When you think of growing fruit, you probably don't think of gooseberries.

But this tasty fruit is easy to grow and makes excellent pies, jams and jellies. Its ease of growing, small size, and attractive red, green, or yellowish fruit, which are high in Vitamin C, make gooseberries well suited for home gardens.

Gooseberry shrubs are low-growing (2 to 5-feet) and thorny. Plants will generally produce for 15 to 30 years. The fruit looks unique having an oval shape and fine lines under the skin.

Unlike most fruit crops, gooseberries tolerate partial shade. In fact, because of our hot summers, this cool-climate native prefers some afternoon shade to avoid leaf and fruit scalding. Sites with a northern exposure are another alternative.

Your planting site should also have good air circulation to reduce disease problems. The soil should have a pH of 6.2 to 6.5, be fertile, and well-drained. Incorporating organic matter (compost, manure, chopped leaves, etc.) is desirable for improved drainage and water-holding capacity. Because their roots are shallow, only extending 8 to 16 inches, they are also suitable for raised beds.

There are many varieties that can be grown in Kentucky. Generally, gooseberries are self-fertile, meaning you only need one for fruit production. You can increase the size and quantity of fruit by planting two different cultivars to allow for cross-pollination.

Below are some available cultivars:

n Poorman: large red fruit; fewer thorns; good flavor; susceptible to leaf spot

n Hinnomaki Red: Excellent raspberry flavor-tart; red berry when ripe; crunchy texture; good disease resistance

n Amish Red: good flavor; red berry when ripe; good texture; good disease resistance; limited availability

n Black Velvet: new cultivar; heavy yields of dark red fruit; blueberry flavor; excellent disease resistance

Gooseberries should be grown in the spring. The shrubs should be spaced 3 to 4 feet apart in rows. Set plants 2 inches deeper than they were growing in the nursery or container and its branches should be cut back to 5 inches.

Also, strip off flower buds or blossoms so that no crop is produced the first year. This is important for good plant establishment.

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