak on willpower and with a few dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I snagged two gooseberry plants that I have brought home and planted into the ground.

I have tended wild blackberries before along with grown strawberries from time to time but this is a new world for me. I have read that the plant can be thorny but the fruit can be utilized fresh or in cooking. I'm wondering if anyone else has them and has wisdom to impart. Maybe share a jam recipe?

I also have read that they have some specific pruning requirements to ensure they don't suffer from powdery mildew. While I don't mind pruning up a plant, do people have experience with just letting it go?

 
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I love gooseberries but I'm still getting the hang of growing them. When we first moved here around ten years ago, we bought a dozen plants, about three different varieties. We planted them all over the place and the one that grew the fastest, healthiest and fruited soonest was the one planted on the sweet spot on the west facing treeline. Too far into the trees and they didn't fruit. The ones with full sun have are growing soooooo slowly and only fruited for the first time last summer. The one on the tree line is at least five times bigger and has been producing fruit for many years now.

My childhood friend had gooseberries which is the only place I ever ate them before growing my own. Hers were also near a tree line, though on the southwest side if my memory is correct. (Both evergreen tree forests, hers were cedars, mine are Douglas firs.)

I haven't had a single issue with powdery mildew though that could be my climate or it could be the varieties. I don't really prune them, haven't needed to yet since the majority were too small.

My biggest one is still only a small bush about 2' tall; the branches are more than double that since they go up and then arch back to the ground. I should look into what benefits pruning might give. I've been leaving that one alone because the tips have been rooting where they touch the ground and I would like it to keep spreading since it's in such an ideal spot.

I also have a josta berry, which is a cross between a currant and a gooseberry. That thing is HUGE- the branches arch up higher than 5' and then fall back to the ground. It gets loaded with fruit and I've had no disease or pest issues. It is also growing in full sun in poor soil that used to be gravel right next to the gravel road. It does get good drainage because of that gravel I think.



 
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I think some varieties of gooseberries have better mildew resistance than others. I expect it's most likely they have been selling a modern variety with some resistance. Mine is Invicta:

how to prune gooseberry bush
my gooseberry thriving on neglect!

It has big sweet berries when very ripe, but you can use the thinnings for jam just as well. Easy to propagate from cuttings here - just stick them in the ground in autumn and bam! a new plant. If your climate doesn't favour that, then I find that they also layer quite well too. Sometimes inadvertently, since the bushes can get a bit sprawling if not pruned, and I quite often forget, which doesn't seem to do any harm. I think of the pruning as like for a miniature apple tree, and just open out any congested branches and trim back any overlong ones and that seems to work.
I've made Jams, chutney, cordial (that was rather yummy!) crumbles, and also just eat them neat when ripe! Mine are in a pretty shaded spot, so I don't think they will like much heat as Jenny said. But having them in different locations here also staggers the harvest as the ones with more sun ripen first.
 
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The gooseberries I tried to grow in Seattle were ravaged by a worm - currant sawfly or something like that.  Wasps would come and clean them out, but they'd let them come back, it was kind of a worm ranch for the wasps and the worms ate up the leaves real fast, so they weren't a very effective control.  Keep an eye out for them, maybe you can nip an infestation in the bud.
 
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Donn Cave wrote:The gooseberries I tried to grow in Seattle were ravaged by a worm - currant sawfly or something like that.  Wasps would come and clean them out, but they'd let them come back, it was kind of a worm ranch for the wasps and the worms ate up the leaves real fast, so they weren't a very effective control.  Keep an eye out for them, maybe you can nip an infestation in the bud.


Yikes! You've got me worried now that I've just been lucky so far. 🤞
 
Nancy Reading
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We have gooseberry sawfly in the UK.
how to grow gooseberries
sawfly

source
Apparently there are a few different flies that target gooseberry bushes. The damage looks pretty bad - they can strip a bush before you know it, but apparently it doesn't do the bushes much harm in the long run. I generally leave them for the birds, some years are worse than others.
 
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