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How to Grow Gooseberries

A guide to growing Gooseberries in gardens, allotments and containers

Gooseberries

Family/Latin Name

Grossulariaceae - Ribes grossularia

Type of Plant

Hardy Deciduous Shrub

Suitable for

Gardens, Allotments, Large Containers

Recommended Plant  Forms Bush, Cordon
Jump to:-    Plant Sizes  |  Yields  |  Pruning   |  Pests & Diseases 

 

Growing Gooseberries - Details

See also:-  Fruit Growing Glossary  |  Tree Forms  |  Container Growing  | Buying Plants

 

Site and Soil

Prefer full sun or partial shade out of strong winds
Tolerant of most soil types provided they are well drained
Suitable for large containers

Space required

See table below

Yield

See Table below

Time between planting  and harvesting

 2- year old plants: Produce the season after planting

Planting Time

Bare root/wrapped root ball: Best - November to March (soil conditions permitting)
Plants supplied in pots:  Best - November to March 
Alternative - Any other time (soil conditions permitting)

Number of plants needed for pollination 1
How to plant - Open ground Prepare the ground in Autumn before planting, forking in a general fertiliser such as Growmore. The addition of potash is also desirable at planting time.

Space bushes 1.5m/5ft apart on all sides: space cordons 38cm/15" apart. Cordons will need staking with canes supported by wires.
How to plant - in containers Cordons  - container size minimum 45cm/18" wide x 60cm/2ft deep. Good drainage is essential so make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Place a 2.5cm/1" layer of stones or crocks in the bottom and cover with enough soil or compost so that when you place the tree in the container, the original planting depth (which you should be able to see on the stem of the tree)  is 5cm/2" below the top of the container. Fill the container with soil or a loam based compost to the original planting depth. Firm well and water in.

  Aftercare Open Ground - Yearly pruning will be necessary in the first 2-3 years (see below). Apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost once a year in  spring and a supplement of a potash rich inorganic fertiliser is helpful in February.
Containers -  Yearly pruning will be necessary (see below). Apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost during the first  year in  spring and a supplement of a potash rich inorganic fertiliser is helpful in February. In subsequent years, it is best to carefully remove some of the soil from the container and replace it with fresh compost. Do this carefully so as not to damage the roots. Keep the containers well watered.
General - Protecting from birds with netting . Keep watered.
  Harvesting Most varieties of Gooseberry bush produce fruit suitable for both cooking and eating. Gooseberries for cooking are just  harvested earlier than those for eating.  Pick about 10% of the fruit when they are very small (about the size of a pea) in mid-May and use these for cooking. This 'thinning' will encourage the remaining fruits to become larger so make sure you pick berries evenly from all over the plant. Start harvesting the remainder around July time, picking individual fruit from the bottom and in the middle of the plant as these are less likely to improve with time, leaving the fruit on the outsides of the bush to be picked later.
  Propagation Not easy. In Autumn cut 30cm/12" long pieces of mature wood just below a bud. Plant the cuttings to around half their length deep. Don't bother to remove any of the buds. Transplant to a new position in winter, once the roots are well developed which takes about 1 year, removing the lower side shoots to create a short bare stem.

Gooseberry Forms Dimensions

Expected Yield Per Mature Gooseberry Plant

Bush
Cordon
Height: 90cm/3ft        
Height: +2m/6ft
Spread: 1.6m/5ft
Spread: 30cm/1ft
    Bush
Cordon
4-5kg/8-10lb
0.5-1.5kg/1-3lb
For a complete guide to and explanation of the various fruit tree forms click here

How to Prune Gooseberry Bushes - General

Cluster Leaves on stemLaterals sometimes have a set of cluster leaves at their base then spaced leaves all the way up their stems. Always ignore the leaf cluster when counting the leaves to prune back to e.g. the diagram below has been pruned back to 5 leaves on the right had lateral and 3 on the left hand lateral

Bush Cordons
After planting in winter, prune the main  leaders (branches)  by half to an appropriate bud. If the branches are the drooping or weeping kind, prune to an upward pointing bud. If the branches are upright, prune to an outward facing bud. Remove any shoots or laterals  from the bottom 10cm/4" of the main stem and, if necessary, prune out any shoots which are crowding the centre to 1 bud.

Subsequent years - In Winter prune the new growth on each main branch by half, choosing the bud as above. Prune back any wood which has died back to healthy wood. Once the bush has reached the desired height, prune main leader and branches to leave 8cm/3" of the previous summer's growth every winter. Remove any shoots or laterals  from the bottom 10cm/4" of the main stem as well as any suckers at the base of the plant. In June  prune all the new growth on laterals to 5 leaves of the current year's new growth. Summer pruning should be completed by Mid July.
Currant CordonAfter planting in winter, prune the main  leader by half to an outward facing bud and  prune all side laterals on the main stem to 3 buds. Remove any shoots or laterals  from the bottom 10cm/4" of the main stem. Cordons will need support by being tied to canes which are fixed to wires. Repeat this pruning 3 years running. Remove any suckers around the base of the plant.

Subsequent years - In Winter prune the new growth on the main  leader by one quarter to an outward facing bud and prune all laterals/side shoots on the main stem to a bud about 7.5cm/3" from the main stem. Remove any shoots or laterals  from the bottom 10cm/4" of the main stem as well as any suckers at the base of the plant. Once the leader has reached the desired height, prune back to 3 buds of the current year's new growth. In June  prune all laterals to 5 leaves of the current year's new growth. Summer pruning should be completed by Mid July.

Gooseberry Pests & Diseases

Pests Diseases
Birds - like to eat the berries which can decimate the crop. Protect  with netting, cotton or cages.

Aphids  -
can cause leaves to curl or honeydew or mould to form on the fruit and leaves. There are chemicals available to combat aphids which can be bought at garden centres. Organic methods include spraying with diluted washing up liquid ( 1 teasp per 2 litres of water), companion planting of flowers such as marigolds nearby.

Capsid Bugs -
 suck the sap from the tips of shoots causing lots of little holes. Treat as for aphids above.

Gooseberry Sawfly -
caterpillars  feeds on leaves and often  strip the plant of all it's foliage in a short space of time.   Spray with liquid derris as soon as the larvae are noticed.
Leaf Spot - dark brown spots appear on leaves which get bigger and join up until the whole leaf turns brown. Remove and burn  diseased leaves.  Immediately after flowering spray with a copper fungicide.


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