Posts Tagged ‘fruit bushes’

Growing Gooseberries from Planting to Harvest

November 29th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


People often ask “What’s the best fruit bush for beginners?” Well, one stands head and shoulders above the rest – the gorgeous gooseberry!

Gooseberry bushes grow well in most soils, they’re very easy to prune, are self-pollinating which means you can get away with growing just one, and generous gooseberries give up their sumptuous fruits in hearty profusion. In short, you really need to grow one! Read on or watch the video to find out how.

Types of Gooseberry

Choose from either culinary or dessert varieties. Culinary gooseberries are usually cooked with sugar to temper their naturally sour taste. They’re perfect in jams, pies, puddings and a gooseberry fool.

Dessert varieties are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush – a treat you’re unlikely to experience unless you grow your own. You can also pick some of the berries before they’ve ripened to use in the same way as culinary gooseberries.

The berries themselves are typically pale green, but look out for eye-catching red or yellow varieties too. Most plants are very thorny, but some varieties are easier on the hands with considerably fewer thorns.

Where to Grow Gooseberries

Gooseberries will thrive in most gardens, but to get the most from them grow them in a bright position in rich, well-drained soil.

Gooseberries naturally grow into bushes but may also be trained – as standards on a long single trunk, or against a fence as fans or single-stemmed cordons. Take heart if you really don’t have much space to spare or you only have a patio, because this hardy fruit can successfully be grown in containers too.

(Please note: in a few areas of the United States growing gooseberries is prohibited because they can serve as a host to white pine blister rust, a disease devastating to the lumber industry. Check for local restrictions before sourcing plants.)

How to Plant a Gooseberry Bush

Plant bare-root or container-grown gooseberries from late autumn to early spring – you’ll probably need to wait until spring if the ground freezes solid over winter where you garden.

Dig a generous planting hole then add some well-rotted compost or manure to the excavated soil. Place the gooseberry into the hole so that the previous soil level is flush with the new soil level. Feed back the enriched soil around the roots or rootball, taking plenty of time to firm in the soil as you fill to anchor the roots. Water copiously to settle the soil further, then finish off with a mulch of organic material to help suppress weeds and feed your new plant.

If you’re planting more than one gooseberry, space bushes at least 4ft (120cm) apart. Cordons can be planted much closer – just 45cm (18in) apart – but tie the stem to a supporting bamboo cane that’s in turn secured to horizontal wire supports.

Caring for Gooseberries

In moisture-retentive soils established bushes need very little additional watering, but regular watering in hot, dry weather is a must for young plants and essential for container-grown gooseberries.

Apply an organic, balanced fertiliser at the end of each winter to give plants a good start ahead of the new growing season. Then remove any weeds around the root area before topping up mulches to at least an inch (3cm) deep. Use organic materials like garden compost or bark chippings for this.

Pruning Gooseberry Bushes

Prune established gooseberry bushes to encourage an open, evenly spaced branch structure. This will let in plenty of light while allowing for good air circulation to discourage disease and pests such as sawflies.

Pruning is completed in winter when the bush is dormant. To start, cut out all dead or diseased wood, any shoots growing close to the ground, plus tangled or overcrowded branches. Now prune the branches that are left by cutting back the previous season’s growth by a half. Sideshoots coming off the main branches should be cut back to between one and three buds from the base of the shoot. Make all cuts just above an outward facing bud to encourage that all-important open habit. Finally, dig up any suckers – that’s stems growing from the ground away from the main stem.

Harvesting Gooseberries

Birds can sometimes pilfer fruits before you’ve had a chance to pick them. Stop them in their tracks! Cover plants with netting or grow bushes inside a purpose-made fruit cage.

Gooseberries are ready to pick from early summer onwards. Harvesting dessert or dual-purpose varieties in stages gives early, under-ripe fruits for cooking, then later fruits to enjoy sweet and fresh. The berries that remain after the first pickings will also be able to grow larger.

Handle the soft, plump fruits gently and wear thick gloves if the thorns become too painful to bear!

Gooseberries are at their sumptuous best immediately after picking, but they’ll stay fresh enough in polythene bags kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Or freeze gluts for a well-deserved taste of summer later on in the year.

There are many ways to enjoy the glorious gooseberry! In jams, pureed with elderflower cordial for drying into fruit leathers, or boiled with other fruits to make a tangy, sweet compote to dollop onto ice cream or yoghurt. Give gooseberries a go! They’re reliable, hard-working fruits that deserve to be more widely grown.

If you have any gooseberry growings tips, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

Care and Cultivation of Currants and Gooseberries

March 3rd, 2015 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Upon receipt of your currants and gooseberry plants, unpack and check your plants immediately to ensure they are exactly what you ordered and in the condition you’d expect.

Soil Preparation and Planting

Gooseberry plants from Mr Fothergills'Prior to planting, give the plants a thorough watering. Choose a sheltered area of the garden, avoiding exposed sites. Both currants and gooseberries do best in full sun but will also fruit reasonably well in partial shade.

For best results, a fertile, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil is needed, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter like farmyard manure. Generous manuring is particularly important for blackcurrants.

All varieties can be planted in rows 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) apart, with plants 1.5m (5ft) apart in the rows. Spread the roots out carefully in each planting hole and, after refilling, tread the soil thoroughly to firm the bushes in.

After planting, cut all shoots of blackcurrants back to about 5cm (2in) or two buds above ground level.

Aftercare Tips

Blackcurrant plants from Mr FothergillsYour bushes will benefit from an annual mulch of organic matter, like well-rotted manure or good quality, weed-free garden compost, to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture. Spread it thickly every spring on the surface of the ground while the soil is still moist from winter rain. Gradually over the years it will improve the soil’s structure, drainage qualities and ability to hold plant nutrients in the root zone.

Each year in March, at the same time as you mulch, top-dress the plants with some balanced compound fertiliser and a high potash fertiliser to encourage flowering and fruiting. Blackcurrants also benefit from a high nitrogen feed at this time.

When you weed around your bushes, be careful with the hoe, since these are shallow-rooting plants which are easily damaged by an over-enthusiastic hand.

In dry weather, especially on light soils, give bushes a generous watering about every two weeks.


Blackcurrants fruit best on one-year-old wood and the aim of pruning is to ensure that the oldest wood is continuously replaced with vigorous new growths.

At the end of the first growing season the only pruning needed is to cut out to the base any very thin or weak shoots less than 30cm (12in) long that may have been produced.

In later years, pruning consists or removing any straggly and broken branches and between one quarter and one third of the oldest growth, depending in how much new wood there is. New wood is easily distinguished by its lighter colour and pruning can either be carried out after fruiting or in the autumn.

Gooseberries, red and white currants fruit mostly on old wood and pruning aims to control the shape of the bush, keep the centre open and increase the number of fruiting branches.

After planting and each winter thereafter, cut back all main shoots by about half and lateral shoots to about 2 or 3 buds. At the same time remove any broken, very weak or crossing shoots, any suckers that might have developed from the ‘leg’ and any branches crowding the centre.

Make each cut to an outward-facing bud, unless you are pruning a gooseberry that has a rather drooping habit, in which case cut to an upward pointing bud.

The formation of fruit buds will be encouraged if you also summer prune lateral shoots to 5 leaves at the end of June.

Nation of Gardeners results: Blackberry Rueben

December 9th, 2013 | Nation of Gardeners, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Blackberry RuebenBlackberry Rueben is the World’s first primocane blackberry, meaning that it fruits in its first season on the current season’s wood.  The berries are large – some as large as a plum – and are sweet eating with a manageable habit. Blackberry Reuben can be grown against a warm fence, wall or even in a large container on the patio with canes for support.

Our Nation of Gardeners were asked to plant Blackberry Rueben in November 2013 to test whether this variety performs consistently in all areas across the UK and so fruiting in late summer 2014 will be charted following this autumn 2013 planting.  The table below charts their progress.

Location Elevation Date planted Date first signs of growth Notes
Cheshire 49m 12 November 18 November 3 flowers visible and a 3cm growth recorded 30/11/13
Renfrewshire 28m 9 November Planted in large terracotta pot. Plant was destroyed by December storms on 29 December.
North Devon 30-50m 11 November Planted into a pot, with plans to relocate to open ground before end of year
Worcestershire 55m 10 November Planted into shallow raised bed. 17 November: plant looks healthy
Derbyshire 39m 10 November Planted in open bed with ph7
Cumbria 90m 8 November 10 November Planted into open ground, healthy and happy plant 2 days later.
Ceredigion 131m 8 November Planted in open ground in partial sunny position.
Bristol 55m 10 November Planted against a SW facing fence in sheltered position.
Suffolk 6m 10 November Planted against a west facing fence in the veg garden
Hertfordshire 150m 23 November 27 November Planted next to a East facing fence with no added compost or manure
Surrey 58m
Pontypridd 157m 10 November 21 November A flower appeared 21 November
Buckinghamshire 66m 10 November The plant has flowered in November
Guildford 56m
Gloucestershire 74m 7 November 22 November 22 November, starting to show autumn colours
Derbyshire 241m 9 November 16 November Planted into open ground. ph7.5, sunny position. Some buds forming by 16 November but not blooming.  23 December: the stem broken by high winds about two thirds down.  Not sure if enough foliage left for it to survive.  Pruned to below the break leaving 3 tatty leaves.