Gooseberries

Preparation

Choose an open sunny or partly shaded spot, sheltered from frost & strong winds. Prefers a slightly acidic soil, but must be free draining & fertile.

Planting

Plant at a distance of 4-6ft (1.2-2m) apart. Prepare a 2ft x 2ft (60cm x 60cm) area at each planting spot by digging a hole approx. twice the diameter of the root-ball or pot. Line the bottom of the hole with fresh compost or well rotted manure. If using manure, also ensure it is well mixed in with the soil. Plant with the old soil mark (if visible) level with the surface. Replace the soil by gently treading it back in and it is a good idea to apply a general purpose fertiliser mixed in with the soil at this time, ensuring the plants get the best possible start. Water in well.
If planting between November and March, cut back all branches by half after planting.

Pruning

This should be done between November & March but should not start until 2 years after planting. Remove any branches that may be diseased or weak. As the plant matures i.e. 3-4 years old cut back the new growth produced by the leaders by half. Cut back the side shoots growing from the leaders to approx. 2in.

Ongoing Care

If the plants are not protected by a fruit cage, then it will be necessary to cover them duringwinter to avoid birds damaging the buds. Occasionally due to frost, some plants may have lifted during the winter. Check for this, and carefully tread down any that may have done so. Regular weeding is important. Hand weeding is recommended, however if using a hoe, ensure you don’t go too deep to avoid damaging the roots which can lead to suckers being
produced. Watering is vital during spells of dry weather. It may be necessary to cover the plants at night during flowering period (March/April) when frosts are forecast. Water in a general purpose fertiliser i.e. Growmore, in March. Once this is done, apply a mulch such as well-rotted manure or compost. This will help keep the soil cool & moist as well as keep down the weeds. Bear in mind that it is a good idea to cover the bushes when the fruit is beginning to ripe to keep birds at bay. If Mildew occurs, spray with an appropriate fungicide.

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