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How to grow gooseberries

Vivian Russell / 20 June 2013

Vivian Russell gives us essential growing advice for gooseberries, including where and when to plant and how to care for them.

Gooseberries on tree branch
Gooseberries need a moist soil, crucially when fruit is being formed, and water during dry spells throughout the summer

When to plant

Plant gooseberries in October while the soil is still warm.

Where to plant

A sunny position is ideal but they will tolerate part shade. 

How to plant

To give them the very best start, prepare the ground in August by digging a 1m (3ft) round hole and incorporating well-rotted manure, or good garden compost and general fertiliser.

Space bushes at least 1.5m (5 feet) apart spreading roots evenly in the hole and fill in, firming soil with your foot.

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.

When to prune

Prune in November, shortening side shoots to encourage fruiting spurs and keeping bush open in the centre so that air can circulate, which discourages mildew and makes picking the gooseberries much easier.

Caring for gooseberries

Mulch with layer of organic matter (compost or bark) in spring to suppress weeds.

Gooseberries need a moist soil, crucially when fruit is being formed, so water during dry spells throughout the summer. Delay spraying for mildew once flowering is finished and bees have moved on.

As berries swell keep off excess rain by covering pen with an umbrella or rhubarb leaves.

When to pick

Berries ripen over summer, but are traditionally thinned on Barnaby Day (June 11) though some start as early as Whitsunday (3rd week in May). Take about half the crop off, and eat these thinnings cooked.


When bushes come into leaf in March watch for signs of sawfly caterpillars, which shred the leaves.

Cover with netting to protect from birds from May onwards when young fruits are formed. It’s a good idea to keep them protected all the time as birds feed on the buds in winter too.

Find out about using nematodes to get rid of gooseberry sawfly

Best gooseberries to grow


Vigorous and high yielding, producing large, pale green berries. For dessert and cooking.


Full flavoured red-fruited variety, almost thornless, large sweet fruits with excellent mildew resistance.


Excellent disease resistant variety forming compact bush with bright green fruits, excellent for cooking.


Red, delicious dessert gooseberry, resistant to mildew.

Whinham’s Industry 

Red-fruited variety, good for partial shade and heavy soils, but prone to mildew.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.