This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
All my bushes are trained on a stem six or eight inches from the gronnd, before they branch off, and trimmed so they have a uniform shape. The trimming should be performed in February, or as early in March as possible - the gooseberry being among the first that shows the approach of spring, so it is the first that needs attention. In trimming, when I wish to renew a bush, or any portion of it, I cut back to a good bud near the main stem, to obtain a good growth of wood for future bearing, and then cut off from a third to a half of the last years' growth, of every twig or shoot on the bush.
The trimming completed - the roots are carefully uncovered, and two or three shovels-full of manure are worked in about the roots, with a fork, being careful to injure them as little as possible; this finished, the earth to be replaced.
I have all my garden trenched every season before planting, and as the diggers approach the bushes, and uncover the deeper roots, they apply some manure to them also.
That some varieties are more disposed to mildew than others I have good, reaaon to be-Here. I purchased a few boshes in market, represented as being " extra fine," but I found with the same treatment as the others they showed a slight disposition to mildew.
That the mildew is contagious, I do not question. Haying pot a lot of cuttings on the shady side and extreme edge of the garden, for the purpose of rooting, they were left to take care of themselves, being neither trimmed, manured, or the least attention paid to them. Early last May the leaves became very much mildewed, and I soon found that the fruit on them, and a row of bearing bushes which were six feet distant, and ran parallel with the row of cuttings, was affected just as far as the mildewed cuttings extended, while all the others were free from blight of any kind.
The operation of shortening the twigs, is to increase the growth of the new wood and reduce the quantity of fruit, so that the bush can perfect what it bears,and furnish new and vigorous shoots, which are indispensable in order to secure a future crop.
I have lately adopted the following plan: trench the ground two feet deep; manure and mix thoroughly; set out two feet apart well rooted plants one year old,trimmed to a straight stem twelve or fifteen inches long; take off all the lower bods, six or eight inches from the ground; permit them to grow at random the first year, (putting down a slight stake to steady each.) Last autumn they appeared as No. 1. This winter I clipped off from a third to a half of last year's growth, (as at a on branches of No. 1,) giving the bush a good shape. The next was cut back to one or two good buds close to the main stem, and appears when trimmed as No. 2. The next is trimmed as No. 1 and so alternately.
The advantage of this method is simplicity - takes up little space, ensures new wood with large thorns, which always produce the best fruit. The trimming is performed with ease and rapidity, affording the bearing bush ample space, light, and air, while perfecting the fruit, by which time No. 2 will have filled up the open space. The winter following, No. 1 is cut back, and appears as No. 2, while No. 2 will take the appearance of No. 1.
My experience, after thirteen years successful cultivation and observation on the habits and wants of the gooseberry,fully satisfies me that the latter plan faithfully carried out, will ensure a fine crop with little trouble, as well as adding beauty and uniformity to a bush, that is too apt to be neglected, and makes a hideous appearance in our gardens. The person from whom I obtained my stock (then very good) has since for want of attention permitted his to run down, so that they are far below mine in size; while mine have been improving, and last summer when offered at our horticultural exhibition were awarded the first premium. [Thanks for this sensible and practical communication. Ed].
Yours truly, Ac. J. C. Thompson. emphinsvills, Staten Island, N. Y., Feb. 20,1852.