Our woodlot is loaded with wild Missouri gooseberries (Ribes missouriense), from which we pick and sell quite a few quarts per year. This is a pleasurable and profitable activity, but it could be more profitable for us and more economical for our customers if we could pick larger berries and thus have a higher yield per hour spent.
Toward that end, I'd like to start planting cultivated varieties to accompany the wild ones. Everything I've found thus far (admittedly from a rather meager attempt at Google) runs way more expensive than I could afford, mostly north of $6 per plant when purchasing by the few hundred. I know I could spend the money on a few plants each of a few varieties, wait a few years, then take cuttings and propogate and so on, but I'd like to cut straight to the chase. And because they'll be planted where they will be accessed by plenty of nibbling critters, I don't want to spend too much just to have them eaten.
So does anybody have a source for economical gooseberries in bulk? I'd think fresh cuttings would be ideal, if they'd survive shipping to be stuck in the ground. Assuming they'd be considerably cheaper, I could get a lot more plants for the money and provide a better safeguard against nibblers. So what have you got?
Rebecca Norman wrote:Maybe you're already doing this, but is there any chance you could improve the production of your existing plants more light, water, and/or nutrients?
The ones that produce well are on the edge of the woodlot, where they get considerably more sunlight than the ones deep in the woods. They may get more fertility, by way of cattle manure, than the ones deeper in, but sunlight seems to be the biggest contributing factor. Even then, there's a wide range of sizes, owing to the genetic diversity in a wild population. But the biggest of these are still quite small compared to cultivated varieties.
Edited to add:
In other words, genetics seems to dictate size of berry, while conditions seems to influence yield (in number of berries) per plant. There will be two plants growing side by side, one with berries nearly twice as large as the other. The limiting factor in picking yield is size per berry, since it takes the same amount of time to pick a small berry as a large one. Hence my desire for larger-fruited (cultivated) varieties/plants. It would certainly be interesting to try to breed up a line of large-fruited "wild" gooseberries, but that's way down on the priority list.
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