An ideal fruit for the small garden – gooseberry bushes are easy to grow, produce a large amount of fruit for their size and will tolerate partial shade conditions.
They are self-fertile, so one bush can be grown on its own. Gooseberry bushes are also well able to withstand harsher conditions (both temperature and wind) than many other fruits. This makes them a good choice for cooler areas.
Usually grown in the form of a small bush, they can be trained to any shape and are especially recommended for pot culture.
Gooseberry bushes are very tolerant of different conditions, although in an ideal setting they prefer full sun in cooler areas. The lower temperatures allow the fruit to mature slowly rather than being ‘cooked’ into maturity by a warm sun. They are well-suited to the Midlands and North West of England. Tolerant of partial shade, the variety Whinhams Industry prefers a partial shaded site – a North facing wall suits it fine.
Unfortunately, gooseberries are not so tolerant of bad soil conditions – they need a medium weight soil which is well-drained but not dry. They need moisture in the soil if the fruits are to develop fully. They do not require a very fertile soil, too fertile and the plant produces too much weak green growth at the expense of good fruit.
Taking Care of Gooseberry Bushes
Gooseberry bushes are relatively simple to care for, each of their needs is dealt with below.
Watering and Feeding
Gooseberry bushes need the soil to be kept moist, especially when the fruit is being formed. In dry periods during June to August, water them to keep the soil moist.
Put a layer of organic material to act as a mulch around (but not touching) the main stem each Spring. Where no organic material is available, incorporate a couple of handfuls into the top soil around the bush and cover the soil with bark chipping or similar to prevent the growth of weeds. A couple of handfuls of bonemeal applied again September should be all that is needed.
Some birds are notorious for pecking out the young fruits in mid-May time, and then coming back for more in July to eat the almost ripened fruits. It’s a matter of luck if you suffer from this nuisance. One solution is to wind coloured cotton thread round the branches which will deter the birds to some degree.
The best protection however undoubtedly comes from a fruit cage. Not only will it protect your gooseberries but the larger ones will protect most of your fruit plants from bird, squirrel, rabbit and most other large pests.
Prune the bushes in February each year. Keep the centre of the bush clear of most growth by cutting out any weak or dead branches. On the outside of the bush, young growth should be left untouched, older and longer side shoots should be cut back to within 2cm (1 inch) of their base. The aim is to achieve a wine glass shape with the centre of the bush reasonably clear of growth.