By Barbara Rosholdt
How ’bout them Gooseberries?
Ain’t they fine?
Plump tasty berries,
All in a line!
Sometimes, one thinks Karma is involved. I planted some Hinnomaki Yellow and Red in our tough clay garden soil two years ago (where the afternoon shade will get them in our zone 7 heat) and they died, even with diligent watering.
I tried again and put them under an arbor (no grapes had covered it yet) where the soil was pretty much new fill with a few inches of mulch and some fertilizer and compost and they did well, including a Glenndale, which was “stooled” to be almost a short tree.
So they were kind of “stickery” for me to work around with the muscadines and Something kept getting the gooseberries just before I did (sound familiar)? So I – ha ha – get this – moved all three plants during dormancy late last winter [Ouch]. Spouse refused to help pleading that I was insane. Rose bush handling gloves, a leather jacket, pruners, a shovel and grim determination (and patience) won the day. I took them one at a time [ouch] [ouch] and [Ouch] back to the same side of the garden (which has an 8’ fence with electric wire at bottom), thinking ‘well, yeah, the other ones died, but these have had a year or two to get used to the place and now I know they really like well-drained soil.’ So I double dug the mud, and brought soil from other places and planted them [ouch] on mounds.* I staked the 3’Glenndale and the others with short 2’ stakes. Pruned ‘em all and wished them well.
*By the way, there is kind of nurseryman’s trick here in Zone 7 Virginia. You don’t plant anything in the ground, or it’ll die due to lack of air. You make a hole, do the best you can to chop it up, then fill it mostly in, plant the plant on top and add soil to make a mound so that the roots are covered. Add mulch like icing and try to keep it together until the soil sets. (You people in the sandy areas – just ignore this.)
In 2009, some kind of bad gooseberry karma picked on that Glenndale. I checked my Glenndale after the inches and inches of rain this spring and was horrified to find it lying flat on the ground! I gently (ouch) lifted it up and tied it to the stake better [ouch] and noticed it was loaded with baby gooseberries (I did get a few later!). Lesson learned: when you “stool” the gooseberry, be prepared to really support that stalk it in a very wet spring!
The coups de grace came when in late summer my spouse shamefacedly admitted to creating lawnmower blight on the Glenndale. Sigh. I went out and found it girdled at 1.5 foot – an “Owwie” for Glenndale, and too late in the season to believe a graft would take. So now it is a 1.5 foot stooled gooseberry. I left it alone after taking the top and hoped that it would recover. Bad time of year to prune it, though. I might order another Glenndale to hedge my bets. The fruit was nice and it is precocious.
So now for the good karma: My Hinnomaki Yellow grew madly, trying to take over the world, so did the Red. – And I pruned these plants! [Ouch] Hilling them really did the trick. My spouse had to till between them and the Kiowa blackberries. I’m sure he thought I was out to get him.
Know how I had moved them [OUCH] inside the fence in the garden so that I could actually get some gooseberries? Well, I did get a few, and then they were stripped anyway. Birds or squirrels, but something out there Really Likes them. Better than cherries, mulberries, etc.
I’m sure glad I saw the gooseberry patch at Kentucky State! Now I know they aren’t dying, they just look real, well, dead, in September. Perhaps next year I’ll try netting. They’re close enough to my blueberry bushes maybe we’ll just net the whole affair. As my spouse would say, “What’s this “we”, white woman?”
Remember, Scarlett, it’ll be a better day tomorrow.
Zone 7, Central Virginia