They are very easy to grow although they do need some care and attention to ensure they remain fruitful. Plants will last for 10-15 years, and can be grown as a cordon or a bush, the latter being the most common form and can reach a height and spread of between 2-5ft.
There are both culinary varieties which are very sharp taste and not suitable for eating fresh, or the sweeter dessert varieties, which tend to be larger, sweeter, and have thinner skins. I would recommend sticking to the dessert varieties, and picking them earlier in the season for culinary uses before they are fully ripe.
Gooseberries prefer full sun, but will do well in partial shade. They will tolerate most types of soil, however whatever the condition of the soil mix in plenty of organic material or manure before planting (and top dress the soil around the plant with well-rotted manure every year in spring).
You should also avoid pockets and hollows that are subject to late frosts, as this will damage the flowering buds and stop the bush producing fruit. Birds will strip the tree of berries as they ripen given half a chance, so if you have the space it’s well worth considering planting gooseberries in a fruit cage. Gooseberries will grow to a spread and height of between 2-5ft, and each bush will produce between 6-12Kg of fruit.
Pot grown bushes can be planted at any time of year, however for best results plant them in November. Always buy your plants from a reputable nursery or mail order company to ensure a disease free plant.
To plant dig a hole wide enough for roots to spread out, and deep enough so that when the soil is replaced the old soil mark should be about 2in underground (so plant them deeper than they were previously grown). You should then immediately prune each shoot back to an outward facing bud – about the fourth bud above ground. The fruiting stems will then grow outward from here.
Bushes – 2nd Winter
Halve the length of each shoot, pruning above an outward facing bud to ensure an open habit.
Winter Pruning for established bushes
Cut back leading shoots by half, above an outward facing bud and lateral shoots to 2 buds each. Cut out any dead or diseased wood.
Summer Pruning – Established bushes
In July or August prune lateral shoots to 2 or 3 leaves.
Feeding and Mulching
Add a layer of well-rotted manure or compost in March. This will help keep the weeds down and keep the soil cool and moist.
You should also keep the area weed free, but be careful not to use the hoe too much, as gooseberries have shallow roots and you can really damage the roots, It is far better to weed by hand.
Take 10in cuttings from the new season wood in October, choosing stems that are pencil thick. Make a sloping cut at the top (to allow water to run off), and a straight cut at the bottom (this will allow the cutting to root), and insert into a trench leaving 4 buds above ground, with the lowest bud 2in above the surface.
- Invicta - Vigorous grower with good mildew resistance, and big crops of green gooseberries
- Greenfinch - excellent disease-resistant and compact bushes. Early bright green fruits and great for cooking.
- Whinham's Industry - Red-fruited variety, happy in partial shade but prone to mildew