This fruit has been grown in gardens since the reign of Henry VIII, but it is unknown when either the wild gooseberry, Ribes grossularia, or cultivated varieties were introduced to Britain. The origin of the first part of the word gooseberry may possibly be explained by the use of the berries as a sauce for young or green geese.


Gooseberries are grown cither on a 6 in. ‘leg’ or as cordons. Like red currants, they will grow on almost any land which is not deficient in potash, but for best results, a deep well-drained soil containing plenty of organic matter is necessary. Choose 2-or 3-year-old bushes and plant about 5 ft. apart. Cordons should be not less than 18 in. apart, with 5 ft. between rows.

Very heavy dressings of either animal manures or inorganic forms of nitrogen encourage soft, sappy growth which often succumbs to attacks of American gooseberry mildew but light dressings of farmyard manure are beneficial. Sulphate of potash or bonfire ashes are essential — potash deficiency soon shows up as leaf scorch, poor growth and restricted cropping. Gooseberries bear their fruit on both new shoots and spurs from older branches. Newly planted bushes should be pruned fairly severely, about two-thirds of the main branches being removed.

Pruning of established gooseberries takes place in February (earlier pruning is best avoided as birds sometimes take the remaining fruit buds). Varieties vary in growth, some tending to spread and droop, while others are more upright in habit. Those in the former category, such as Leveller and Whitesmith, should be pruned to upward buds. The general aim is to keep the centre of the bush reasonably open to facilitate picking and to let in sunlight. All dead shoots and crossing wood must be removed. Long shoots may be tipped. The side shoots may also be cut back to about 2 in. from the base, although excellent fruits are produced on one-year laterals.

Where American gooseberry mildew has attacked the bushes, all mildewed shoots must be pruned hard in September. As a general rule, mildew attacks on the shoots are confined to the dps. The berries may also be attacked.

The side shoots of cordon gooseberries should be shortened to about 4 buds in summer and to 2 or 3 buds in winter. Leaders may also be tipped in February.

How to Pick Gooseberries. Gooseberries for dessert are picked only when fully ripe. Those required for cooking may be gathered earlier, and this helps to thin out the berries. Gooseberries keep several days longer than raspberries and strawberries, but are best eaten or cooked as soon as possible after picking, or the flavour will deteriorate.


Cuttings are best taken in autumn. Select well ripened one-year-old shoots between 12 and 15 in. in length and remove all buds except the topmost three or four. If the lower buds are left, suckers will spring up from below soil level and a bush type will develop instead of a gooseberry grown on a ‘leg’. Plant firmly 6 to 8 in. deep and 6 in. apart. The top 2 or 3 buds should show well above ground level. If the soil is heavy, it may be lightened by adding some sand. While a trench is the ideal medium, it should be pointed out that gooseberry and all soft fruit cuttings will sometimes ‘take’ if just pushed into the ground. The following autumn, side shoots should be pruned to about 1 in. from the main stem to encourage the formation of new branches. Two-year-old bushes may be planted in their permanent quarters and any side roots removed, leaving only those at the base (the latter are known as the ‘crown’ roots), thus producing the ‘leg’.

Choice of Varieties:. The same varieties may generally be used for either dessert or culinary purposes, except, perhaps, Lancashire Lad. Generally speaking, the yellow and small dark green varieties are the sweetest for dessert.

Bedford Yellow: a good mid-season variety, ready about the same time as Lancashire Lad. Must not be sprayed with lime-sulphur. Careless: A mid-season variety with large pale green, almost white, berries. The main variety grown for commercial preserving, especially in the Wisbech area.

Green Gem: a late variety which has done very well in the National Fruit Trials at Wisley. Heavy cropper. Resistant to American gooseberry mildew.

Lancashire Lad: a mid-season red variety. Young, green berries are excellent for cooking.

Leveller: a late variety. Yellowish-green berries. Crops very heavily, if given generous feeding and perfect drainage. Must not be sprayed with lime-sulphur.

Whinham’s Industry: a mid-season red variety, widely grown for market.

Liable to American gooseberry mildew. Does well in a shady position.

Whitesmith: a mid-season variety, whitish-green in colour.

Insect Pests and Fungus Diseases:

Gooseberry Sawjly. Symptoms: The adult lays its eggs in April and May underneath the leaves and usually in the centre of the bush towards die ground. The caterpillars reach maturity in about 3 weeks. There are 3 generations, so a constant watch must be kept throughout the summer for defoliated leaves. Fruits are not attacked. The caterpillars subsequently overwinter in the soil.

Treatment: Since the sawfly does not lay its eggs until spring, winter washing is useless. Provided, however, that dusting or spraying with a derris preparation is undertaken directly the first caterpillars are seen, control is easy — shaking the branches will soon reveal their presence. Green Capsid Bug and Magpie or Currant Moth. Descriptions of damage and control measures are given under Pests of Red, White and Black Currants — see CURRANTS.

American Gooseberry Mildew. Symptoms: American gooseberry mildew was first noted in Ireland in 1900 and reached England six years later. In some seasons it attains epidemic proportions, though attacks have been less frequent during recent years. The disease occurs more frequently on bushes which have been heavily manured. Young leaves show white powdery patches, chiefly on the undersurfaccs. Young shoots and berries may subsequently be attacked. The mildew turns brown and it overwinters on the dps of the new shoots. Old wood is not attacked. Treatment: Remove and burn all mildewed shoots, etc. directly they are noticed. Keep the centre of the bushes open by careful pruning, so that air can circulate freely.

Three applications of lime-sulphur should be given, the first just before flowering, the second after the fruits have set, and the third about three weeks later. For sulphur-sensitive varieties, e.g. Amber, Bedford Yellow, Early Sulphur, Leveller, a wettable sulphur should be substituted. It may be used on other varieties as well. A washing soda-soap solution may be substituted for either of the above and can be used on all varieties without varying the dilution rate. Mix 2 lb. of washing soda and 1 lb. of soft soap with 10 gallons of water. Spray at bud-burst and repeat at fortnightly intervals.

Karathane is also effective against this disease. It can be used on sulphur-sensitive varieties.

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