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Gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa)   Edit Report inappropriate crop

I am always surprised that gooseberries are not more widely grown. Perhaps it's the thorns or maybe it's a memory of eating a cooker or an unripe desert variety. However, not only are they one of the earliest and most delicious soft fruit, they are also very tolerant plants - tolerant of just about any soil, partial shade, cooler climates and will carry on bearing fruit (albeit many fewer) if left unpruned. They can be productive for up to twenty years, reaching about 90cm high by 1.5m wide. As they are self-fertile, there are no pollination worries even if you only have space for one.

They are generally grown as bushes but can also be grown as cordons. While bushes generally give a greater yield per plant, cordons take up less room and make picking fruit, and the inevitabe pests, easier. With bushes, the aim is to produce a goblet shape to allow plenty of air to circulate, reducing the chances of mildew. Cordons are 1 to 3 upright stems like the tines of a fork.

Note that pot-grown plants can be planted all year round.

Likes and dislikes
pH5.5 - 6.5
Previous cropdislike
Previous autumnprefer
Before plantingok
Full sunprefer
Partial shadeprefer

Dormant bare root

plant plant

Between plants: 150cm
Between rows: 150cm

Plant in a pre-prepared hole with the nursery soil mark at soil level. Spread out the roots as far as possible and backfill with soil and compost - avoid rich manure as it may encourage mildew-susceptible sappy growth. Firm in well, water and mulch to suppress weeds. If the plant has not already been cut back by the supplier, cut back all main branches by about a half for a bush. For a cordon, trim the main upright by half and the side branches (laterals) to the bud nearest the stem.

harvest harvest

You can get your hands on some berries for the pot (from both cookers and eaters) by picking a few when they are still pea-sized.

harvest harvest

Pick cookers while they are still hard but starting to colour but leave eating varieties until they begin to fell soft and look fully coloured. Pick once or twice a week until all ripe berries have been harvested.

prune prune

Cut out dead and diseased wood. For bush-grown plants, cut back new growth of main branches (leaders) by about half and cut back side-shoots from those main branches to 5cm. Aim to prune out growth from the centre of the plant, leaving it goblet-shaped. Prune to out outward-facing bud for bushes with an upright habit and an inward-facing bud for those which spread. For cordons, cut back this year's growth of the vertical branches to 15cm. When they reach the desired height, limit this to one bud's distance. Side branches should be trimmed right back to about 2.5cm.

Top tips
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Weed suppressing (simonsmithster - 10:34 17/01/2014) Report inappropriate tip
Perennials like currants need acid soil and damp but not wet conditions. I grow on the downs alkali thin and dry. Every year I get old bicycle boxes from bike shops and ask tree surgeons for a load of their chippings. Most tree surgeons are happy to give these away. I lay down the boxes and cover with chippings deep about 6 inches. Brilliant weed suppressing mulch and it disappears during the course of a year.
1 vote
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