GARDENING: Playing the fool with gooseberries

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I’VE certainly played the fool with my gooseberries.

I bought them about five years ago in a sell-off at the Gateshead Flower Show, three for a fiver for an unspecified yellow variety.

Unfortunately, I was still living under the illusion that my garden got full sun, all day, ignoring the fact that a hedge seriously curtails this.

They were planted next to said hedge and were lucky if they got an hour a day in high summer - not conducive to berry production.

During the garden revamp, I took the opportunity to move them to the old raised bed next to the drive, but I’ve moved them again, to the strawberry patch - they keep the cat off.

My advice to anyone who wants to grow them - spend the extra and buy spineless varieties. Gooseberries are hell on earth to pick. The newer varieties are also sweeter, which means you’re not forced to cook them all the time.

With mine, I pick half the crop when they’re about half-size and still hard and quite bitter, but they cook very well with apples. This means the plants can support the rest of the crop, which will then sweeten and grow to a decent size.

Winter’s a good time to plant bare root plant, or you can pop container-grown ones in virtually any time, as long as you keep them well watered.

I dislike pruning anything, but here’s what you need to know for bush plant: in mid-June to July, shorten the current season’s growth back to five leaves, except for branches needed to extend the main framework. (Fruit should be fine, as it develops mainly on the older wood.)

In winter, remove dead wood and low-lying shoots. Then spur prune all side shoots by cutting them back to one to three buds from the base. Shorten branch tips by one quarter, cutting to a suitable outward facing bud.