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Home & garden.

Updated: 29 Apr 2022

How to grow gooseberries and best varieties

Gooseberries are easy to grow and produce delicious crops in summer. Discover our tried-and-tested gooseberry varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Gooseberries

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.

The experts at Which? Gardening magazine grew and tasted 10 different varieties to find you the best ones to plant.


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How to grow gooseberries: month by month

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Best gooseberry varieties

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Full testing results for gooseberries

Variety Overall rating
Height x spread (cm) Yield per plant  (g)Flavour Yield Pest & disease resistance Ease of picking 
80 x 901300
90 x 1001300
80 x 1001400
80 x 901300
60 x 70781
70 x 100204
80 x 120824

USING THE TABLE Ratings in the table are from the third year, when plants were established. OVERALL RATING Ignores price and is based on: flavour 35%, yield 30%, pest and disease resistance 25%, ease of picking 10%.

How we test gooseberries

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

Caring for your plants

Planting

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.

Feeding

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.

Encouraging a good crop

Protect from late frosts by covering plants with fleece on cold nights. Water plants well while the fruit is setting.

Pruning

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.

How and when to harvest

June to July

Harvest modern varieties by cutting the strigs (fruit bunches) as they turn black. Top currants on older varieties ripen first.

Common growing problems

Gooseberry sawfly

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.

Read more about gooseberry sawfly

 

American gooseberry mildew

 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. 

Read more about American gooseberry mildew

Rust

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. 

Currant and gooseberry leaf spot

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.

Read more about currant and gooseberry leaf spot

Currant clear wing moth

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