We're still learning about these plants but we seem to have a healthy crop of fruits on one of the plants. This is what we know so far about growing them. We've found it hard to get information on them as they are not grown too commonly in Ireland or Britain. They seem to do very well in containers but need a lot of water when they are setting fruit.
We are still learning about this but there seems to be two options for creating new plants. Take the seeds from a fruit and plant them. These fruits can be bought in some supermarkets in Ireland. Otherwise, the next time you're in a hotel getting your desert nab the cape gooseberry that nearly always accompanies the deserts. I have seen the seeds in a garden shop once but I don't think they will be too easily come by...please let me know if I'm wrong here.
The seeds supposedly need a high humidity to germinate but we pretty forgot about them when we sowed them, letting them dry out several times by accident. Plenty of them grew so just give it a try and see what happens. They should fruit in the first year if put into a large container. If they don't then they certainly will the following year.
You can take a cutting from the plant and these apparently root easily. More on this when we actually try it in the autumn.
Cape gooseberries prefer poor soils. Sandy to gravelly loam is the best. Do not add fertilisers as you will end up with lots of foliage at the expense of fruit.
FROM WINTER TO END OF SUMMER
This is where we have most experience so I will take you through what we did over this period of the year.
During the winter we moved the cape gooseberry into the green house as they are frost tender. The fact that they are in pots makes this a lot easier. We pruned them at this time as well.
They seem to loose their leaves over the winter but in early March they started to come to life again.
By the end of April they were well and truly on the go and were moved outside as the temperatures rose.
At this stage it may be a good idea to pinch off some of the growing tips in order to encourage a bushy plant. More branches means more fruits so you don't want to let a couple of branches grow really tall even though it may look impressive.
By the start of June they were beginning to flower at the tips of each branch. At this stage three new shoots start to develop at the tip of the older shoot(you can see them to the left and right of the flower and behind it. Each one of these will start a new fruit and then three more shoots will start from each one and so the number of fruiting tips increases and increases.
You can see this clearly on the right side of this picture. So as you move up the stem there are fruits at different stages of development. At the top of this photo you can see the flower buds before they open. Yellow flowers then emerge. This falls off and the calyx closes again. This is the lantern like thing that is encasing the fruit as it now forms (bottom of picture). The calyx then grows to about 3 cm in diameter.
It's kind of frustrating not to be able to see the fruit as it develops but we've had a few tentative peeks through the calyx and we can see fruit that are just less that 1 cm in diameter.
Overall there seems to be very little maintenance with cape gooseberries. There was a huge amount of rain during the last 7 weeks and so we did not have to think about watering them but make sure they do get enough water when setting fruit.
They do however need to be sheltered from strong winds or if this is not possible staking is definitely recommended as the shoots are quite soft and easily snapped.
Here are our two biggest cape gooseberries and you can see that we didn't know about the pricking off of the shoots at the start of the season and ended up with one lanky plant. This one was also kept indoors for much longer and this may have just made it go bananas. So it seems that the cape gooseberry does not really want high temperatures in order to set good fruit. There was only a fraction of the amount of fruit on the lanky one. Also, as the lanky one had been kept in doors it suffered from constant attacks of woodlice. These little fellas seem to enjoy nipping off all new flowers and nothing else. I think they suck sap from the plant at these sites but I'm not 100% sure. So very few of the meagre collection of fruits survived and we decided to cut back the plant and just see what it does.
Here is a close up of the fruits on the good plant at the moment. It is still flowering and so we are expecting a really good crop. We are holding our breaths as we can barely believe that we will have these amazing fruits in abundance fairly soon.
Hopefully the next post will be on harvesting the ripe fruit.........