The UK climate seems perfect for gooseberries as they reliably produce crops in cool conditions. Their flavour is said to improve as you travel further north.
They are also an excellent source of Vitamin C, with a 100g serving providing 33% of your daily requirement. Newer varieties have been developed to ensure resistance to sawfly and mildew, and to taste good straight from the bush.
|Best Buy gooseberries|
|What it looks like||Variety name||Yield per plant|
|We loved these aromatic and juicy berries, which were sweet enough to eat straight from the bush. The plants’ branches drooped under the weight of the huge clusters of fruits. They were produced on older wood deeper into the plants, so there were a few spines to navigate when picking. The plants were also slightly affected by sawfly, but showed no signs of mildew.|
In December, we planted 10 varieties of gooseberry in a fruit cage at our trial garden in north London, and grew them on for three years. After a year of establishment, the bushes were pruned each year in winter and again in summer after fruiting. We fed them every spring with Vitax Q4 and added a mulch to conserve moisture. There was some gooseberry-sawfly damage in spring one year, so we noted how susceptible varieties were and applied nematode treatments for fruit and veg twice, as per the instructions, during the following spring. Once the berries began to ripen in July, we picked, weighed and tasted them to find the best varieties
Grow in sun or part shade in fertile, heavy soil that is well drained. Clay is ideal.
Buy plants as bare roots or in pots. Grow as bushes, on cordons, or in containers.
Space 1.2-1.5m apart.
Feed in late winter with a balanced granular fertiliser at 100g per sq m, such as Vitax Q4. Mulch well with garden compost or well-rotted manure.
Protect from late frosts by covering plants with fleece on cold nights. Water plants well while the fruit is setting.
Aim for a goblet-shaped bush on a ‘leg’ or trunk. In midsummer, prune side-shoots to five leaves. Thin large-berried varieties in early summer, removing every other fruit. In winter, remove dead, diseased or dying wood.
June to July
Harvest modern varieties by cutting the strigs (fruit bunches) as they turn black. Top currants on older varieties ripen first.
Gooseberry-sawfly larvae can defoliate plants in days. They first appear in late spring but can be a problem throughout summer. The adults lay eggs from April onwards on the undersides of the leaves. The larvae then eat the leaves, without which the fruit is prone to scorching in the sun.
American gooseberry mildew is a fungal disease caused by warm, damp weather and begins in spring. Symptoms include white patches on the leaves, stems and fruits, with fruits later becoming deformed and tasteless.
This causes orange spots on leaves, deformed leaves and shrivelled fruit. Dispose of fallen leaves and the following season spray with a high-nitrogen foliar feed. Mulch well with garden compost or well-rotted manure.
Small dark-brown spots appear on the foliage of currants and gooseberries in early summer. The spots increase in size and quantity, and the infected leaves discolour and fall prematurely. If the infection is severe, the plant will be weakened and fruits may shrivel.
Stems tunnelled by brown-headed white caterpillars, which are up to 15mm long. Infested shoots may die back and be easily snapped off, revealing a tunnel filled with blackened droppings in the centre of the stem