Posted: 18/04/2013 at 12:37
there is a video on the Gardeners World website where Monty Don demonstrates how to prune gooseberries and redcurrants, among others (link below).
If you have the patience, it may be best to wait until this winter, then carry out a major renovation on the shrub. Restorative pruning should be carried out in winter. If the bush is healthy and cropping well, it may be worth saving. Gooseberries can be very long lived (20 years or so). First remove any shoots that are dead, broken, weak, diseased or damaged. Then thin out the branches to open up the centre of the plant to let in air and light. Your are aiming to create a goblet shape with 6 to 8 main branches.
The advice on the RHS website for regular annual pruning of gooseberries is:
- In mid-June to July, shorten the current season’s growth back to five leaves, except for those branches needed to extend the main framework. This pruning should not remove fruit, as fruit develops mainly on the older wood, not the current season’s growth.(probably pointless this year on this shrub).
- In winter, remove dead wood and low-lying shoots. Then spur prune all side shoots by cutting them back to one to three buds from the base. Shorten branch tips by one quarter, cutting to a suitable outward facing bud.
- Repeat step 2 each year as maintenance pruning.
Feed the shrub with Sulphate of Potash in late winter/early spring, or if the soil is not in very good condition, a more general purpose fertiliser (bonemeal or blood, fish and bone). Water well and mulch round (but not touching) the shrub (garden compost, bark etc). Often, neglected gooseberry bushes self-layer when a shoot droops to the ground. If yours has done this, you may be able to get some young plants for free.
The weeds are a real problem. I would say that Couch Grass is the worst, because it is so difficult to get at it without disturbing the roots of the gooseberry. Systemic weedkiller is the stuff, but getting enough of the Couch Grass to act on will be the problem.
I have been able to completely eradicate Bindweed from my garden by doing this:
1. unwrap as many of the Bindweed stems as you can and gather them into bundles, trying not to crease of break them
2. half bury in the ground as many containers (glass/plastic) as there are bundles
3. half fill each container with a systemic weedkiller solution
4. gently insert each bundle into a container, ensuring that a good proportion of the leaves is submerged
5. cover each container to keep rain out (clingfilm is good)
6. leave for as long as you can, but at least until you can see the stems discolouring and wilting (you may have some regrowth in following years, but persistence pays off)