Gooseberries are delicious cooked in pies or swirled into sweetened cream to make a gooseberry fool. They’re easy to grow, and just a single bush will reward you with masses of berries for up to 15 years.
How to grow gooseberries:
Grow gooseberries in moist but well-drained, fertile soil, in full sun. Prune gooseberry bushes annually to maintain a goblet shape and mulch in autumn with well-rotted compost, manure or leaf mould.
More on growing gooseberries:
Learn all about growing gooseberries in our Grow Guide, below.
How to plant gooseberries
How to grow gooseberries – planting a bare-root gooseberry bush
Gooseberries aren’t fussy when it comes to soil type, but they do prefer it to be well drained and contain plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost. Full sun is best, especially for dessert types, but they’re very tolerant of shade.
Spring or autumn is the best time to plant bare-root gooseberries. Space them 1.5m apart with a gap of 1.5m between the rows.
Gooseberries grow well in large containers of soil-based compost. Mulch the surface to keep weeds at bay.
Caring for gooseberry bushes
How to grow gooseberries – pruning a gooseberry bush
Feed gooseberry bushes in early spring with sulphate of potash (follow packet instructions) and a generous mulch of well-rotted manure or compost. Water well during dry spells.
Pruning is easy. In July or August, simply cut back this season’s soft growth to two or three leaves from the base. To prevent mildew, keep the centre of the bush open.
Although usually grown as bushes, gooseberries can also be trained as single upright stems or ‘cordons’, as well as fans on walls or fences. This makes the fruit easier to pick from the thorny stems.
How to grow gooseberries – harvesting ripe gooseberries
Most gooseberries are ready to pick in July or August, but to ensure good-sized berries, thin out the bunches of fruit in June when the fruits are the size of a pea. These thinnings make wonderfully tart stewed fruit.
Eat within a few days of picking or store them in the fridge for up to two weeks. Gooseberries freeze well.
Gooseberries: preparation and uses
Dessert varieties are delicious in fresh fruit salads. Ideally, you should pick and eat the berries on the same day. Gooseberries can be cooked in pies or stewed to make purées, jams and chutneys. Simply, top and tail them before cooking.
Gooseberries: problem solving
How to grow gooseberries – gooseberry sawfly larvae
Net bushes when fruit starts to ripen to protect them from birds.
Gooseberry plants are susceptible to mildew. Choose resistant varieties and avoid planting in shallow, dry soil. Cut out affected shoots.
From mid-spring, look out for gooseberry sawfly larvae, which will quickly strip a bush. Pick off and squish or use a biological control.
Watch this Quick Tips video on why fruits may fall off a gooseberry plant.
Fancy growing gooseberries but don’t have much room? Then train them in a fan shape against a wall, fence or free-standing trellis.
Best gooseberry varieties to grow
How to grow gooseberries – gooseberry varieties to grow
- ‘Careless’ – large fruits that turn transparent when ripe
- ‘Invicta’ – green cooker, big crops, mildew resistant
- ‘Leveller’ – yellow dessert variety with delicious flavour
‘Pax’ – sweet, red berries on almost spine-free stems
‘Whinham’s Industry’ – red dessert, large sweet berries, shade-tolerant and copes with heavy soil
- ‘Whitesmith’ – a dessert/cooker with white fruits