Part one of my new allotment overhaul involves creating a space for fruit. The plan is to clear a quarter of the plot, and set aside for bushes.
Grown traditionally, fruit bushes take up a fair amount of room, are low maintenance and harvesting can take place fairly leisurely, so they’re perfect for the allotment.
I’m in the market for some new bushes, and specifically gooseberries. I love gooseberries, especially as a jam. For me, gooseberries make the finest jam and are even better than traditional favourites like strawberry and raspberry.
Gooseberries are easy-to-grow and productive in most soils. Like most fruit, they enjoy a sunny spot so will be happy in the open space of the allotment.
In my previous allotment, I grew Invicta and Whinham’s Industry. Invicta is a popular green, mildew resistant gooseberry, known for its heavy cropping. My bushes were no exception, returning yields up to 6kg.
Whinham’s Industry is a sweeter red berry. I enjoyed leaving the berries on the bush as long as possible until they turned a deep crimson colour. This is when they were at their best, and delicious mixed in with some yoghurt and muesli for breakfast. They made a beautiful, red jam too.
Planting Gooseberry Bushes
Now is a good time to plant bare-root gooseberry bushes, but they can be planted at any point during the dormant season of November to the end of March.
Before I plant my bushes out, I put them in a bucket of water so that the roots are covered. It is good to leave the roots to soak for about half an hour. If the bush has been out of the ground for a while during delivery, this revives the plant which in turn helps the roots to establish.
Having a bag of well-rotted manure on hand is useful when planting gooseberry bushes. Dig a hole for the plant and add a good couple of shovelfuls of the manure before placing the plant so that the root is under the surface level.
Fill in the hole, pat the soil down with your spade or feet and then mulch with compost. Give the plant a watering to finish.
Once established, gooseberry bushes don’t require much watering at all, which is another great reason for having them at the allotment.
Watch Out for the Thorns!
One of the downsides of moving my gooseberries to the allotment instead of the garden is losing the natural barrier which was going to keep Lewis off my vegetable patch. Many gooseberries, especially Invicta, are very thorny – he’d have only run through them once!
With the thorns in mind, it’s worth wearing a stout pair of gloves when harvesting the berries. Those spiky bits will draw blood if you’re unlucky.
Plant a gooseberry bush now and you can be tucking into fruit by June next year. Juneberries will be tarter, so good for cooking, whilst the fatter, juicier July harvest will be much sweeter. Gooseberries freeze well, so pop any gluts into the freezer to cook with over wintertime.