In all parts of western and eastern Europe a number of varieties are cultivated, larger in size but not better in quality than our selected American varieties As yet the eastern European varieties have not been tested in this country. The varieties introduced from England and west Europe have not failed as generally as the foreign grapes. In some sections east of the lakes two or three English varieties are grown commercially, and a number of seedlings with a possible admixture with the native species are grown across the continent. This is specially true of such fine American seedlings as Industry, Triumph, and Chautauqua.
The American varieties now widely grown, such as Champion, Downing, Houghton, Pale Red, Pearl, and Smith, have been produced by selection and seedling production, like our American plums, raspberries, and blackberries. In quality they are superior to the European varieties, but as yet they do not equal them in size. As
a fruit for dessert and culinary use the gooseberry has not as yet come into such general use as in England, but its, use is gradually increasing. It is now found in most home gardens and is grown commercially near our larger cities. With the increased use of the fruit the European distinction between dessert and culinary varieties will be recognized and increased interest taken in the development of new and improved varieties by hybridizing, seedling production, and selection.
The gooseberry is closely related to the currant, and is propagated in nearly the same way. The wood does not ripen as early as that of the currant, and there is less gain in the fall planting of the cuttings. The most successful mode yet tested is to tie the cuttings with willow bands in small bundles and bury on dry ground for early spring planting. For home use, or even more extended propagation for sale, layering is practised (53. Spring Layering). The young wood bent down and covered in the spring will make strong plants for planting the next spring. Some varieties, like the Champion, will emit roots from near the points of growth without aid where they reach the earth in moist seasons.
Growing from seed is only practised by those who wish to secure new varieties by selecting the best of the seedlings. The surest method with small lots of seed is to mash the berries in sand in jar or box and bury outside for winter freezing, or in warmer climates they may be kept anywhere where the sand can be kept moist. In the spring plant sand and seed together in shallow box or boxes, to be kept in the shade until perfect leaves are developed on the seedlings. If not sown too thickly the plants are exposed to the sun late in the season and not planted in rows for trial until the next spring.
Like the red currant, the gooseberry bears the best fruit on two-year-old wood. Hence the main pruning consists in removing canes older than three years. Grown in the ordinary bush form, little pruning is needed the first two or three years after planting. If on rich soil and good culture is given, some clipping back in early spring of the strongest shoots is beneficial, as it favors the development of fruit-spurs below. If not clipped back during the first year, the canes will get long and the fruiting-spurs will be at the top on canes so long that the fruit will bend it to the ground. With the American varieties no attempt should be made to keep an open top. The fruit should be well shaded, especially in the Western States, from the direct rays of the sun.
The gooseberry has a habit of growth favorable for training in many ways. In England the writer has seen gooseberry plants said to be thirty and even forty years old trained on walls and buildings of such size and spread of wood that the single plant gave each year over one bushel of fruit. Our American varieties in like manner can be made to cover a low arbor. Indeed, as Fuller says, "It may be trained as espaliers, or in almost any manner that one's fancy may suggest."
The gooseberry is pecu-liarily a northern plant. In hot climates it fails altogether or loses its leaves too early and the fruit is small and poor. Like the currant it loves a rich soil, continued early shallow culture, and mulching, when the fruit is half grown, like the raspberry, to give best returns in field culture. In home gardens, such American varieties as the Champion can be grown on the north side of a fence where no other fruit will grow, or between tree rows, where the plants can only be warmed by the sun at certain hours of the day.
To show its nature in our climate more fully, it is well to state that mulching the whole spaces between the plants with ten inches of hard coal ashes and cinders for a period of twelve years in Iowa gave continued crops of large fruit without a trace of mildew, and this experiment included varieties subject to mildew with common culture, such as Industry and Triumph.