When to pick gooseberries
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If you want to grow a fruit bush you can’t beat planting Gooseberries bushes. The fruit can be used for making pies, jams, sauces and tarts and later, when the fruit is sweet and ripe they taste amazing picked straight from the bush and eaten fresh.
There are quite a few varieties of gooseberry plants and some are sweeter than others whilst some might produce a sweeter fruit, others may be more resistant to diseases such as gooseberry mildew and grow better in heavier soils.
When to harvest gooseberries
Gooseberries produce fruit towards the base of the previous year’s branches so winter pruning is essential to get the best harvest. Gooseberries are best picked twice, pick the more green under-ripe fruit and remove around half, (this is known as thinning) and this is usually done around June. These can be used for cooking.
A few weeks later, usually around July the rest of the fruit should be ready for picking.
When are gooseberries ripe and ready for the final pick?
Once the remaining fruit is soft to touch they are usually ready for picking. They will be full of natural sugars and sweet. Keeping trying them fresh from the bush until you are happy they are ripe enough.
The the local blackbirds usually let you know as they start to make an appearance and take the fruit.
Protecting the buds and fruit
Birds take a liking to both the new buds and the fruit so you may want to cover your gooseberry with a fine garden netting to protect the fruit.
Another problem many gardeners have is sawfly caterpillars which will strip every leaf off the plant leaving it bare. Watch out for signs of them and hand pick them if possible, if this proves ineffective you can try spraying with an insecticide that is suitable for fruit bushes.
Correct pruning (which is done in winter) will help promote more fruit and help light get to the fruit which will aid the ripening of fruit quicker. Pruning also helps leave the centre of the plant open making picking fruit easier and improves air circulation which helps prevent mildew.
This mildew is easily identifiable by the powdery grey fungus which affects the leaves, stems and even fruit.
Treating should be be done by removing any leaves and stems affected as soon as it is noticeable and burn to dispose of. Spray affected plants with a fungicide that contains ‘myclobutanil’, better air circulation will help prevent it so space plants 5ft apart and prune in winter.
- Planting in a exposed windy site will help deter sawfly and prevent mildew. Plants in sheltered sites seem to get attacked more often.
- Keep plants watered in summer, especially when fruit is forming.
- Avoid applying fertiliser and apply plenty of potash that promotes more flowers and fruit. Fertiliser will encourage new foliage growth which will attract sawfly which will lay their eggs when they hatch they will strip plants of their leaves.
Best Gooseberry varieties
There are over 150 cultivars of gooseberry plants but below are our 5 recommended varieties that will perform well and produce large crops and grow well in most gardens.
- ‘Langley Gage’
- ‘Whinham’s Industry’
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