Gooseberries are sharp and acidic – the fruit is generally tart in May but may ripen more sweetly by July.
Native to northern Europe, gooseberry thrive in chillier weather and have been a feature of British gardens since the 1600s. (RHS, The Garden, June 2016, pp.73-75).
As a general rule gooseberry:
- 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
- like a spot with good air movement to help keep mildew & gooseberry sawfly at bay
- plant bushes 5-6 feet apart (or 1 1/2 feet apart for cordon trained gooseberries)
- mulch & top-dress each spring with potassium-rich fertiliser; make sure to avoid using nitrogen-rich fertilisers as these result in soft growth that will be vulnerable to mildew and sawfly
- wildlife: gooseberry are RHS recommended as an excellent nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects.
Netting: 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 plants should be protected from birds by netting as soon as spring growth appears, as some birds such as bullfinches like to eat the developing buds.
Pruning: Growing gooseberries as bushes (as opposed to cordon) is easiest. Begin pruning after its first growing season in autumn/winter. 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 again in summer – reduce all new growth sideshoots (except the main growing stems) to five leaves.
Pests & Diseases: Gooseberry are susceptible to gooseberry sawfly larvae and mildew problems. Inspect bushes regularly from April for the caterpillar-like larvae of sawfly. Squash on sight. Good air circulation is key to avoiding mildew problems.
Harvesting & Preservation: Carefully harvest the gooseberries as when ripe they can easily burst. Fruit can be bottled for use over winter, by selecting fresh firm fruit. Wash them, top & tail, and pack into sterile jars and bottle in syrup.
Hinnomaki Red Gooseberry is said to be a 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-June or September/ October in full sun or partial shade.
Plant in evenly moist soil, in a spot with good air circulation. They grow 3 to 4 feet high (1 metre) with a spread of 4.5 feet (1.5 metres) and are best planted 5 feet apart.
Hinnomaki are easy to grow, tolerate most soil types, and work nicely as hedging, with lobed leaves that turn red in the fall.
Feed regularly through the growing season with fish, blood & bone fertiliser.
They fruit between June and August and will set fruit 1-2 years after first planting.
Prune in winter, removing old and damaged branches. Approximately a third of the oldest wood can be removed to encourage new growth.
- We planted two slips of Hinnomaki Red Gooseberry into the allotment on 2 June 2018.
- Summer of 2019 they set fruit which began to ripen, but was all eaten by the birds.
- April 2020 we transplanted the gooseberry planted with the raspberries into a plastic pot and installed with the other potted gooseberry into a new raised bed with plastic pea netting to protect against the birds. Plants in flower by 13 April 2020.