* Gooseberries

Gooseberries are sharp and acidic – tart in May but may ripen more sweetly by July.

Native to northern Europe they thrive in chillier weather, and have been a feature of British gardens since the 1600s.  (RHS, The Garden, June 2016, pp.73-75)

  • they grow best on free-draining but moisture-retentive soil (can tolerate alkaline soil better than most fruit) – but there is variability between cultivars.
  • can tolerate some shade and cold
  • likes a spot with good air movement to help keep mildew & gooseberry sawfly at bay
  • plant bushes 5-6 feet apart 
  • mulch & top-dress each spring with potassium-rich fertiliser

People recommend different approaches to netting.  One view is that birds enjoy ripe gooseberries but net plants as late as possible because the birds also help control bugs.  Another view is that birds should be netted as soon as spring growth appears, as some birds such as bullfinches like to eat the developing bulbs.

Pruning: in winter shorten leaders by a third and cut back laterals (side branches) to two buds.  Remove branches growing in the centre of bushes to create an open ‘vase’ shape.  Prune cordons again in summer – reduce all sideshoots to five leaves.

Pests & Diseases 

  • Susceptible to gooseberry sawfly larvae – inspect regularly from April for the caterpillar-like larvae. Squash on sight.
  • American gooseberry mildew – air circulation is key to avoiding this.
allotment-gooseberry (1)

Gooseberry at allotment, early March 2019.  Photo by G.

We planted two slips of Hinnomaki Red Gooseberry into the allotment last summer on 2 June 2018.

Hinnomaki Red Gooseberry is truly an outstanding variety from Finland, with superb flavour, high yields, and beautiful red coloured fruit that has tangy skin and sweet flesh.  Plants grow upright and are mildew resistant.  The sweet berries are good for eating, desserts and preserves.

  • Hinnomaki Red are self-fertile.
  • Plant between February to June or between September and October in full sun or partial shade.
  • Grows 3 feet (1 metre) high; spreads 4.5 feet (1.5 metres).
  • Best planted 5 x 5 feet apart and kept about 3-4 feet high.
  • Plant in evenly moist soil, with good air circulation.
  • Easy to grow and nice as hedging, with lobed leaves that turn red in the fall.
  • Tolerates most soil types.
  • Feed regularly through the growing season with a fish, blood and bone fertilizer.
  • Fruits between June and August and will set fruit 1-2 years after first planting.
  • Prune in winter, removing old and damaged branches.  Approximately 1/3 of oldest wood can be removed to encourage new growth.

RHS recommended as an excellent nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects.