Pruning Gooseberries – Pruning as bushes or wall trained cordon
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Pruning and Training Gooseberries
Gooseberries are an excellent soft fruit to grow. They will thrive in a full sun site in most soils, so are ideal for most gardens and will even grow well in a little shade. They can be grown in pots, but pay attention to watering them despite them being quite drought tolerant when grown in the ground. They can be grown as bushes or as a wall trained cordon which can save space so are ideal for smaller gardens but it will take a little more work.
Try planting different varieties as cordons to make the most of smaller spaces
Gooseberries can be purchased as bare root plants from the autumn and winter, or alternatively as potted plants throughout the summer. Bare root plants are usually available from mail order nurseries and usually slightly cheaper saving you some of your hard earned money.
You will need to ideally space bush gooseberries approximately 4-5ft apart to give them plenty of room to grow and wall trained cordon gooseberries can be spaced around 1ft to 15 inches apart which is why they are ideal for smaller gardens. If growing as a cordon then place a cane upright and fix it to horizontal lines approximately 2ft (60cm) apart. The horizontal lines are what the side branches will be trained along.
Pruning Bush Gooseberries
- After planting in spring you need to select 4 main healthy strong branches and cut them back to around 15cm (6inch) and then prune off all remaining stems right down to the base and leave to grow for the season.
- In the second year around June-July, leave the 4 main shoots un-pruned and prune down the rest of the new growth back to around 5 leaves. The 4 main stems are being left to form the the main framework for the plant.
- In winter once they have gone dormant remove any dead, diseases or damaged shoots and prune back all side shoots to around 2-3 buds and cut back the main stems by around a quarter to an outside facing bud.
- Repeat step 3 every year to encourage lots of healthy fruit.
Green Gooseberry – Source: wikimedia.org
Did you know gooseberries can be grown in pots?
Pruning wall-trained cordon Gooseberries
- This may sound drastic but after planting the first thing you need to do it prune back the main stem by around a quarter just above a bud and all side shoots to around 2 buds. Next remove all side shoots that are within 6 inches (15cm) of the ground. You will be left with a slim shaped gooseberry bush with small side shoots. Leave to grow for the rest of the season
- In year 2, around June or July, cut back all the side shoots as you did the previous year but this time to around 5 leaves and fasten the main stem to the cane as it grows.
- In winter, when they have gone dormant cut the side shoots back again, this time to around 3 buds and the main stem back by about a third.
- The following summer, when the main stem has reached your desired height for your frame, cut the main stem back by 4-5 leaves and in winter prune back again, this time by 3 buds.
Feeding and mulching after pruning
After the second yearly prune in winter, mulch around the base of plants with a quality compost or well-rotted farm manure to help retain moisture. In late winter feed with sulphate of potash which encourages better fruiting and feed in spring with a garden feed such as growmore. Always check the packaging for application rating to ensure you apply the correct amount.
- If making jam, then pick under-ripe fruit when they are still green around June, pick the rest when they are fully ripe and sweet usually around July.
- If possible plant in full sun for better crops, will grow in partial shade if needed.
- Cover plants with netting to stop birds taking fruit.
- Take cuttings from young plants – Read how to take cutting here
- Water during the growing season more frequently during longer periods of dry weather when there has been little rain.