Question of the Week
Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information regarding small fruit production.
Gooseberry and Currants:
Gooseberry and currants are closely related (both are Ribes spp. ) and have relatively the same management requirements. Currants have three different distinct varieties-black, red, and white and gooseberry varieties range from greenish-white to red. While they will tolerate a wide range of soils, a well-drained soil high in organic matter will bring the highest yields.
Plant currants 2-4’ apart, depending on the variety, and gooseberries 4-5’ apart. Currants and gooseberries have relatively little pest pressure. White pine blister rust used to be a big problem with Ribes species, but there are resistant varieties available now. Mature plants will yield 4-5 pounds of fruit per bush. Gooseberries have thorns and this should be a consideration in the harvesting of fruit.
Elderberries tolerate a wide range of soils, but are best in a well-drained, slightly acidic (pH between 5.5 -6) soil. Plant the elderberries in the early spring into well-tilled soil.
Elderberries respond well to pruning. In a study on different pruning methods, the plants responded best to selective pruning, but yields were also quite high in pruning the plant entirely to the ground with a brush hog in the fall (Thomas 2008). The cultivar Gordon B consistently out-yielded the other cultivars in all trials. You can expect typical yields of 15 pounds per bush for elderberries.
Elderberries are susceptible to Tomato Mosaic Virus which is transmitted by root knot nematodes. Biofumigation using mustard cover crops has shown to be very effective for nematode problems. For more information on this see the ATTRA publication “Nematodes: Control Alternatives”. You might want to plant a mustard cover a year before in the area you are planning on planting elderberries.
General pest management issues for these small fruit crops:
Birds can be a significant problem on all of the small fruits you inquired about. Netting, raptor perches, and bird alarms are effective tactics for managing birds in fruit orchards.
It is critical to create a space that has very little weed pressure, since the perennial nature of these crops will make cultivation difficult. This can be done through cover cropping before planting, and mulching the shrubs annually after planting. Mulching also helps to keep the soil cool and moist during the typically dryer and hotter months of summer, which all of these plants would respond well to.
Thomas, Andrew. 2008. Elderberry Trials Bear “Fruitful” Results.” Southwest Center “Ruminations” Newsletter. Jan. – March 2008. Vol. 14 No. 1. University of Missouri Agriculture Experiment Station.
New Crops Opportunities Center. 2008. Gooseberries and Currants. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.
California Rare Fruit Growers Association. 1996. Gooseberry. California Rare Fruit Growers Association web site.
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