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Growing Guides



Gooseberry & Currant Bushes

 

Planting

Gooseberries, currants and Jostaberries need a fertile neutral soil to crop well (a pH of 6.0-7.5 is ideal). They prefer full sun but will tolerate partial shade.

Plant your bushes as soon as possible after receipt, 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart with a 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) gap between rows.

Should weather conditions be adverse (i.e. if the ground is frozen or too wet to plant), then the bushes should be temporarily heeled in until conditions improve. Dig a hole or shallow trench, lay the bushes at an oblique angle and cover the roots loosely with sufficient soil or compost so that no roots are exposed to the air.

Improve the soil structure by thorough digging before planting and if possible mix well rotted manure or compost into the top soil.

Soak the root system in water for 1-2 hours. Dig a hole comfortably large enough to take the root system (so the roots can be evenly spread out), ensuring the top of the root system is level with the surrounding soil or up to 2.5cm (1in) deeper. Apply rootgrow™ mycorrhizal fungi directly to the roots before planting - this will help the plant to establish quickly. Tread firmly and water-in thoroughly.

 

Watering

Keep the soil around the bush moist throughout the first growing season. In later years only water during prolonged dry spells, drenching thoroughly no more than once a week. Container grown bushes will need more regular watering and should never be allowed to dry out.

 

Weeding & Mulching

Keep the area around the bush free of weeds, particularly during the first year. An annual mulch of well rotted compost will greatly improve moisture retention and soil structure, and help suppress unwanted weeds.

 

Pruning (For a Bush)

GOOSEBERRIES To encourage vigorous new growth and help establishment cut all stems back to 30cm (1ft) above ground at planting time. No further pruning will be necessary for the next 3-5 years while growth is vigorous. Your fruit will mainly come on the previous season’s shoots so it is essential to encourage as much vigorous new growth as possible. To prune therefore in later years remove each winter about 20% (one fifth) of your bush, cutting out from its base the oldest and lowest wood that will be carrying the fewest fruit buds.

RED & WHITE CURRANTS
To encourage vigorous new growth and help establishment cut all stems back to 10cm (4in) above ground at planting time. From the first year’s growth select 8-10 main stems (leaders) evenly spaced around the bush as in a wine glass. These will remain for the whole life of the bush - about 20 years. Remove any other shoots and cut back the 8-10 leaders selected to half their length. In future winters cut back the top-most shoot from each of these leaders, again removing about half the previous season’s growth. Every other side shoot should now be cut right back to within 1cm (½in) of its main stem and on these spurs will come the next year’s fruit.

BLACKCURRANTS & JOSTABERRY
To encourage vigorous new growth and help establishment cut all stems back to 10cm (4in) above ground at planting time. No further pruning will be necessary for the next 3-5 years while growth is vigorous. Your fruit will mainly come on the previous season’s shoots so it is essential to encourage as much vigorous new growth as possible. To prune therefore in later years remove each winter about 20% (one fifth) of your bush, cutting out from its base the oldest and lowest wood that will be carrying the fewest fruit buds.

 

Pruning (For a Cordon)

This method of training is suitable for gooseberries, red and white currants and recommended where space is limited.

In June each year prune all young side shoots that are longer than 15cm (6in) back to 5 leaves. Each winter prune the the side shoots again back to 1 or 2 buds.

In the summer, tie the leader to a bamboo cane to keep it upright. Each winter shorten the leader by one third of the new growth until it has reached the desired height. In subsequent years the leader should be stopped at five leaves and pruned back to one or two buds.

 

Feeding

Top dress each spring with a balanced fertilizer (such as Fruit Feed) to help promote vigorous new growth that will fruit the following year.

 

Pests & Diseases

These fruits are generally trouble free but on gooseberries watch out for attacks of Gooseberry Sawfly (causing defoliation) and American Gooseberry mildew (white blotches on the leaves or fruit, eventually turning brown). On blackcurrants watch out for powdery mildew (white blotches on the leaves). Any chemicals should be used strictly as per the manufacturers instructions.

 

Further Information

For further information refer to RHS Growing Fruit by Harry Baker. Useful information can also be found on the RHS website.
 

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