Testing Nature’s Zoning Laws

Posted on February 17, 2012

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Gooseberry picture from Ison's Nursery

The gooseberry.

It grows as far North as the Arctic Circle. Can you see why growing such a thing in Tampa may be impossible. Except for the fact that the plant can get up to 6 feet wide, I’d consider potting it and bringing it in the house. We have steered away from house plants, though maybe not intentionally, but partially because we have house birds until they are large enough to go outside and we like the idea of an outside oasis.

According to the USDA zoning charts, Tampa is a 9b zone. The area is prime for mangos, oranges, lemons, strawberries, watermelons, certain hot peppers that need very warm weather, and so on. The zone for gooseberries wasn’t listed when I purchased the plant as a part of our tax return garden stimulation plan, and it turns out the ideal zoning for gooseberry bushes is 4-6. Oops? Nature Hills has an Oregon Champion gooseberry plant that is zoned for 3-8 (that’s a wide range!), but I’m fairly certain I got the standard green gooseberry that may faint in the summer heat.

In an effort to preserve my accidentally displaced garden berries, I transplanted them from the tiny front yard to one of the shadiest parts of the side yard and I’ll mulch it up to keep the roots nice and cool during the summer. Who knows, maybe the heat won’t kill it, but will just stunt it a good bit and it will make a come back in the cooler months. Only time will tell, as currently it’s just looking like a twig with two tiny sprouts at the very base of the plant. I hope it survives because I’ve never even had a gooseberry and would like to try the gorgeous striped berry out of my own soil.

Anyone even remotely close to this far South have any luck with more Northern berries under certain conditions? I’d looked into alpine strawberries, but noticed their tolerance early on and opted for “Sweet Charlie” strawberries (also Ison’s) which are ever-bearing and share my name. So far they are doing splendid, hedging a few beds of duck feed and greens.

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