how to get gooseberry bushes to fruit
(Sheldon, IA USA)
I have an older gooseberry bush that I have been harvesting around Memorial Day, but now the fruit is very small. I do not need any this year as I have several bags frozen, but would like your suggestion and when and how to prune it it get larger fruit. I live in NW Iowa. We use the fruit to make pies which are tart, but very good. Any pointers you give will be appreciated.
Keith, now, before the beginning of July you need to lightly prune the current year's growth of your gooseberry bush. Cut it back to about 5 leaves. Don't cut out last year's growth as this is what will give you your gooseberries come Memorial Day! However, by cutting back the leaves you are forcing the plant to put more energy into the fruit.
Be critical when pruning. Look at the form of the bush and whatever cutting to make of the new growth, make sure that by cutting it, it doesn't affect the overall framework of the tree. What you are really looking for are those extra branches that you can easily lose.
Come winter you want to do the same thing. Prune any of the side shoots back to 1 or 3 buds from the base. Prune all your branch tips by a quarter of their current length.
Finally, make sure that your gooseberry tree is always in moist soil. Never allow the soil to dry out, especially during the long, hot summer.
Gooseberries are heavy feeders and need an annual application of well-rotted farmyard manure and blood and bone dug around the bush every autumn.
In the spring you can put some pellets of chicken manure around the plant. However, if you over-fertilize your gooseberries you can end up with a loss of leaves, and again no fruit. So a good balance is required.
This should reinvigorate your tree and produce the size of fruit you have been used to getting.
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