Tuesday, 21 July 2009

WAITATI EDIBLE GARDENS: Ask Aunt Lucy

WAITATI EDIBLE GARDENS: Ask Aunt Lucy

by Lucy Jack

Dear Aunt Lucy

Last year my gooseberries had no fruit on them . . . any advice?

Fruitless-on-the-flats

Dear Fruitless

Gooseberries are cousins of the currents and are derived mostly from
two species: the European gooseberry (Ribes grossularia), native to
the Caucasus Mountains and North Africa; and the American gooseberry
(R. hirtellum), native to northeastern and north-central United States
and adjacent parts of Canada. The leaves of European types are
alternate, single, deeply lobed, and glossy dark green. American
types are pale to grey-green and sometimes a wee bit hairy (in jargon
this is termed 'finely pubescent'- how revolting).

Both types need the same treatment and should fruit if they are
between 2 and 20 years old. Are yours too old?

Gooseberries are self-fertile so they don't need a buddy to produce
fruits, so that can't be the problem.

Gooseberries are also pretty unfinicky about soil, though they mustn't
get waterlogged and need to be kept moist especially when forming
fruit- perhaps they dried out at this critical time? Try a good bed of
mulch this year.

Birds are notorious for pecking out the young fruits in late spring
and then coming back for more in summer to eat the almost
ripened fruits. If the plant flowered and appeared to stop here, birds
might be your problem and netting would help.

You could also increase productivity by (painfully and pricklingly)
pruning this winter to cut out any weak or dead branches. On the
outside of the bush, young
growth should be left untouched, older and longer side shoots should
be cut back to within 2cm of their base. The aim is to
achieve a wine-glass shape with the centre of the bush reasonably
clear of growth. Of course, if you can neatly trim an obnoxious,
belligerent gooseberry bush into a 'wine glass shape', you are a
superwoman and may feel such an overwhelming glow of pride that you
don't give a stuff about the gooseberries.

Yours,

Aunt Lucy xxx

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