Grow Your Own

Gooseberries

Gooseberries are an easy-to-grow soft fruit and they can thrive in many kinds of soil, although they really like a sunny site. They can be grown as bushes or be trained against a wall to take up less space in a small garden – you can even grow gooseberries in containers.

 

Gooseberries

Grow

Mulch the root area with organic matter, such as garden compost or bark chips, to conserve soil moisture. Watering is seldom required but in very dry spells water every 14 days. Container-grown gooseberries often struggle in dry conditions, so carefully monitor their watering.

In late winter, feed with a balanced granular fertiliser at 100g per sq m (31/2oz per sq yd). Avoid feeding the plants with too much nitrogen because this can encourage sappy growth, which is prone to gooseberry mildew.

To ensure good yields of large fruits you’ll need to prune and train gooseberries.

Plant

Plant bare-root gooseberries between late autumn and early spring, and container-grown plants at any time, avoiding waterlogged, parched or frozen soil.

Select two- to three-year-old bushes with a well-balanced head of three to five main branches and a clear stem of 10-15cm (4-6in). Cordons should have a good spreading root system.

Plant spacing

Bush plants: Space 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart.

Cordons: Space gooseberry cordons 30-38cm (12-15in) apart. Plant each cordon tied to a 1.7m (51/2ft) bamboo cane that is secured to horizontal wires spaced 60cm and 1.2m (2ft and 4ft) apart.

See our advice on planting trees and shrubs for soil preparation and planting techniques.

Common problems

Gooseberry mildew

Gooseberry mildew: This mildew causes a powdery grey and white fungus on leaves and stems. The mildew may also appear on fruit, causing problems with ripening.

Remedy: Cut out any infected stems or leaves you see straight away and destroy. This mildew is worse if bushes are planted close together giving poor air circulation, so space bushes out when planting.

More info on Gooseberry mildew

Gooseberry sawfly

Gooseberry sawfly: Pale green, caterpillar-like larvae cause rapid and severe defoliation of plants, often reducing bushes to bare stems by harvest time. Damage starts in mid to late spring, but there can be three generations of the pest a year, so problems can continue through the summer.

Remedy: Inspect plants carefully from mid-spring onwards, examining the undersides of leaves and especially the centre of the bush. Remove larvae by hand.

More info on Gooseberry sawfly

Birds

Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.

Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.

More info on Birds

Harvesting

Gooseberries will be ready for picking from early July - birds love the berries so protect the ripening fruit with fine gauge netting.

Gather green, under-ripe fruits for making jam, pies, tarts, and sauces in June, taking every other fruit, leaving the remainder to swell into ripe, sweet berries to gather in July.

Pick fully ripened berries carefully as they are soft and likely to burst. Excess fruit can be put into polythene bags and frozen.

Varieties

Invicta AGM:White culinary, good disease resistance.

Whinham’s Industry AGM:

Red dessert or culinary gooseberry. Tolerates heavy soil.

Leveller AGM:

Yellow dessert, good disease resistance.


Buy now

Do now

  • Thin fruit (remove every other under-ripe fruit)
  • Water in dry spells, especially as fruit start to swell
  • Pick early fruit
  • Prune

Month by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Harvest

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