Growing Gooseberries - Soil, Care, Pruning and Harvesting the Gooseberry Patch

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES - Overview

Growing gooseberries is a worthwhile fruit to grow in the gooseberry patch as they are excellent for making jams, jellies, desserts, chutneys and wine. In fact, we have about 4 gooseberry wine recipes for you to try!

Gooseberries usually grow in a bush, although they can also be trained to grow against a wall or fence and commonly known as a gooseberry patch. With the various varieties of gooseberries around from plants that produce tiny, sweet yellow sugary fruits to ones that produce large, red dessert fruit one can extend the picking season from early spring right through to the end of summer.

The different varieties of gooseberries means that it is possible to produce gooseberries that produce crops from late spring right through the summer. Although traditionally grown as a bush, they can also be grown along a cordon, and trained to grow along a wall or fence.

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES - Soil and Position

Growing gooseberries in the sun

Growing gooseberries in full sun

Position your gooseberry patch so that they will have full sun. Gooseberries love to grow in a sunny site which has well-drained soil that is kept moist. Therefore a perfect fruit to grow in a large container, as under these conditions the soil's moisture content is easily controlled. However, gooseberries will really grow in any type of soil, as long as it has been enriched with well-rotted manure and composting material.

Gooseberries should never be planted where frost collects as they are frost-tender and as they flower in early spring, the frost will end up damaging the plant and subsequent fruit.

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES - How many Gooseberry Plants do you Need?

One mature gooseberry plant will usually suffice for a typical family, as you should get about 3.5 kg of fruit off your gooseberry bush during the year. However, if you want more gooseberries, then you will have to plant more of them.

When growing gooseberries the plants should be planted out in the autumn, with spacings between each plant at 1.5 meters. Mulch well with well-rotted compost around each plant to retain the moisture content in the soil and water well, never letting the soil dry out. Repeat the mulching process every spring.

In mature plants remove any shoots that appear at the base of the plant less than 9 inches off the ground.

Growing gooseberries also means a free invitation to the birds in the neighborhood to dine! If you find that you are loosing too much fruit to the birds, you may have to cover the bush with netting to keep them out.

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES -Pruning

Your gooseberry bush will need to be pruned in summer and in winter. In winter make sure that any dead wood has been removed. Summer growth shoots should be cut back to one half to two-thirds to a bud. Wait for it to bud, so that you can see where to cut. Finally remove any weak shoots and prune so that sunlight will be able to reach the center of the plant.

In summer you can prune the side shoots back to about 5 leaves to encourage fruit buds to form.

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES - Thining

If you don't thin out your harvest when growing gooseberries you will end up with lots of small berries. However, if you want to increase the size of your berries you can start to thin them out when they are big enough to use to 1 inch apart. You can do a second thinning so that they are 3 inches apart. This will give you a smaller yield but a larger berry.

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES - Raising New Plants

Gooseberries can be propagated by raising cuttings, although they do not always root easily. Take cuttings in the autumn, about 15 cm long from the current season's growth which should include some leafy growth. Cut off the top 3 inches of soft wood and rub off all the buds from the lower end, leaving only 3 or 4 buds at the top.

Dig a trench about 15 cm deep and put a layer of sharp sand at the bottom. Bury your cuttings so that only 2-3 buds are showing, and they are about 8-9 cm apart. They will then be ready for transplanting the following autumn when they should have rooted by then.

Cape Gooseberries


Recently harvested Cape Gooseberries on a black table top.

 Recently harvested Cape Gooseberries

Despite its name, the Cape gooseberry, grown in England and South Africa, and orginating from South America is not a gooseberry at all, but more related to the deadly nightshade family and is a close relative of the tomatillo.

As a kid I used to love peeling open the papery outside to reveal the golden globe of fruit inside. The berries aren't very big, and have very small seeds that you don't need to bother about. The fruit is not sweet, however, and if you get a very sour berry it can definately make your eye-balls twitch! Choose the berries that are more orange or deep yellow in color, as these will be the sweeter fruit to eat.

However, it's because of its tart flavor that people have used the Cape Gooseberry for pies, tarts, and jams.

GROWING GOOSEBERRIES - Pests and Diseases

Occasionally gooseberries in your gooseberry patch will suffer from mildew and are attacked by caterpillars and other chewing pests. See our page on Natural Pesticides for organic spray recipes to control these problems. Mainly, however, you will have to wrestle with the birds for your gooseberry harvest, and you may think of placing them under nets if the threat is too bad.

Another problem with growing gooseberries is mildew, recognizable by a white, powdery residue that sits on the leaves, shoots and fruits of the plant. The growths of the shoots will often be distorted if the problem has existed for a time.

Cut out and destroy the parts affected and then wash down with a weak solution of washing soda. Another solution for powdery mildew on gooseberries is to take 1 cup chamomile leaves and place in a non-metal bowl. Add 3 cups of boiling water and allow to steep until cool. Strain. Dilute with equal parts of mixture to water. Spray on affected areas.

Another pest that you have to look out for on your gooseberry bushes are caterpillars. These will decimate the leaves on the plants and reduce your plants to just the stalks.

Treatment for caterpillars is to hand-pick them off your plants as best you can and destroy them as soon as you see them.

Homemade Organic Pesticide Recipe for Sucking Insects


You can also treat them with the following homemade organic pesticide recipe as this organic pest control is useful against sucking insects and some caterpillars.

90 g chopped garlic cloves

2 T mineral oil or liquid paraffin

15 g of pure soap or soap flakes

500 ml warm water.

Mix garlic and oil together and let is steep for 48 hours. Dissolve grated soap or flakes in warm water and then mix the 2 solutions together and then strain. Use 1 part mixture to 50 parts water. Spray as usual.

Another excellent remedy for the
gooseberry caterpillar is to sprinkle soot on the plants just as they are beginning to open their leaf buds.

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Very healthy plants but no gooseberries?? 
I planted my gooseberry tree years ago. i have yet to see one berry !!!! i,m not even sure when they are supposed to fruit? Would any one be able to tell …

No gooseberries this year 
We have had our gooseberry bush for the past 7 years and has given us minimal berries..but enough for a batch of jam. This year nothing...It was here when …

how to get gooseberry bushes to fruit Not rated yet
I have an older gooseberry bush that I have been harvesting around Memorial Day, but now the fruit is very small. I do not need any this year as I have …

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