I have a Gooseberry plant (Ribes uva-crispa) growing in my plant nursery and it gets loaded with berries in summer.
If you visit my nursery when the berries are ripe you can pick a few to taste them. They have a sweet and a little tart taste to them and are excellent for baking.
What do the gooseberries
They look kind of like grapes but the skin looks almost transparent with visible veins.
The gooseberry plant is a fast growing, self-pollinating shrub which grows to about 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide in full sun. It needs regular watering to keep it evenly moist.
You can grow a Gooseberry plant in a container. If you have a big container, you can grow your gooseberry on your deck or patio.
If you live in an apartment you can grow one on your balcony or on a rooftop.
Gooseberries require more water than most shrubs so keep an eye on the moister level of the soil. They will require regular watering about every week but more in summer when it’s hot and dry.
If they don’t get enough water they will start losing their leaves. This has happened to me but once I started watering it more and keeping the soil moist the leaves started growing back.
If the soil isn’t the best or if it has been in a container for a few years, in late winter or early spring apply about a 1/3 cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer about a foot out from the base of the plant.
Spring is the best time to plant these berry bushes. It will give it all summer to get rooted in before winter.
If you do plant in the fall, mulch around the plant to protect the roots over the winter.
If you are planting more than one bush, plant them about 4’ apart. This gives them good air flow which will help reduce the risk of powdery mildew.
The planting hole should be at least twice the size of the container that the plant is in but the depth should be the same depth as the container.
When planting in the spring, adding a 10-10-10 fertilizer to the planting hole will benefit the Gooseberry plant. But if planting in fall it is best to wait until spring to fertilize.
Pruning your gooseberry plant is always a good idea. The best time to prune is when the plant is dormant during winter, usually between middle of November and the end of March.
You will want to cut out any dead or diseased branches or any branches growing towards the center of the shrub.
Same with branches that are crossing each other; you don’t want the branches rubbing against each other. This will cause a wound on the plant and invite diseases to enter through the open sores.
You want the overall look similar to a goblet shape were the middle is more open and the sun and wind can get into the plant.
Every year you will want to remove about a third of the 3 yr. old canes. Any canes that are 4 years or older should be removed.
Gooseberry plants are pretty much pest and disease resistant but keep an eye out for these few problems.
Common Plant Diseases
Anthracnose – A fungus that will overwinter on dead leaves that are left on the ground. It’s important to clean up any leaves that have fallen in the fall so that this disease doesn’t contaminate the new leaves in spring.
White Pine Blister Rust – This is a fungus that overwinters on white pine trees and the spores travel by wind to infect gooseberries and currants. If you see yellowish coloured spots on the top of the leaf and orangish coloured blister like marks under the leaf than your plant may be infected. Remove any infected leaves into the garbage.
Powdery mildew – This looks like white fuzz on the leaves and stem of the plant. It’s not recommended to use chemical fungicides on gooseberries as it will affect the berries. The best thing to use is a horticultural oil spray.
To prevent powdery mildew you can try 5 tbsp. of the oil and 8 tsp. baking soda with 8 liters of water. If you notice that your plant is already infected with this disease you can try 2.5-5 tbsp. of the horticultural oil with 4 liters of water. Put both applications in a spray bottle and spray thoroughly.
Common Plant Pests
Currant Scale – These scale insects are covered with a waxy shell and looks like your plant has oval bumps on the stem. These are the females and they overwinter on the stems to lay eggs in the spring. The males are winged and are harder to see. They also die after mating.
If there is a large infestation they will leave honeydew behind which turns to a black sooty mould and the plant won’t be as vigorous.
Currant borer (Synanthedon tipuliformis) – This common plant pest looks like a clear wing moth about the same size as a house fly. It lays eggs on the leaves and the larvae bores into the center of the stem (called the pith) and the larvae eat the pith causing serious damage to the plant.
The next spring the plant will be late leafing out and have a sickly look to it. The stems might also die back. About the only thing you can do is to prune out any areas that look infected.
Aphids – Small soft body insects that eat the sap from the leaves. They come in different colours and are usually in masses. Read more about Aphids here.
Currant and Gooseberry sawfly – the larvae of the gooseberry sawfly does the most damage. They can strip the plant of most of its leaves. The larvae look like little green worms with a lot of black dots on it. When you see the damage from these common plant pest destroy ever one you see.
Currant fruit fly – the female currant fruit fly lays its eggs inside the berries and a small white maggot emerges from the egg to feed on the berry. The fruit will drop off the bush before it’s fully ripe. If you look inside the berry you will find this small white worm like insect.
Some vegetables that are great for planting around Gooseberries are -
Below is a short video on my gooseberry plant right after I received it.
If you haven't tried these delicious berries yet, you should. Try making a jam or other sweet dessert from them.