Gooseberries, much-loved for their tartness and source of vitamin C, are one of the easiest to grow fruits of their kind. From seed to harvest, gooseberries are known to produce an abundance of fruit and will tolerate partial shade – perfect for the small garden! This guide will give you everything you need to know about how to grow gooseberries at home.
Where do gooseberries grow best?
We recommend that you plant your gooseberries in the autumn, choosing a sunny, sheltered location. However, if you can’t find anywhere sunny to grow your gooseberries, the plant can also tolerate shady and relatively cool conditions.
The soil which it is planted should be fertile, well-drained and moist. Bad soil conditions will not allow the fruit to thrive.
How to plant gooseberries
Firstly, prepare the ground by forking it over, removing weeds and stones. Dig a planting hole suitable for the root growth of the plants you have, and fork in some rotted manure or compost at the bottom, combined with granules or pellets of general-purpose fertiliser.
The size of the planting hole should be around three times the diameter of the roots, but no deeper than the roots. Spread the roots of bare-rooted gooseberry bushes out in the prepared planting hole, and then cover these with soil. It is important to avoid air pockets by placing soil between and around the roots. Firm the soil down and water in.
Gooseberry bushes should be spaced at just over a metre apart, enabling picking access; cordons can be spaced at between 35 and 45 cm. Keep well watered until the plants are well established; use a mulch of bark or compost around the plants.
Harvesting your gooseberries
In late May to early June, your first harvest of gooseberries should be ready – remove around half the crop, giving a longer cropping season ahead while leaving room for the remaining fruit to grow larger. This early harvest can be used for cooking; a few weeks after the initial harvest, further crops can be picked.
Put netting over your gooseberries when fruiting to prevent your crop from becoming bird food. Weight the netting at the edges to stop birds from getting underneath. You may find it necessary to keep the netting on through the winter when some birds (such as bullfinches) feed on gooseberry buds.
Throughout the year
Pruning and training your gooseberries will help you to obtain the best crops. Pruning in winter should aim to form a balanced branch structure while also helping to keep the centre of the bush open – this enables picking without prickling. Cut back leading shoots by a third; prune back shoots pointed towards the centre of the bush. In the summer you can prune back side shoots to five leaves, encouraging fruiting spurs to develop.
Train single-stemmed cordons against walls or onto canes, tying the leading shoot tip into the support. As with bushes, during the summer prune side shoots back to five leaves. When winter comes, shorten the main tip by a quarter, and shorten side shoots to three buds, encouraging new fruit spurs next year.
Check the leaves of your gooseberries for signs of caterpillars and pick these off by hand. Here’s some advice on how to deal with pests when growing gooseberries.
Steady watering when the fruits are developing will produce the best results; erratic watering or heavy watering after a dry period may cause splitting and rotting in the fruit. When harvesting, protect yourself from the thorns by wearing gloves and long sleeves!
Ready to plant your own fruit now you know how to grow gooseberries? Take a look at our fruit plant collection.