This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The Gooseberry is a first cousin of the Currant, and belongs to the same genus. It is derived from Ribes Grossularia, a spiny-stemmed shrub indigenous to the north of England, but also found in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia.
Gooseberries are grown chiefly in England, probably 16,000 ac. being devoted to their culture, the largest centres of the industry being in the counties of Kent, Worcester, Cambridge, Middlesex, and Norfolk. There are probably 800 ac. of Gooseberries in Scotland, and 770 ac. are given as the acreage for Ireland. Unless the industry is crushed out by regulations in regard to the American Gooseberry Mildew, there is no reason why such an easily grown and generally profitable crop as gooseberries should not be considerably extended in the cooler parts of the kingdom.
Assuming the capital outlay for bushes and the annual expenses to be about the same for Gooseberries as for Red Currants (see p. 154), and the crop to average about 4 tons to the acre, the annual receipts and expenses (excluding rent and rates) per acre would work out as follows: -
4 tons at £10 per ton =
£40 0 0
£40 0 0
£15 0 0
25 0 0
£40 0 0
There are probably 18,000 ac. of Gooseberries in the United Kingdom, with an annual crop of about 72,000 tons, the value of which would be about £720,000. [J. W].
The Gooseberry may be planted in the open as a full crop, or among top fruit as an under crop. It is safe to plant a greater breadth of Gooseberries than of either Currants or Raspberries because of the increasing use that is made of the fruit when unripe. Its season lasts from middle May to early August. If planted in the open, the distance for strong-growing varieties should be 7 ft. 6 in. by 6 ft.; and for less-vigorous varieties 6 ft. by 5 ft. Under trees the distance must be governed by that at which the trees are planted, but the spaces should not be less than those mentioned above. In purchasing bushes it is well to have them with 8 to 9 in. of clear stem before the branches start; the Gooseberry is always inclined to droop its branches, especially when a weight of fruit bears them down. It is well to leave cutting the tops until the year after planting, when they can be cut back hard to outside buds. As the bush grows it should be trained so that the branches radiate from the centre. Crosspieces should be taken out, but after the third year no topping should be done. The object in training a Gooseberry bush is to encourage the formation of white wood and leave clear spaces unobstructed by cross wood for the hand of the gatherer. If the growth is too luxuriant and free, plenty of phosphates and potash should be used. Soft, sappy growth is very liable to contract the American Gooseberry Mildew. As an additional precaution against this, spraying as late in the spring as it is safe, before the buds cast their winter sheath, with sulphate of copper 1 lb. to 25 gall, water, has been found useful. Another enemy of the Gooseberry is the Sawfly caterpillar. This pest spreads very rapidly, and if unchecked will soon defoliate every bush, destroying all chance of a crop the next year, besides seriously menacing the life of the bushes. The Sawfly caterpillar usually makes its appearance in May. The eggs can be seen on the ribs of the leaves in the lower parts of the bush; from these little black larvae soon hatch out and commence feeding on the leaves, which they rapidly reduce to bare ribs. There must be several broods in a year, and the damage they can do is enormous. Various methods of checking them are adopted. Some growers say they find casting fine grit sharply into the bushes, so as to knock the caterpillars off, sufficient; some use Hellebore powder with a Torpille machine; some spray with a poisonous fluid. Whenever the pest appears, energetic measures must be taken to combat it, and the safest is to spray with something poisonous enough to kill the caterpillars. The soil should also be hoed as often as possible, to bring the pupae up for the birds.
Sometimes Red Spider attacks the plants. This will happen mostly in cold backward springs. The evidence of the presence of the pest will be a paling of the tint of the leaves, which will take on a transparent appearance and show signs of browning at the edges. If the under side of the leaves is carefully scanned, minute red dots will be seen; with a moderate magnifying glass, that these dots are spiders will be clear.
To get at this pest it will be necessary to spray the under side of the leaves. The nozzle must be turned up and held at the bottom of the bush. A good poisonous spray that is not injurious to foliage must be used here also (see p. 147).
Although a good many varieties of the Gooseberry figure in the catalogue of the nurseryman, the number of them that are worth planting for market purposes is small.
May Duke or May Queen (the names seem synonymous for the same berry) is the earliest for picking. This variety does best in sheltered positions on warm soil. The fruit is of a light-green colour and swells quickly. In favourable situations it is big enough to pick green at the end of May. When ripe it is red in colour.