It is best to plant the bushes in November when the soil is warm, although they can be planted at any time after that until the end of February.
Plant shallowly so that the stem stands-well above the ground. This will discourage sucker-like growths from coming up from the roots. Dig a hole about 6 in. deep and about 2 ft. across, spread out the roots evenly in the hole and then replace the soil, treading it down firmly. Plant bushes with 1-ft. Stems 5 ft. square or, if the soil is very heavy, 6 ft. square, and bushes on 3- or 4-ft. stems 6 ft. apart. Plant cordons 2 ft. apart. After planting, wind black cotton among the branches to keep the birds away from the buds.
In the winter two years after planting dress the soil with 1/2 lb. Wood ash or 1 oz. Sulphate of potash per sq. yd. Repeat this dressing every third year from then on. In addition apply 4 oz. Bone meal per sq. yd. in February every year.
As with other soft fruits, it is wise to cover the soil with straw 1 ft. deep in the May or June after planting. This acts as a mulch, retains the moisture and helps to prevent the gooseberry mildew spores from drawing up from the soil on to the leaves. Organic matter will be pulled into the soil by worms so add only about 3 in. straw in the following year.
If gooseberries have not been mulched with straw, do not fork or dig among them as they are shallow-rooted plants. Cultivation should be done with a hoe and be no deeper than 1 in.
Gooseberries can be pruned in March by either the regulating or the spur-pruning method. For the first four years, cut back the leaders or one-year-old growths on each branch by half to just above a bud, so that strong branches will be formed. A few laterals may also require cutting back to an upward-pointing bud.
After the fourth year it will be necessary to decide whether to spur-prune bushes to produce large berries for dessert or whether to adopt the regular pruning system to produce smaller berries in quantity. If the latter method is adopted, merely thin out the branches here and there every year to let in light and air. If the gooseberries are to be spur-pruned every year, cut back the one-year-old side growths or laterals to within 2 in. of their bases, and cut back the leaders by about half. When the bushes are ten years old, it may be necessary to thin out every other spur to reduce the number of fruit buds. Prune cordons on the spur system.
Start thinning the berries at about Whitsuntide and take the largest berries each time so that the remaining berries will get more sap and will swell up better. Always thin out the berries of the large dessert varieties until they are about 1 in. apart.
Gooseberries can be propagated by cuttings, which should be taken just before the leaves fall in the autumn. Choose healthy 4-in. lengths of one-year-old wood to ensure good stems. Make a cut with a sharp knife just below a bud at the bottom end, and a second cut just above a bud at the top end. Afterwards remove all except the top three buds from the cutting.
Then dig a trench 6 in. deep in a sunny place and set the cuttings upright 6 in. apart in the trench, put back the soil and tread it down well.
Pick the cooking varieties as required when they are large enough, but leave the dessert gooseberries on the branches until they are fully ripe.
Recommended Varieties of Gooseberries
Bedford Red, mid-season. Medium sized, red. Makes strong bush. Good for picking green as well as for dessert.
Broom Girl, early. Oval, yellowy-olive.
Careless, early. Large greeny-white. Easy to grow. Heavy cropper.
Cousen’s Seedling, very late. Bright yellow, good flavour. Prune to keep upright.
Freedom, mid-season. Smooth white. Susceptible to gooseberry mildew.
Golden Drop, mid-season. Greeny-yellow. Good flavour. Upright grower.
Green Gem, early. Good-sized, green. Grows easily. Heavy cropper.
Keepsake, late. Large, pendulous pale green. A strong grower. May be damaged by frost at blossom time.
Lancashire Lad, mid-season. Large, dark red. Strong upright grower. Resistant to mildew.
Lancer, mid-to-late-season. Large. Good for cooking or dessert. Strong spreading grower. Green.
Langley Gage, mid-season. White to pale green, delicious. Upright grower.
Leveller, mid-season. Extra large yellow dessert. Spreads moderately. Needs well-drained soil.
London, very late. Large, dark red. Ex-cellent for shows. Strong grower but has drooping branches.
Profit, mid-season. Large green oval, excellent flavour. Moderate grower.
Ringer, mid-season. Bright yellow, a show prize-winner. Medium to strong grower.
Warrington, late. Slightly hairy, medium sized, red, excellent for jam. Spreading grower.
Whinham’s Industry, mid-season. Red, good dessert. Strong but arching grower. Liable to mildew.
White Lion, late. Large white dessert with excellent flavour. Strong spreading variety.