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Gardening Hints for May

May 1, 2018

It takes time to reorganise a garden. Ideas that you feel are viable one year, get taken over by ‘brilliant new’ ideas the next. The evolution of a garden continues as catalogues drop through the letterbox, you visit local Horticultural Shows or you delve into gardening magazines. You make the best use of the space available.


The pruning of the Apples and Pears was made in good time this year and the Gooseberries were transplanted at the beginning of March. It would have been better in the Autumn to give the roots a chance of recovery over the Winter, ready for that early leaf and flower production. They had been scattered through the garden and I decided to pull them together. So, in they went 4 feet apart with some good organic matter and a dose of compound fertilizer: ‘National Growmore’. I then mulched with organic material from the compost heap. Gooseberries are prone to Potassium deficiency and so the bed was dressed off with Sulphate of Potash at half an ounce per square metre. These fertilizers will be available at your local garden centre.  

Never stint on preparation of a crop which is going to be in the ground for a long time. So similar preparation is necessary for a hedge, shrubs and ornamental and fruiting trees.


An isolated bush, cultivar (variety) “Invicta” had not been pruned for two years and had provided us with 42 pounds of fruit last year. The problem is that not pruning the plant does increase the crop but the plant sprawls all over the place and is a devil to pick. Because there are many more fruit they are likely to be smaller. So, one of the reasons for pruning is a balance in fruit numbers and size. You can also end up with many rooted plants which is useful if you are looking for more plants.


Some varieties have branches which tend to hang down close to the soil. This allows branches to ‘layer’. This is easily encouraged by pulling down the branches onto the soil and weighing them down with a stone. They then produce roots at a node or where a bunch of leaves sprout. When rooted this branch can be pruned off as a new plant. You can do the same with cultivars ‘Hinnonmacki Red and Hinnonmacki Yellow’. Cultivars ‘Careless’ and ‘Whitesmith’ are more upright and take a little more effort. Black and Red Currants can also be propagated this way.


Buying fruit plants can be a little expensive so if you have stock yourself it is a cheap way to propagate new plants and a worthwhile opportunity to help out a neighbour. Pruning of the mature gooseberry plants should aim to give a clear leg, remove old branches, crossing branches, damaged, weak and crowded bushes. Remove not more than a third of the bush. Cleaning out the centre of the plants lets in the light and air and gives a wine glass shape, making it easier to pick the fruit. Shortening side growths encourages fruiting spurs and reduces the incidence of mildew, especially in warmer weather.


Mildew infection usually starts in the soft growth tips. If it is seen it requires to be pruned out, preventing it from spreading to the rest of the plant and berries. The pest ‘Gooseberry Sawfly” easily recognised but seen early as a caterpillar, should be sprayed or removed by handpicking. Sawfly can strip a bush in a few days so an eagle eye is called for.


You can grow plants as a bush, half standard or as seen at Ripley Castle Gardens; against a wall in a fan shape. Half standards allow you to use the ground underneath for growing other crops like Strawberries or short-term vegetables like Radish and Lettuce. If you have limited space you can get plants grafted onto the stock of ‘Ribes aureum’; the stock help to reduce the vigour of the plant.


There are around 3000 Gooseberry cultivars with 150 in cultivation. The newer cultivars have overcome some of the problems of ‘Leafspot’ and ‘Mildew’ and so are fairly trouble free. They are good fruit to grow for they like slightly alkaline soils, good drainage and will tolerate some shade. One of the first fruits of the season; they make a great fruit pie!


dave@daviddmitchell.co.uk       Yorkshire Landscape Gardens     T: 01977689858



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