Gooseberries, red and white currants tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but prefer a moist well-drained soil. They crop best in a sunny position, but will tolerate light shade.
Gooseberries, red and white currants can be grown either as bushes, or as upright cordons, which take up less space and can be planted closer together for a mixture of different varieties in a small garden. They can also be trained as fans against a wall. Standards or tree-like forms with a bushy head on a short trunk are also sold, especially gooseberries. These are obtained as grafted or budded plants with a clear ‘trunk’ of 1-1.2m (3½-4ft) high.
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.
Space plants as follows:
- Bush plants: Space gooseberries 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) apart. Space red and white currants 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) apart.
- Cordons: Space gooseberry cordons 30-38cm (1ft-15in) apart and red or white currants 38-45cm (15-18in) apart. Plant each cordon tied to a 1.7m (5½ft) bamboo cane that is secured to horizontal wires spaced 60cm and 1.2m (2ft and 4ft) apart.
See our advice on trees and shrubs: planting for soil preparation and planting technique.
Watering and feeding
Mulch the root area with organic matter to conserve soil moisture and water regularly during dry spells. To ensure good fruiting, apply sulphate of potash annually in late winter at a rate of 15g per sq m (½oz per sq yd). On poor soils and when bushes are not growing well, give a compound fertiliser such as Growmore or blood, fish and bone at 60g per sq m (1¼oz per sq yd) in late winter or early spring.
Birds love these berries, so protect the ripening fruit using netting.
Gooseberries will be ready for picking from early July. Green under-ripe fruits for jam making are gathered in June taking every other fruit, leaving the remained to swell into ripe sweet berries to gather in July. Pick fully ripened berries carefully as they are soft and likely to burst.
Harvest entire trusses (officially called strigs) of red and white currants when fully ripe, as picking individual fruits is impractical and damages the berries. Use scissors to sever trusses from plants.