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.
A constant reader, (Tren ton, N. J.) This fruit does not succeed here so well as in England, because our climate is too hot and dry for it. In Maine and Canada they bear very finely. To succeed in your garden, you must choose a border on the north side of a paling fence - trench it two feet deep, laying in the bottom spit of the trench a heavy dressing of fresh stable manure. In this plant the best English gooseberries, of such sorts as Crown Bob Gascoigne, White- Sraith,Royal Sovereign, etc. The bushes should be about three feet apart. When planted keep the bushes trimmed to a single stem, and thin out the shoots, in March, pretty freely. The next, and most important point, is to keep the whole border mulched, 6 inches deep, to preserve the coolness and moisture of the earth - in order to prevent mildew. The best substance for mulching gooseberries is salt hay; the next best tan-bark. It is better to have a dozen plants grown in this way, with large clear fruit than a hundred, as we usually see them, covered with mildew.
T. S. The opinions as to mildew among Gooseberries, are various. We have seen them grown successfully, and almost as good as we ever saw them in England, upon the north side of a border, in a garden near New-York, having an open lath fence behind it, against which they were trained. These trees never suffered from mildew, although some in an adjoining garden, planted against a similar fence, but exposed to a western aspect, were covered with it, and the fruit not larger than a fox grape.
S. M. - The Chinese Primrose, or Primula Sinensis, is one of the prettiest things you can get, to enliven your green-house in the fail and winter months. It is cheap, and to be got of any gardener; and the effect produced by half a dozen of them, placed amongst other plants, is magical.
Crown Boh, Early Sulphur, Green Gage, Green Walnut, Red Champagne,
Woodward's While Smith.
New varieties which promise well. Apples.
Mother, Northern Spy, Smoke House.
In pruning these, thin out the centre of the bushes; fruit is produced both on the young wood, and from spurs on the older branches; cut out closely all shoots removed, and do not shorten the points of the young shoots unless your object is to produce wood.
Mildew may be prevented, by watering with soapsuds, over the branches. A radical cure for this pest may be formed by mixing a peck of lime, and a pound of sulphur, in 10 gallons of water; let it stand and settle. A pint, in 4 gallons of water, syringed over the bushes when the fruit is forming, will keep them clean; cover the ground with manure, and spread a small quantity of salt over it, to keep as much moisture as possible about the roots.
Figs should be uncovered; this fruit is much neglected; planted in rather poor, well drained soil, laid down and covered during winter, they are usually very productive.
Mr. Hooker thought Gooseberries a very profitable crop for market, if they could be grown free from mildew. Had raised some for market, which he sold at eighteen cents per quart.
Mr. George Ellwanger had found that the crown Bob, White Smith, and other strong growing varieties, were not apt to mildew.
Mr. Hooker; on light soils, never got a good berry, even with thorough mulching. Had no trouble in growing Gooseberries free from mildew on a heavy soil. Houghton's Seedling had never mildewed with him.
Mr. Ellwanger had never known Houghton's Seedling to mildew, even on the lightest soil.
Mr. Hodge cultivated twenty varieties. Found that, after two or three years, the mildew entirely destroyed them. Does better in a heavy soil, but even then mildews. Heavy pruning and a stiff soil, are the best preventives. Never recollected seeing mildew on Houghton's Seedling.
Mr. Barry said the Gooseberry required a cool, moist soil. In Lower Canada, Maine, and in the northern part of this State, it succeeded almost as well as in the cool, moist climate of England.
Mr. Warren, of Genesee Co., had raised the Gooseberry, without trouble from mildew, in a light soil, on the north side of a board fence.
A slovenly accident has shown us, the past season, how to avoid the mildew. A favorite seedling bush, which gave us a fair-sized, delicious fruit, had, for some three or four seasons, like its transatlantic ancestors, been subjected to mildew, by some neglect, was left to take care of itself. In consequence, the tall grass entered its claim to the soil by virtue of squatter sovereignty, and usurped not only the soil, but the sunshine 1 Early in August, the bush was well laden with fine fruit, untainted by its former enemy. Now, grass around a gooseberry bush is a very unpleasant, slovenly object, and the mildew is a vexatious evil; of the two, however, we prefer the grass and the gooseberries.
Since we are upon this subject, we cannot but say a commendatory word in favor of the " Mountain Seedling," a variety originated by the United Society at New Lebanon, N. Y. We have for several years had it under culture, and, in our experience, it is a firm, hardy grower, the bush attaining a large size, very healthy; an autumnal and abundant bearer, and the fruit (which is a good-sized fruit) quite eatable, good for cooking and preserves, we have never known to mildew. For every purpose, it is far superior to Houghton's Seedling, which, with us, mildews as badly as any other variety, and has long ago been excluded from the garden.
P. S. - Melons and tomatoes have been an entire failure here.
Gooseberries seem for some years past to have attracted less attention; they are getting scarce in market, and consequently bring higher prices. We are dependent on the Houghton, Mountain Seedling, and Downing, of which the first is the most productive; the second the largest and the best for market when ripe; the third the best in flavor.
It is to be regretted that no efforts have been made to produce, by crossing the above with the Lancashire varieties, some larger and superior sorts, that would resist better our summer climate and prove valuable for the table. In speaking of English as Lancaster varieties, as we generally style them, although they grow to as great perfection anywhere on the continent of Europe as they do in England, I am of the opinion that they should not be abandoned without further trial. I doubt, myself, their being profitable in large plantations, as they would hardly receive the necessary care, but the amateur would find his labor well rewarded. I have grown English gooseberries for about twenty years, and never failed in raising a crop, when they received proper attention. I know they will mildew, but not worse than the Houghton, if the latter is left to itself.
The gooseberry requires a good, deep soil, replenished annually by some rich compost, and the ground has to be kept loose and free from weeds, as it has to be mulched. In Europe they train the gooseberry and currant into small trees, about two or three feet high; this will, however, not do in our climate, but 1 think we could improve on this method by raising the bush on a single stem, two or three inches high; this would allow of a better circulation of air and light, two great requisites in gooseberry culture. Let any one try this, and apply the flour of sulphur once or twice during the season, which I find quite necessary even with the Houghton, and he will be sure to reap his reward by raising a crop of large and delicious berries.
During the exhibition in Boston, in the summer of 1872, the prizes awarded were: 1st to Downing; 2d to Smith's Seedling; 3d to Houghton's Seedling.
There are few localities where the large European sorts will thrive without receiving extra care and attention. If such are tried, the main points to be observed are to keep up a supply of young, thrifty plants, discarding the old ones as soon as they become diseased. Clean culture, or mulching the ground, and an annual thinning out of the young shoots to prevent overbearing, are the best safeguards against the great enemy of these fruits - the mildew.
Our native sorts succeed in most localities in the northern States, and with no more attention than the currant; at least, no more than this fruit should receive. Smith's Improved, Downing and Houghton's Seedling are among the very best, although of small size when compared with the foreign sorts.