Gooseberries are a delicious and nutritious fruit that can be grown in Kenya. They are a great addition to any garden or small farm, and can be used in a variety of recipes, from pies and jams to smoothies and salads. Gooseberry farming in Kenya is relatively easy, and with the right care and attention, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest.
One of the key factors to consider when growing gooseberries in Kenya is the climate. Gooseberries thrive in cooler climates, and will often not produce fruit until a frost has passed. Planting your gooseberries early in spring, or as soon as the ground is workable, is recommended, as gooseberry clippings can survive temperatures as low as 55 degrees. Additionally, it is recommended that green-manure legume crops (cowpeas, desmodium and beans) are periodically incorporated to improve the soil.
In this article, we will provide you with a beginner’s guide to growing gooseberries in Kenya. We will cover everything from selecting the right variety of gooseberry to planting, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting your crop. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a beginner, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to successfully grow gooseberries in Kenya.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Gooseberry is a tropical fruit that can be grown in Kenya’s highland regions. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but it grows best in areas with a temperature range of 7°C to 28°C. The plant requires lots of sunshine and sets fruit successfully provided the minimum temperature is above 5°C. Relative humidity of 70-80% is ideal for optimal growth.
When it comes to soil requirements, gooseberry thrives in well-drained soils with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. The soil should be fertile, rich in organic matter, and have good water holding capacity. Gooseberry prefers sandy loam soils that are free from waterlogging. In areas with heavy soils, it is recommended to improve soil drainage by adding organic matter or planting on raised beds.
It is important to note that gooseberry is sensitive to salinity, and therefore, it is essential to avoid planting it in saline soils. Additionally, the plant requires regular irrigation to maintain soil moisture levels. Drought stress can affect plant growth and fruit quality.
Selecting and Planting Gooseberry Seedlings
When it comes to growing gooseberries in Kenya, selecting the right seedlings is crucial. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting gooseberry seedlings:
- Choose seedlings that are healthy and disease-free.
- Look for seedlings that are at least a year old.
- Consider the variety of gooseberry that is suitable for your climate and soil type.
Once you have selected the right seedlings, it’s time to start planting. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Prepare the planting area by removing any weeds and rocks.
- Plant the seedlings in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.
- Ensure that the soil pH is between 6.0 and 6.5.
- Plant the seedlings at a depth of around 2 inches and space them 3-4 feet apart within the row and 5-6 feet between rows.
- Water the seedlings before and after planting and keep the soil moist until they are well established.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your gooseberry seedlings have the best chance of thriving and producing a bountiful harvest.
Fertilization and Irrigation
Gooseberry plants require regular fertilization and irrigation to ensure optimal growth and yield. Here are some tips on how to fertilize and irrigate your gooseberry plants:
Before planting, it is recommended to add organic matter such as farmyard manure to the soil to improve soil fertility. After planting, apply a balanced fertilizer such as NPK 17:17:17 at a rate of 200-300g per plant per year. Fertilizer application should be done in three split doses; the first dose should be applied at the beginning of the growing season, the second dose during the flowering stage, and the last dose after harvesting.
Gooseberry plants require regular irrigation, especially during the dry season. Irrigation should be done once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions. The soil should be kept moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can damage the plant. Mulching can help retain soil moisture and reduce the frequency of irrigation.
It is important to note that irrigation and fertilization should be done in moderation. Overuse of fertilizers and water can lead to nutrient leaching and soil erosion, which can negatively impact the environment. Therefore, it is recommended to follow the recommended application rates and seek advice from agricultural experts on the appropriate irrigation and fertilization practices.
Pruning and Training
Pruning and training are essential for the growth and development of gooseberry plants. Proper pruning and training will ensure that the plant produces high-quality fruits and remains healthy. Here are some tips on pruning and training gooseberry plants:
- Begin pruning in late winter or early spring: The first year after planting, select about five main stems angled away from the center to keep, removing the others from the base. With a good pair of pruning shears angled at about 45 degrees, clip the side shoots of the remaining stems to about 15 to 20 centimeters (5.9 to 7.9 in), just above a bud.
- Train the plants: Gooseberry plants can be allowed to grow and spread on the ground or trained on a trellis. If a trellis is used, then the spacing between the rows should be 1.5 meters. The plant canopy (new shoots) can be pruned to trigger lateral branch formation for increased area (bushiness) for fruit formation.
- Remove old wood: Remove any old wood that is more than three years old. This will help to maintain the vigor of the plant and promote new growth.
- Remove diseased or damaged wood: Remove any diseased or damaged wood as soon as it is noticed. This will help to prevent the spread of disease and maintain the health of the plant.
- Remove suckers: Suckers are shoots that grow from the base of the plant. They should be removed as soon as they appear to prevent the plant from becoming overcrowded and to promote the growth of the main stem.
Proper pruning and training will ensure that your gooseberry plants remain healthy and productive for many years. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious gooseberries.
Pest and Disease Control
Gooseberries are prone to several pests and diseases, which can significantly affect their growth and yield. Here are some common pests and diseases that affect gooseberry plants:
Aphids: Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that suck sap from leaves and stems. They can cause stunted growth, leaf curling, and deformation of fruits. Spray insecticidal soap or neem oil to control aphids.
Gooseberry sawfly: Gooseberry sawfly larvae feed on the leaves of gooseberry plants, which can cause defoliation and reduce the yield. Handpick the larvae or spray insecticides to control them.
Spider mites: Spider mites are tiny pests that suck sap from leaves, causing yellowing and drying of leaves. Spray insecticidal soap or neem oil to control spider mites.
Gooseberry mildew: Gooseberry mildew is a fungal disease that affects the leaves and stems of gooseberry plants. It causes a white powdery coating on the leaves, which can reduce the yield. Spray fungicides to control gooseberry mildew.
Anthracnose: Anthracnose is a fungal disease that affects the fruits of gooseberry plants. It causes small, sunken spots on the fruits, which can reduce the yield. Spray fungicides to control anthracnose.
Leaf spot: Leaf spot is a fungal disease that affects the leaves of gooseberry plants. It causes small, dark spots on the leaves, which can reduce the yield. Remove and destroy infected leaves and spray fungicides to control leaf spot.
Regular pruning and removing fallen leaves can help prevent the spread of diseases. Keep the planting area free of weeds and ensure good air circulation to allow foliage to dry quickly after rain. Consult a county extension agent for additional control options.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvesting gooseberries in Kenya can be done twice a year due to the bimodal rainfall patterns in the country. The first season is from July to September, while the second season is from December to March. The fruit is typically ready to harvest 55 days after anthesis or when the calyx is dry. Once the calyx dries, the fruit ripens and becomes sweet.
When harvesting gooseberries, it is important to use sharp scissors or pruning shears to avoid damaging the fruit. The fruit should be picked when they are firm and fully colored, but not overripe. Overripe fruit tends to be soft and easily damaged during harvesting and transportation.
After harvesting, the fruit should be sorted and graded according to size and quality. The fruit should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent spoilage. Gooseberries have a short shelf life and can only last for a few days at room temperature. Therefore, it is recommended to store the fruit in a refrigerator or a cool room at a temperature of 0-4°C.
When storing gooseberries, it is important to avoid storing them with other fruits that produce ethylene gas, such as bananas and apples. Ethylene gas can cause the fruit to ripen and spoil quickly. Gooseberries can also be frozen for long-term storage. Before freezing, the fruit should be washed, sorted, and packaged in airtight containers. Frozen gooseberries can last for up to 12 months.
Also Read: Blueberry Farming In Kenya
Sources: Fischer, G., G. Ebert, and P. Lüdders. “Production, seeds and carbohydrate contents of cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana L.) fruits grown at two contrasting Colombian altitudes.” Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality 81.1 (2012): 29-35. Link: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gerhard-Fischer-2/publication/256475195_Production_seeds_and_carbohydrate_contents_of_cape_gooseberry_Physalis_peruviana_L_fruits_grown_at_two_contrasting_Colombian_altitudes/links/00b7d522f608bd695a000000/Production-seeds-and-carbohydrate-contents-of-cape-gooseberry-Physalis-peruviana-L-fruits-grown-at-two-contrasting-Colombian-altitudes.pdf
Kandagor, J. C., et al. “Levels of Awareness for Domestication of Cape Gooseberry Among Farming Families in Baringo County, Kenya.” East African Agricultural and Forestry Journal 86.3 & 4 (2022): 8-8. Link: https://www.kalro.org/www.eaafj.or.ke/index.php/path/article/view/583