- Ribes uva-crispa
- USDA Zones:3-11
- Partial Shade
- Soil pH: 5.5-7.0
Gooseberries come from several plant species, primarily the European gooseberry and the American gooseberry .The American Gooseberry is native to northeastern United States from the Atlantic Coast in through the Ohio Valley and southern Canada. The European gooseberry is the original gooseberry, European settlers brought their varieties with them and hybridized them with native cultivars.
In the U.K. they are very popular, there are gooseberry clubs and shows, much like the county fairs in rural America, to see who can grow the best gooseberry. Gooseberry has a unique flavor, and -no- it doesn’t taste just like chicken, people have compared it strawberries and grapes.
Unlike many other berries and small fruits gooseberry will tolerate a wide range of soil types, with the exception of marshy or waterlogged areas. Heavier soils have proven best, gooseberry bushes produce a higher quality fruit in heavier cooler moisture retentive soils, not water logged – just moist.
They are fast growing , reaching up to 3 feet tall and 5 – 6 feet wide. Gooseberry bushes should be spaced 4 to 6 feet apart on the average, this of course will vary slightly in some cultivars and precise spacing is dependent on a number of factors. Some varieties have stems that will develop roots when they come into contact with the soil, they can be quite invasive if left unchecked.
Gooseberry plants are best set out in Autumn with bare-root plants. They can also be set out in the early spring as saplings, using a generous layer of organic mulch.
Cold Frames or covers are another option. Generous mulching should continue throughout the season.
Gooseberry buds will appear early in the spring, they are already green when most other plants are still struggling to send out buds.
Gooseberry flowers are small, usually green with pinkish petals, they open in early spring. They are self-fertile, and don’t need another gooseberry plant to produce fruit. They do however need to be pollinated in the normal mode of nature. The actual Gooseberries will grow 1 or 2 per flower with a cluster of tiny seeds at their core. Various varieties of gooseberry produce varying colors of berries, green, gray – green, black, or purple. They can be as big as a plum, or as small as very Big blueberry.
They perform best in regions with humid summers and a cold winter. They are difficult to grow in warm areas such as the south and southwest except at higher cooler elevations.
Partial sun is best, not blazing sunshine during the dog days of summer, just an average of 8 hours of warm sunlight daily. Growing Gooseberries near fruit trees is a good garden scheme, where the tree will provide partial shade and shelter from excessive wind. Gooseberry plants will generally wilt when temperatures exceed 85o F – American Gooseberry varieties are somewhat more tolerant of heat and sun.
Avoid planting in low areas and gullies, where frost, as well as rain rain off has a tendency to settle, both will damage your plants. A southern exposure is optimal, a west-facing spot is good, preferably out of heavy winds, a breeze is good for pollination as well as a preventative measure against fungus, and mildews, heavy winds can damage plants and hamper fruit set.
Gooseberry Plants have shallow roots and are best irrigated via a drip system. The plants should be watered throughout the season, and they do not regenerate foliage or buds lost from water stress. Water stressed plants are also more susceptible to plant diseases , overly watered plants are susceptible to rots and mildew. Drip irrigation with an automatic timer provides regular and consistent watering. Drip Irrigation also allows water to penetrate deeper into the soil, increasing uptake by plant roots. Inexpensive Drip Irrigation Systems are available
Gooseberries are heavy potassium feeders but moderate nitrogen feeders. Excessive amounts of nitrogen will promote mildew. Assuming you have a good Soil pH – moderately acidic to neutral- about 5.5 to 7 , most soils should naturally provide the nitrogen the plant needs without help.
Potassium should be added however – modest amounts of potassium nitrate, potassium sulfate or even seaweed meal all contain healthy amounts of potassium.
Gooseberry plants also use more magnesium, if your soil is acidic, with a PH over 7, you’ll need to add lime, dolomitic limestone is best, it supplies magnesium and calcium.
Some well rotted compost and the aforementioned amendments and you should be just fine. Adding moderate amounts of Epsom Salts when planting will also help with the Magnesium and sulfur requirements.
A gooseberry bush continually regenerates new shoots which sprout at or near the soil level. Allow the stems to grow for 4 years before removing the oldest and or unhealthiest stems to make room for the new ones.
Prune the bush to have a somewhat open center, which promotes good air circulation, access of sunlight and ease of harvest- as the thorns are very bothersome . Some gooseberry bushes are very dense and require pruning to harvest and avoid bloodying your hands on the thorns. Don’t over – prune as other problems may be created, such as sunscald.
Starting in the Gooseberry bushes fourth winter, prune out all 4-year-old shoots and leave only five or six of the healthiest, and most upright new shoots that came up from the soil level.
Aphids -Yellowish-pink to pale green plant lice that suck plant juices. They are a soft-bodied, oval/pear shaped insects and are commonly found on nearly all varieties of plants, vegetables, field crops, and fruit trees.
Mites – Spider mites and Gooseberry Mite
Fruit Worms – Multiple varieties
Gooseberry Sawfly is a pest in some areas , and is controllable if caught in time. See – Garden Flies
Scales are sometimes a problem, as they are on all fruits, but are rarely a major problem.
Rusts, such as White Pine blister rust.
Botrytis and Anthracnose will cause rot of leaves and young growth, particularly stems in contact with the soil or those splashed upon by overhead watering
Powdery mildew is by far the most deadly disease of gooseberries, it can destroy a harvest very rapidly. Powdery white patches, will develop on fruit and foliage, and eventually darken. Try to obtain a cultivar that is resistant, such as captivator, green finch, Martlet or Remarka.
Periodic sprayings of baking soda helps control many forms of mildew. I’ve had success using a mix of Neem oil which is water soluble, and baking soda, a tablespoon of each to a quart of water. The Neem oil serves multiple purposes, primarily insect control and the baking soda helps fight mildew.
You can also fight the spread of mildew by trimming dormant plants to the ground level, and practicing proper garden sanitation. Removal of any and all plant debris. Proper disposal of diseased plant tissue – NOT IN THE COMPOST.
The average yield from a healthy and mature gooseberry bush is about 8 lbs. per bush, a good yield is 10 -12 lbs per bush. Harvesting gooseberries is best done with 2 hands, holding one branch back while carefully picking with the other, so as to avoid the nasty little thorns.
Harvest can usually commence in mid summer. Some people, myself included, prefer to pick them slightly under-ripe for use in cooking and preserves. You can leave some on the bush to enjoy fresh as well, but don’t allow them to rot or scatter around the grounds as this creates more problems later on.
Related: Gooseberry Companion Plants