Guide to Growing Gooseberries

Having less to do with their name and much more to do with their juicy flavor, gooseberries are a welcome addition to any garden.
Ripe Gooseberries are Best Eaten Fresh

Ripe Gooseberries are Best Eaten Fresh

Gooseberries will be ready for picking from early July. Pick fully ripened berries carefully as they are soft and likely to burst. Excess fruit can be put into freezer bags and frozen.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

These very hardy fruit bushes are a good choice for cold, exposed gardens. Firm, tart, and juicy, gooseberries are especially good cooked; their old-fashioned appeal is becoming more widely appreciated.

How to Grow

Gooseberries require a moist, fertile soil and will tolerate some shade. Commonly grown as freestanding bushes, they are either planted as “stool” bushes or on a short 6 inches (15 cm) stem, called a “leg.” Where required, they can also be trained as stepovers, cordons, and standards, or as fans on north-facing walls. Bare root shrubs should be planted in the winter; container-grown can be planted at any time of year if well watered. Dig well-rotted organic matter into the planting hole. Space bushes 4 feet (1.2 m) apart and cordons 14 inches (35 cm) apart. Thin the fruit from the early summer, removing alternate berries, which can be used in cooking. This encourages full-sized fruit, which can be harvested once ripe from midsummer onward. Net young fruit to protect it from birds. Be careful when harvesting since the bushes have long, sharp thorns.

Water plants well during dry spells, and feed in the spring with a granular fertilizer or well-rotted organic matter. Freestanding shrubs may need support with canes in the summer to prevent laden branches from collapsing or snapping. Cordon-trained plants can be grown much closer together than freestanding shrubs, which is ideal for smaller gardens.

Varieties to Try

Dessert varieties (D) can be eaten raw; culinary fruit (C) are best for cooking; dual types are suitable for both uses (C/D). Try ‘Captivator’ (C), ‘Careless’ (C/D), ‘Greenfinch’ (C), ‘Invicta’ (C/D), ‘Leveller’ (D) and ‘Whinham’s Industry’ (C/D) varieties.


Established gooseberry bushes are pruned in the winter and summer. The main aim is to create an open, airy center and to keep older fruiting wood productive.

In the first winter after planting, choose 4–5 healthy stems, and cut them back by half to three-quarters. Remove all other stems and shoots coming from the “leg” at the bottom.

To winter-prune established shrubs, tip-prune main stems, and cut back sideshoots to 1–4 buds. The center of overgrown shrubs should be thinned by a quarter. In the summer, prune sideshoots to five leaves.

Next Up

Guide to Growing Strawberries

These bright and cheery fruits are easy to grow and a welcome addition to any garden.

Guide to Growing Blueberries

These popular little fruits are the shining star in the garden and the main ingredient in a wealth of delicious recipes.

Grow a Persimmon Tree

Easy to grow and maintain, persimmon trees are cold hardy and bear beautiful fruit in the fall.

How to Grow: Berries and Currants

Fruit bushes, including many berries and currants, are reliably productive for most of the summer.

Go Forth and Be Fruitful: Advice for Growing Raspberries

Raspberries aren’t particularly difficult to grow but they do need their space.

Grow A Little Fruit Tree

Author Ann Ralph shares tips for growing short, space-saving fruit trees in your garden.

Guide to Growing Raspberries

Discover how to plant and care for raspberries, making them a bountiful crop in your home garden.

Guide to Growing Plum Trees

Discover how to grow delicious and juicy plums with this simple planting and maintenance guide. 

Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees

Turn your backyard into a miniature orchard—these gorgeous fruit trees are perfect for pots.

How to Plant Bare Root Fruit

Bare root plants often establish more quickly than container-grown, giving gardens an instant boost of life.