Gooseberry Growing & Care

Gob stopper gooseberries are the order of the day. Mega crops this year are going to be a culinary delight fresh and from the freezer.

How To Plant New Gooseberries

Space bushes 5 feet apart.
Dig in lots of manure or well rotted compost
If planting container grown plants tease out the roots before planting firmly in a large hole.
Mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
In late November I planted several new varieties of gooseberry bush as I am looking for more fruit (and fruit pies). These plants do not need any pruning until next year and then only very light pruning. Never the less I have had a good look to make sure that there are no damaged branches to trim and I will check again if we get some heavy snow.

Gooseberry 'Lancashire Lad'

Gooseberry Bush Information

Gooseberries are one of the earliest fruit crops in the UK.
Keepsake is an early flowering variety ready in May if your plot is not prone to late frost.
Fruit grows after insignificant flowers on numerous spurs (little side shoots).
To minimise mildew grow your bush with an open branch network.
Roots are near to the surface so avoid aggressive hoeing.

How To Train & Prune Gooseberries

Prune between November and March but January is a great time to prune the prickly bushes particularly if they have got a bit over grown.
Gooseberries are grown on a short leg so on new plants prune off any branches less than 6 inches above soil level.
Remove damaged and crossing branches plus those growing into the center of the bush.
Shorten the new growth by 50% and prune side shoots to 2 inches from the stem.
Cut the leaders (main large stems) by half their length.
Cut laterals (side branches) back to two or three buds. This encourages more fruiting spurs.
Create an open framework and an open crown.
Always use sharp secateurs or loppers

Cordon gooseberry

Interesting Facts about Gooseberry Bushes

Prunings can root quite easily to grow more bushes.
Bushes are normally quite long lived.
Gooseberries fertilise themselves so even a single bush can grow a crop of over 10lbs of fruit.
Bushes will grow in light shade and tolerate cold.
Bushes can be grown as standards.
Gooseberry clubs and competitions go back in history
Fruit will be smaller on light sandy soil but increase with extra watering as fruit start to swell.
Playing gooseberry wont lead to a baby under the gooseberry bush but may make a gooseberry fool!

Pests & Problems with Gooseberry Bushes

Sawfly caterpillars can strip the leaves of a bus before the fruit ripens. The pale green, black spotted critters leave eggs on the underside of the leaves. Take then off and burn, do not compost.Alternatively spray with pyrethrum.
Gooseberry mildew can be a problem particularly when it is deposited on the fruit where it turns from white to brown. Prune out infected branches and burn. Thin out branches to improve air circulation. Give a high potash feed to strengthen young branches. Invicta variety seems to be resistant to mildew.
If birds are eating the young buds then you may need to net over your gooseberries or grow them in a cage.

Varieties of Gooseberry Bush

I have just planted Hinnomaki yellow and red varieties.
Leveller is an old variety with sharp tasting yellow/green fruit.
Pax is a spineless bush with fruit that can be eaten uncooked.
Whinhams industry is a hairy reddish variety.
Invicta has an AGM
My Lancashire Lad is a heritage variety that fruits red.

Dessert Varieties of Gooseberry Bush

Langley Gage is one of the best dessert varieties. Small smooth thin skinned berries are almost transparent when ripe.
Red skinned Captivator is sweet and juicy.
Golden Drop has small delicious fruit to eat straight from the bush
Latin name Ribes uva-crispa


Catering with Gooseberries

  • No posh menu is complete without at least one product using Gooseberries.
  • Careless – Gooseberry & Sloe Gin Jam is one of my favourite sounding products.
  • As an alternative to pies and crumbles why not sweeten the gooseberries and cover with a sponge mixture.
  • Gooseberry Fool is an expletive leveled at me on occasion.
  • For more ideas including Seafood Gooseberry Pie why not Cook it Simply
  • Gooseberries are great for traditional bottling or freezing.

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