Learning Download: How to Grow Gooseberries

From Seed to Harvest: A guide to growing gooseberries.

Gooseberries are another option for an easy-to-grow fruit. They grow most anywhere in the United States, however the American gooseberries will grow slightly smaller than the European gooseberries. Depending on where they are grown and how, gooseberries taste similar to grapes, apples or strawberries.  Their flavor profile can range from tart to tropical. Gooseberries are a perennial that can reach up to 60 inches high. 

To plant:

Typically, gooseberries can be grown from cuttings. The American varieties are easier to propagate than the European ones. If growing from a cutting, take the hardwood cuttings in the fall. If leaves remain, that’s fine, as it actually enhances the rooting process. Making the cuttings about a foot long. Plant gooseberry bushes 4 to 6 feet apart. Do not use the bushes as a continuous hedging, because they do not grow well when planted close to each other. 

To grow:

Gooseberries thrive in cool, well-drained, fertile soil. They either grow on a permanent short leg, or they grow as a stool, which is when the gooseberry bush is continuously renewed with new shoots. Stool plants live longer, but bear smaller fruit. If growing on a short leg, begin pruning during the winter of its first season. Cut off all branches but three or four branches that point up or out. Then, trim those branches back by 6 inches. Do the same process the next winter, but leave six to 12 branches.

To grow the gooseberry as a stool plant, cut back the branches during its first winter to three or four strong branches. Do the same the following two winters, so the bush will have four one-year branches, four two-year branches and four three-year branches. in the fourth winter, cut away all four-year old shoots and all but four of the other shoots.


To harvest:

Gooseberries are commonly picked when they are full sized but underripe. This is because they are best to use in jams and pies when they are underripe, firm and bitter. Gooseberries don’t continue to ripen after they are harvested, so if you want to eat them fresh, pick when ripe. Gooseberries vary in color, so the best way to tell if they are ripe is to squeeze them. If you squeeze them when ripe, the gooseberry will give a little.

What gooseberries crave:

Gooseberries do require nitrogen, but excessive nitrogen can cause disease such as mildew. Along with its slight need for nitrogen, gooseberries have a high need for potassium. If there is a potassium deficiency, the leaves will be scorched at the margins. Add a dressing of potassium annually with a half-ounce of actual potassium per square yard. 

Where to buy gooseberry plants:

You can find gooseberry plants at Urban Farmer

Learning Download: Common pests and diseases: Gooseberries

Common pests and diseases: Gooseberries

When growing fruits and vegetables, it is always exciting to care for the plant throughout its growing phase and then harvest it for delicious recipes later on, but one thing to watch out for is pests and diseases. Different plants are susceptible to different types of pests and diseases, and it is important to make yourself aware so you can keep a watchful eye and also take any preventative methods to keep your plants safe throughout their lifespan. 

Goosberries can fall victim to several different pests and diseases. 


Some of the most common pests affecting gooseberries are aphids, currant borers and stinkbugs.

Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects which will affect the undersides of the leaves or the stems. If the infestation becomes bad enough, they will cause the leaves to become yellow or distorted. Shoots can become stunted. The aphids also create a sticky liquid that covers the leaves. This sticky liquid then attracts other pests and insects. Although it is rare for aphids to kill the plant, they can decrease the amount of fruit produced by a substantial amount. Aphids will typically occur on the bushes from late April to May. Treat the aphids at the first sign of infestation by spraying them. 

Currant borers will cause yellow and withered leaves, and the canes may even die. To manage this infestation, prune the damaged canes and destroy them. Apply the insecticides before the larvae enter the cane in order for them to be affective.

Stinkbugs ca carry pathogens and cause other infections if they feed on the plant. To manage these pests, control the weeds around the plants and use insecticidal soaps. 


Some of the most common diseases infecting gooseberries is American gooseberry mildew, anthracnose and Septoria leaf spot. 

American gooseberry mildew causes white, powdery patches on the plant’s younger leaves, stems or branches. These can kill patches of the plant. White patches also may appear on the fruit. To manage this disease, reduce humidity around the plants and keep the area free of weeds.

Anthracnose will cause brown or black lesions on leaves which can develop and then cause the leaves to drop from the plant. Berries can split and also drop from the plant. To manage this, remove leaf debris from around the plant and also apply the appropriate fungicides when necessary.

Septoria leaf spot will cause symptoms very similar to anthracnose, but the lesions will develop a lighter center and the leaves will then drop from the plant. This fungus survives on leaf debris on the ground, so remove debris, weed around the plants and provide adequate plant spacing. You also can apply certain fungicides when needed.