Let's Plant a Gooseberry Bush
Discover how to grow gooseberries! From planting your first gooseberry bush to harvesting the sweet berries, we’ll cover all your growing information—right up to making that gooseberry pie!
Gooseberries are increasingly popular! They weren’t grown for a long time because they (and currants) could host white pine blister rust, which is very troublesome to the lumber industry. There are fewer restrictions than there used to be and we’re happy to see these sweet berries are making a comeback. They’re great for eating fresh or in pies, crumbles, and jams.
Most major seed companies carry gooseberry plants (they’ll mark the restricted states which don’t allow shipping).
If you’re not familiar with gooseberries, they tend to be a little smaller than a grape and their color can range from pale green to yellow to red. They have a blueberryish flavor (some say there are hints of kiwi or grape). The varieties are usually described as either culinary or dessert varieties. Culinary gooseberries are usually cooked into jellies, pies and other desserts with plenty of sugar. Dessert varieties are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush, but are great for cooking too. Some varieties are virtually thornless, and it’s important to choose a variety that is resistance to disease, mildew and pests.
Gooseberry bushes grow well in most soils, are easy to prune, and are very high-yielding. They are self-pollinating, so you can only need one to produce fruit. Each gooseberry bush produces about 10 pounds of fruit per year.
Best Growing Conditions for Gooseberries
Gooseberries aren’t fussy, but they’ll grow and yield best in a sunny position in rich,well-drained soil. Gooseberries will naturally grow into vigorous bushes, but they may also be trained as standards on a long single trunk, or against a fence as fans or single-stemmed cordons. They can be successfully grown in containers too.
(Please note that in a few areas of the United States growing gooseberries is prohibited because they can host white pine blister rust, a disease that is devastating to the lumber industry. Check for local restrictions before sourcing plants.)
Planting Gooseberry Bushes
Plant bare-root or container-grown gooseberries from late fall to early spring, any time the ground isn’t frozen solid. Dig a generous planting hole then mix well-rotted compost or manure with the excavated soil. Position the gooseberry bush in the hole at the same depth it was planted before (you should see a darker soil line on the stem or stems). Fill in the hole with the enriched soil, making sure to firm it in well. Water to settle the soilthen mulch with organic matter to help suppress weeds and feed your new plant. Space additional bushes at least four feet apart. Cordons can be just 18 inches apart.
Caring for Gooseberries
Keep your gooseberry bushes well-watered while they’re young or if they’re growing in containers. Established gooseberry bushes need very little watering, unless your climate is hot and dry.
At the end of each winter use a balanced organic fertilizer. Remove any weeds around the root area before topping up with at least an inch thick layer of organic matter such as garden compost or bark chippings.
Pruning Gooseberry Bushes
Most pruning is carried out in winter while the bush is dormant. First cut out all dead or diseased wood, any shoots growing close to the ground, and tangled or overcrowded branches. Then cut the previous season’s growth on the remaining branches back by a half. Cut sideshoots coming off the main branches back to between one and three buds from the base of the shoot. Make all cuts just above an outward facing bud to promote an open habit that encourages good airflow around the branches. Finally, dig up any stems (or ‘suckers’) growing up from ground level away from the main stem.
In early summer, cut all new sideshoots that have grown in the current season back to just five leaves.
Prevent birds from stealing your gooseberries by covering bushes with netting, or grow them inside a purpose-made fruit cage.
Harvesting begins in early summer. Harvest dessert or dual-purpose varieties in stages. The under-ripe fruits are ideal for cooking, and riper fruits will be sweeter and larger. The fruits are soft so handle them gently and wear thick gloves if your bush is of a thorny variety.
Gooseberries are best eaten immediately after picking, but they’ll remain fresh in therefrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze them.
Try Out the Garden Planner for Free
As a courtesy, the online Almanac Garden Planner is free for 7 days. This is plenty of time to play around on your computer and try it out. There are absolutely no strings attached. We are most interested in encouraging folks to try growing a garden of goodness!
Click here to learn more about the Garden Planner—and get a free trial.