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U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poorman Rejuvenated


Please, tell me that you love Gooseberries! Or at least that you know what a Gooseberry is! Is it true that many Americans don't know this plant? If to believe what the Raintree nursery catalog says, gooseberries which are highly prized in Europe, "have been sadly neglected in America, probably because most people remember gooseberries as tart and mouth puckering".
Gooseberry standard Poorman is one of the first plants I acquired for my garden. My childhood gardens always had gooseberries. The thorny old plants never failed to give us sweet berries to enjoy fresh and as a jam. Raintree Nursery, where I bought my plant, describes Poorman gooseberry as "a highly flavored, sweet table variety which can be eaten out of hand. The berries are green but turn red when ripe. Considered by many to be the best American gooseberry".
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I chose a standard, i.e. a plant trained to resemble a small tree. I preferred it to a bush type because it takes smaller space, is easier to weed around, and is easier to pick up the berries and also because I like how it looks.
My plant reduced productivity significantly during the last several years. I neglected this poor man which grows in the far corner of the garden. The place is sunny but requires constant clearing of salal and blackberries which try to fill the space around it. Our Homeowners Association requires keeping green boundaries between the lots, so I can't just remove all the greenery around my gooseberry plant. So, regular control of the spreading salal and blackberries is needed.
In the picture below, the plant I am talking about is behind the bean tower. It blends with the surrounding salal and blackberries.

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Another reason for its declining productivity is my failure to prune the plant.
The plant became tangled and unhealthy without regular pruning.
I also didn't provide regular watering which is critical for light, sandy soil.
This January, while the plant was dormant, I removed dead, damaged and crossing branches and also shaped the crown. I tried to keep the center open for light and ventilation. Several main branches, well-spaded, were left. Following the plant growing directions, I cut back to the young shoots and pruned the arching stems to upright sideshoots. Shortening new growth by half and removing lower side growth gave my plant its original tree-like appearance.
If these measures won't help and the plant won't give us a decent amount of berries in the near future, I'll replace it.
I hope for the best, although, because gooseberries are long-living plants, I don't want to lose my well-established plant.
I didn't have an intention to propagate my gooseberry, but the plant did it itself. I think it realized that with such a lousy caretaker as me, it needed to take care of itself.
So, the roots formed where the stem got covered with soil. I was able to separate a small plant. It's sitting in a container so far, waiting for when I prepare a spot for it. They say that with proper care, goosberries can be grown in containers. I might try it since there is not much space available.
It was useful for me to refresh my memory and find information about what a gooseberry likes and doesn't like. I think I'll write it down for future reference:

- Gooseberries like cool, well-drained and fertile soils. Heavier soils can be actually better for them, since they retain more moisture and keep cool. My soil is not heavy at all. It is sandy with lots of rocks. I need to provide regular watering. Uneven watering can result in the fruit cracking.
- Shallow roots should be protected by organic mulch which will also keep the soil cool and moist. - Moderate need for nitrogen. I need to remember this, because I use well-rotten horse/chicken manure in my garden. Excessive amounts of nitrogen can promote mildew and other diseases.
- Exessive nitrogen can lead to a high requirement for potassium. Scorching of leaf margins is a sign of potassium deficiency. An annual dressing of a half-ounce of actual potassium per square yard is recommended to avoid potassium deficiency.
- A fairly high requirement for magnesium. Using dolomitic limestone, which adds magnesium as well as calcium, is recommended.
- To get bigger fruit, some sources recommend composting and frequent cultivation of the soil around the roots from the moment when fruit just appears.
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Plant information:

TYPE: Hardy deciduous shrub
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ribes hirtellum (American)and Ribes grossularia (European).
ZONE / HARDINESS: Hardy to zone 3
MATURE PLANT SIZE: Up to 60 inches high
LIGHT: Full Sun (or partial shade in warmer summer areas)
SOIL TYPE: Well-drained, fertile soil. Soil acidity is not important as for other small fruits.
PESTS: Gooseberry fruitworm & currantworm
DISEASES: Leafspot & mildew
I should remember: Gooseberries bear fruit primarily on 2 and 3 year old wood, that is why equal numbers of 1, 2 and 3 year old shoots should be maintained to provide a renewal of fruiting branches.

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EAT GOOSEBERRIES!

Vitamin C in gooseberries is not diminished by cooking! Wow!
Gooseberries consist of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins (C and complex B), and 80% water.
Among the gooseberries' benefits are: anti-aging (due to its richness in vitamin C), eye care, diabetes control, hair loss control and even the prevention of heart disease.
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

42 comments:

  1. Maybe the gooseberry would work in my heavy soil - it is really not used at all around here, but reading your post I don't know why. Your garden photo is stunning!

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  2. MMMM, gooseberries are awesome--I don't grow them here because we don't have any home grown fruit at this time, but they are so delectable right off the shrub. My bad Spunkycat likes to 'bowl' with them as he does with any round berry or small fruit. He will scoop one right out of a box or bowl and roll them all around the kitchen floor!
    I know that gooseberries are high in vitamin C but nothing will replace my huge love of oranges and other citrus. I think a gooseberry/orange jam would be delightful too...

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  3. Muscadine grapes rule in my area, but I think I'd much prefer gooseberries. Enjoyed your post.

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  4. Dear Tatyana, How splendid of you to extol the virtues of gooseberries which, if space allowed, I should certainly grow. For me, one of the joys of a summer supper is a pudding of delicious Gooseberry Fool.

    I think that your detailed memo on the likes/dislikes of gooseberry bushes will be hugely helpful to anyone attempting them for the first time as well as those whose bushes are underperforming.

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  5. We grew gooseberries in the garden in England, but I don't hear that much about them here in California...except in the context of being a third-wheel on a date :P I used to LOVE strawberry-gooseberry pie as a child. I'm not sure how well they'd grow here, but I'd be very curious to find out. Our coastal climate actually might work well for them. Cheers to you for extolling the virtues of gooseberries.

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  6. Hi;
    I love Gooseberries, too! And, I particularly love how tough they are, growing wild in the areas where I grew up.

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  7. I'm with Michelle - they are lovely in a sweet tart.

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  8. Ok, I probably will be the only one who did not know Gooseberries, nor ate one before. But I am glad that NOW I know it, and it looks very delicious as well! Love the picture of your garden, very lush, and beautiful...

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  9. I love gooseberries - remind me of my childhood and my grandmother's garden. I can't get them in Italy - Italians don't know what they are either. Oh how I miss them.

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  10. Thank you for great post, Tatiana. I can't grow gooseberries in my garden - too warm for them in our climate, and I miss them, especially in pies, so many moons ago.

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  11. Yes, I grow gooseberries, and despite being wholly neglected, on the north side of the house, no less, they manage to produce reliably (for the birds) year after year.

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  12. I have not eaten gooseberries but have heard of them. I will need to find out how they perform in the Southeast. They are beautiful and your garden looks beautiful too.

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  13. I ADORE gooseberries and currants, but sadly they are not to be had in the stores here. I actually bought some currants from Raintree 5 or 6 years ago, but never got fruit on those bushes. I think we don't get enough chill hours. Now, of course, I wonder how many chill hours gooseberries need...

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  14. Tatyana, I've never even seen one, but I asked my husband to come into the room and peek at your lovely photos, and he immediately said "agrishe," which is this berry's name in Romanian, and then told me all about his memories of them, finishing with "Mmm," and smacking his lips.

    Now I am curious to taste one. :)

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  15. I suspect that much of the US is too hot for gooseberries. I picked them in a friend's garden in upstate NY. I believe they also grow in Minnesota, which makes me think the need for chill hours theory has merit.

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  16. Unfortunately, I am one of those who have never heard of or tasted a gooseberry. But, now I can say that I have heard of them thanks to you :^)

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  17. Lots of people grow gooseberries on their allotments, but I haven't got round to planting one on mine yet.

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  18. There is nothing quite like gooseberry jam! Great post Tatyana!

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  19. Hi Tatyana, I used to have Gooseberries in Germany...the kids and I loved them. In German they are called Stachelberren...makes sense!! Oh those thorns.

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  20. I grow green and red gooseberries here in England, and love them, cant imagine anyone not having even tasted them! I find they are good when i have kidney infections.
    best wishes Elizabeth

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  21. I have heard of gooseberries, but I've never tasted one ... it's not a plant that we're familiar with here in north-eastern Oz.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog ... I'm going to try something new to keep those sneaky wallabies out of the courtyard ... something called D-Ter ... which I hope it does!!!!

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  22. I've never tried gooseberries and think I've mostly seen them on European garden blogs. They are pretty little berries and remind me a little of currants. I hope yours does well for you after pruning it. I wish I had room to try one in my garden.

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  23. I am embarrassed to say that I did not know what a gooseberry was eventhough I have heard of it. I am enlightened now. I think I may even see about getting one. You are very convincing and I have been thinking about getting some berry bearing bushes. Thank you. As always I enjoy your posts.

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  24. Your photos are beautiful! I want to reach out and pluck a gooseberry from the bush. I love gooseberry fool. Two years ago, I planted a gooseberry bush. It fell victim to powdery mildew, which I was told was a common problem. Since it didn't return last year, I figured gooseberry growing was not meant to be here.

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  25. Wow, you've sold me on Gooseberries and I haven't even tasted one!
    I'm going to have to go and find one to try now as they sound like they would do alright in my garden and wouldn't mind the heavy clay.

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  26. I love gooseberries! All my childhood gardens had goosebeeries to and I'm planing to plant some this year in my veggiegarden since I've missed them. And I long to eat them directly from the schrub, as cream, jam and in pie / gittan

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  27. Tatyana, I love gooseberries, and I hope you don't end up replacing yours. BTW...your garden space is so pretty!! Back to the gooseberries, I'm also impressed by the fact that they don't lose their benefits from cooking. WOW! I'm also envious of the blackberries...I know they can be a beast to deal with, but....YUM!!

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  28. They grow fabulously here-a bit too well. I had a friend from Indiana who gave me six small plants. They lived in one gallon pots for more than one year, then finally found a home in part shade. They grew well and gave me tons of berries-unfortunately the birds enjoyed them more than me because it was such a pain to pick them. Gooseberries can also be a host for white pine rust so I was leery. They are somewhat invasive here. I had to pull many seedlings. Finally, all large and mature shrubs went to the dump this past fall. Much to the chagrin of my gardening friends who enjoyed the plants. The fruits are tasty though and since they don't ship well they can be worth growing-just not for me.

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  29. I love, love, love, gooseberry jam!

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  30. Thank you so much for your interest in Goosberry! Most of you (5:1) know what gooseberries are and love them. Hooray! Tina is right about white pine rust, that is why it's important to choose disease resistant cultivars: Jahus Prairie, Amish Red, Hinnomaki Red and others. My Poorman is less disease resistant.

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  31. Hi Tatyana; Yes, certainly I know gooseberries. They are a fantastic berry. I had a few bushes in Switzerland. Unfortunately they do not do well here in the subtropics. they need a colder winter then the climate here can provide.
    Your standard Goosberry is so pretty. I like it when edibles are incorporated into the garden.

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  32. I am hoping togrow gooseberries so I will be looking out for your book on all the tips for growing them well.

    Love your frog poem and the phot of the frog statue is georgeous.

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  33. Hi Tatyana

    My Grandfather used to grow gooseberries. We used to have gooseberry crumble for desert. Nice.

    I like the sour sweet note.

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  34. I have never seen a gooseberry plant before reading your blog. I remember that the dwarfs in Snow White wanted to know if she could make a gooseberry pie. Thanks for sharing so much information. I may try to find one for myself.
    Carla

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  35. “Прямо даже не верится”

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  36. Да уж. В этом блоге хоть комментаторы нормальные.. А то пишут обычно в комментарии ерунду всякую.

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  37. Tatyana, I loved the information in this post. Is there an email address I could contact you at directly?
    Sue

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  38. Thank you Sue! You can use Comments, just let me know it's not for publishing.

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  39. Are your gooseberries still doing well? I'm thinking about planting some. Just learned that Jane Austen had some gooseberry "trees" (probably standards) in her garden. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Karen, I still have that standard which I showed in the pictures here. I didn't prune it regularly, and, some seasons, it didn't give a lot of berries. Last year, I pruned it, and it did better. The tree leans toward the sun, and my attempts to straighten it up were not successful. So, it's almost lying down, but still is bushy, and I keep it. It obviously needs a location with full sun! Thank you for asking!

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