Caring for gooseberries — tips for a lush harvest

Gooseberries belong to the gooseberry family and are hardy garden plants. The shrubs have been planted in gardens since around the 16th century and delight year after year with tasty fruits the size of cherries and rich in vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, silicon, magnesium and zinc. The healthy berries taste fresh or can be used for cakes, jam and juice. The highest sugar content is in the fully ripe fruit, which yields slightly under pressure and still has a sweet and sour taste due to the fruit acid. The chutney, popular in England, is made from unripe fruit. The selection of delicious recipes leaves nothing to be desired and even with high yields, there are always new dishes that you can try.

For cultivation in your own garden, it is important to select the growth form in addition to the fruit color. Whether standard or bush, the perennial tree can be planted in the ground or in a bucket on the balcony or terrace and enjoy a rich harvest for many years to come. Sufficient sun, suitable soil conditions and that you cut regularly are essential.

Useful information Planting Care Watering Fertilizing Pruning Varieties Pests & Diseases FAQ

Worth knowing about the gooseberry

Botanical name: Ribes uva-crispa Other names: hedgerow berry, monastery berry, regionally also currant berry, sticky berry, agrasel, engl. gosseberry Use: immediate consumption and processing Origin: North Africa, Eurasia Flowering time: April, inconspicuous, greenish-reddish Harvest time: late June to mid-August depending on the variety Special features: Today’s cultivar is the result of crossing and selection. The sour fruits of today’s varieties are larger than those of the wild variety (Ribes uva-crispa subsp. uva-crispa). Botanically, the fruit tree has no thorns, but thorns. Breeding also means there are now so-called thornless varieties.

In which location does the gooseberry feel most comfortable?

A bright and wind-protected place is ideal for the plants, preferably in the light shade. Because in the blazing sun, the trees and shrubs that come from the edges of the forest and the berries can get sunburnt. Locations with all-day sunlight or dark corners facing north are unsuitable. Also important is a loose, deep soil with a high humus content and good drainage. Gooseberries are a bit more demanding than currants when it comes to soil conditions, but are easy to care for and robust if the soil is prepared accordingly. The shrubs will grow at a pH of 6 to 7. Light sandy soils need to be improved with good quality potting soil and heavy soils will benefit from the addition of sand as a drainage layer. The berries are best suited for large containers and raised beds.

How do I plant my gooseberries in the garden?

The berry bushes can be planted almost all year round, but early spring or late summer is the best time to plant in order to achieve good rooting. The berry bushes are in culture pots and require more soil volume, so transplanting is urgently needed. A post is always necessary for tall gooseberry stems, because the weight of the sweet fruit requires support to protect against wind damage, especially just before harvest. Before setting, loosen the subsoil thoroughly and remove all wild herbs and roots. Water the seedlings thoroughly and make a planting hole twice as deep and wide as the root ball. First put 5 liters of high-quality potting soil in the planting hole and then position the potted berry bush so that that it is level with the ground. Fill the space between the root ball and the planting hole with a mixture of growing medium and excavated soil, press down the soil and finally sprinkle organic garden fertilizer on the surface. Replanting requires watering with 10 liters of water. To protect against evaporation, you can apply a thin layer of mulch to the soil.

Our gardening tip: Depending on the growth strength of the variety, the distance to other plants should be 80 to 100 cm for stems and 100 to 120 cm for bushes.

How do I properly care for my gooseberries?

Apart from pruning, fertilizing and even soil moisture, little maintenance is required. Bushes and trunks have the same requirements, the latter need a stake reaching up to the base of the crown for safety. It is important that the trunk is attached in such a way that constriction is avoided, but stability is guaranteed. Special binding material made of hemp is best suited.

Planted in the ground, the tree is hardy, in climatically unfavorable regions the crown can be protected with fleece or brushwood. Gooseberries in pots stay outdoors in winter, are protected from waterlogging and drying out and are wrapped with winter protection fleece. If necessary, also water in winter to prevent damage from drought.

In the case of trunks, the rootstock is Ribes aureum, which sometimes sprout from the trunk or the ground with shoots. These wild shoots only cost the plant strength. Therefore, you should remove these wild shoots directly on the trunk.

Our gardening tip: Berries are flat-rooted, so it is advisable to cover the soil with mulch and not till it. The organic material also protects the roots in winter.

How do I water my gooseberries properly?

Even soil moisture is important for the berry bushes. Especially in the first year after planting, you should water regularly during dry periods. Always water directly to the roots and never over the foliage. The best time for overhead irrigation is a morning watering to prevent fungal disease. Gardeners recommend giving larger amounts of water at longer intervals than frequent watering with small amounts. The water should penetrate in such a way that the roots are encouraged to grow deeper. 5 to 10 liters per plant and maintenance cycle have proven successful. If your berries are in a pot, it should never become waterlogged or dry out completely. The maintenance effort is a little more complex than with specimens planted in the ground.

Our gardening tip: Cover the soil with a layer of mulch. This minimizes weed growth, better storage of moisture and light fertilization. This care measure has proven particularly effective on light soils.

How do I properly fertilize my gooseberry bushes?

Gooseberry bushes need an even supply of nutrients for growth, flowering and fruit set. It is ideal if you fertilize as early as the beginning of March when the plants sprout. Use special berry fertilizer for this. This contains organic components that work for months and slowly release the nutrients and activate soil life. It is important that after fertilization the shrub is never too dry, because fertilizer can only work in combination with moisture and warmth. After the harvest, additional fertilization can be carried out with organic natural fertilizer. The organic fertilizer helps the tree produce new fruiting wood for the coming year. The supply of water and nutrients and the site conditions are essential for the size of the berries and the quantity.

How do I properly prune my gooseberry bushes?

Pruning fruit trees is important for fruit size, number of berries, plant health and easier harvesting. Too dense plants tend to have small berries and are more often affected by powdery mildew. Furthermore, twigs that are too narrow are annoying when picking and hinder the work. The annual pruning can take place immediately after the harvest or in March at the latest. By the second appointment, the bush will be leafless and it will be easier to see which annual shoots are crossing and which are weak. Cut according to the following instructions:

  • Fruits are preferably formed on one- or two-year-old side shoots of the main shoot. This fact is the basis for the right cut.
  • Leave a maximum of 8 main shoots on the tree, these should not grow inward and should not cross each other.
  • Consistently cut all upright growing shoots that cross each other and make sure that the oldest main shoots are also cut off at the bottom or at the base of the crown. Old shoots often have mossy spots and should be removed.
  • The important thing when pruning is that you prune back to a bud that is pointing outwards and the remaining shoots are evenly distributed throughout the shrub.
  • In the case of bushes, branches close to the ground are removed, because with curtains they would then lie in the ground.
  • Use sharp pruning shears and gloves when cutting.

The old wood can be composted as cuttings or stored in the garden and thus serve as a natural retreat for many microorganisms and hedgehogs.

Cut back in early spring:

Our gardening tip: gooseberries fruit on last year’s wood. Therefore, new strong shoots have to grow every year and the old main shoots can be removed because they no longer bear fruit. Only with regular pruning will the berries ripen well and you will get a rich harvest.

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