[Music] Hello! I’m often asked what’s the best
fruit bush for beginners. Well, one stands head and shoulders above
the rest – the gorgeous gooseberry! Admittedly it doesn’t look like much now, but gooseberries grow well in most soils, they’re very easy to prune, are self-pollinating, which means
you can get away with growing just one, and generous gooseberries give up their
sumptuous sweet fruits in hearty profusion. In short, you really need to grow one! Here’s how. Choose from either culinary or dessert varieties. Culinary gooseberries are usually cooked with a little
sugar to temper their naturally sour taste. They’re perfect in jams, pies, puddings,
and my favorite – a gooseberry fool. Dessert varieties are sweet enough to
eat straight from the bush, a treat you’re unlikely to experience unless you
grow your own. You can also pick some of the berries before they’ve ripened to use in the same way as culinary gooseberries. The berries themselves are typically pale green,
but look out for eye-catching red or yellow varieties too. Most plants are very thorny but some varieties are
easier on the hands, with considerably fewer thorns. Gooseberries will thrive in most gardens, but to get
the most from them grow them in a bright position in rich, well-drained soil. Gooseberries naturally grow into bushes, but may also
be trained as standards like this one here, or against a fence as fans or single- stemmed cordons. Take heart if you really don’t have much space
to spare or you only have a patio, because these hardy fruits can
successfully be grown in containers too. Please note that in a few areas of the United States
growing gooseberries is prohibited because they can serve as a
host to white pine blister rust, a disease devastating to the lumber industry. Check for local restrictions before sourcing plants. Plant bare-root or container-grown gooseberries from
late fall to early spring. You’ll probably need to wait until spring if
the ground freezes solid over winter where you garden. Dig a generous planting hole, then add some
well-rotted compost or manure to the excavated soil. Place the gooseberry into the hole so that the previous
soil level is flush with the new soil level. Feed back the enriched soil around the
roots or rootball, taking plenty of time to firm the soil as you filll to anchor
the roots. Water copiously to settle the soil further, then finish off
with a mulch of organic material to help suppress weeds and feed your new plant. If you’re planting more than one gooseberry,
space bushes at least 4ft (120cm) apart. Cordons can be planted much closer –
just 18 inches (45cm) apart, but tie the stem to a supporting bamboo cane
that’s in turn secured to horizontal wire supports. In moisture-retentive soils
established bushes need very little additional watering, but regular watering in hot, dry weather
is a must for young plants and essential for container grown gooseberries. Apply an organic balanced fertilizer at the end
of each winter to give plants a good start ahead of the new growing season. Then remove any weeds around the root area before
topping up mulches to at least an inch (3cm) deep. Use organic materials like garden
compost or bark chippings for this. Prune established gooseberry bushes to
encourage an open, evenly-spaced branch stucture. This will let in plenty of light
while allowing for good air circulation to discourage disease and pests such as sawflies. Pruning is completed in winter when the bush is
dormant. To start, cut out all dead or diseased wood,
any shoots growing close to the ground, plus tangled or overcrowded branches. Now prune the branches that are left
by cutting back the previous season’s growth by a half. Sideshoots coming off the main branches should be
cut back to between one and three buds from the base. Make all cuts just above an outward-facing bud to
encourage that all-important open habit. Finally, dig up any suckers – that’s stems
growing up from the ground away from the main stem. Birds can sometimes pilfer fruits
before you’ve had a chance to pick them. Stop them in their tracks! Cover plants with netting, or grow bushes inside a
purpose-made fruit cage like this. Gooseberries are ready to pick from early summer onwards. Harvesting dessert or dual-purpose varieties in stages
gives early, under-ripe fruits for cooking, then later fruits to enjoy sweet and fresh. The berries that remain after the first pickings
will also be able to grow larger. Handle the soft, plump fruits gently, and please – wear thick gloves if
the thorns become too painful to bear! Gooseberries are at their sumptuous best
immediately after picking, but they’ll stay fresh enough in polythene bags kept
in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or freeze gluts for a well-deserved taste
of summer later on in the year. There are many ways to enjoy the glorious gooseberry! In jams, pureed with elderflower cordial for drying into
fruit leathers, or boiled with other fruits to make a tangy,
sweet compote to dollop onto ice cream or yogurt. Yum! Give gooseberries a go! They’re hardy, reliable fruits
that deserve to be more widely grown. If you’re lucky enough to grow gooseberries already
and have a variety that you’d especially recommend, please do share it in the comments section below. Oh, and don’t forget to share
any other tips for success while you’re there. You can keep up to speed with
all our latest videos by making sure you’re subscribed. Thanks for watching,
and I’ll catch you next time. [Music]