Gooseberries are one of the first fruits to leaf out in the Spring, so when Nourse Farms asked me when I’d like my Hinnomaki Red gooseberries shipped, of course, I said, “As early as possible!”
As early as possible meant they arrived this week. I stuffed all 10 plants in the crisper drawers of the refrigerator, then went outside to prepare the ground.
No matter how early a fruit plant is, there is always a weed (or several!) that leaf out even earlier. Although we’d plowed and cover cropped the Gooseberry Area in 2015, perennial weeds still poked through. The ground was probably too damp to plow or till and even if we did, all it would do is chop up those perennial roots so that each piece would re-root as a whole new weed! As growers who use organic techniques, we couldn’t spray anything, but we could yank all those weeds up and then feed them to the chickens as seen below:
As you can see, our chickens LOVE weeds and what they don’t eat, they will rip apart and toss around so that not even a piece of perennial weed root has a chance to grow into another plant. This was also the week I was collected chicken eggs to place in the incubator for baby chicks — giving the hens these weeds means that they had access to extra vitamins so that they would have stronger and healthier baby chicks.
After the weeds were removed, we planted the gooseberry plants, then surrounded each plant with newspaper held down with wood chips. The gooseberry plant is in the center – it’s not easy to see as the leaf buds have swollen, but the leaves have not yet come out.
We placed heavy cardboard between each section of newspaper and held it down with more wood chips. Normally, this would be enough for gooseberry plants, but with the snow and heavy frost coming on Saturday night, we covered the entire Gooseberry Area with straw like this:
There really are gooseberry plants under all that straw! (The poles are marking where the pawpaw fruits were planted last year) While the straw will protect the plants from a light frost (such as we’ll be getting tonight), we’ll have to cover the entire area with tarps to trap a few degrees of heat on Saturday night when it’s supposed to get into the low 20s.
Sometimes in farming, you don’t have good choices. The gooseberries were breaking dormancy and needed to get in the ground. The rains from yesterday and next week will help them get over transplant shock. However, this means they must be protected from the deep freeze that will happen on Saturday night. We’re doing the best we can for these plants so that in 2017, we’ll be able to offer these very tasty (and very pretty) Finnish dessert gooseberries for sale.
In happier news, we’ll finish collecting chicken eggs from our hens on Saturday and will put them all in the incubator later that day. 21 days later, we should have baby chicks!