Gooseberries (Ribes spp.) are hardy multi-stem shrubs that produce fruit in mid summer. They grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture 3 through 8 depending on the variety. Growing gooseberries successfully requires sunshine and basic care, like annual fertilizing, regular watering and a little mulch.
Sun, Spacing and Soil
You'll get the best growth and fruit production when you grow gooseberries in full sun: a spot that gets six hours or more per day. If full sun isn't an option, you can grow them successfully in part sun: a spot that gets between four and six hours per day. If you're growing more than one, space them four to five feet apart. Pick a spot with loamy, well-drained soil for the best growth and fruit production.
Feeding, Watering and Mulching
Things You'll Need
- 10-10-10 Fertilizer
Water every 14 days soaking the soil 6 to 8 inches deep, from the base of the stems out to the area under the outer branches.
Watering is especially important from flowering through fruit development and harvest.
Fertilize gooseberries with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer once a year in early spring. Use 1/4 pound of dry fertilizer for a single bush.
Scatter the fertilizer evenly over the soil. Start 1 to 2 inches from the base -- without getting any on the stems -- and work outward. The outer edge of the fertilized area should lie 12 inches beyond the outermost branch tips.
Water right after applying fertilizer so that it starts to break down and work into the soil. Soak the fertilized area until the soil is damp 12 inches deep.
Spread a 4-inch-deep layer of mulch around gooseberries in late spring or in the fall. Use wood chips, pine needles, grass clippings, leaf mold or compost. Extend the mulch in a circle from the base of the stems -- leaving 3 inches of space around the base, out to 12 inches past the outer branches.
Replenish the mulch layer once a year, but don't exceed a total of 4 inches of mulch at any time.
Apply the fertilizer just before the bushes start budding out or just as the first new buds appear in spring.
The harvest starts in early to mid summer with gooseberries ripening for a four to six week span. When you pick a gooseberry depends on what you intend to use it for. Slightly unripe gooseberries, picked in early and mid summer, are slightly tart and still firm, ideal for canning and preserves. In mid- to late summer, the berries sweeten up, ideal for eating fresh from the garden or for freezing. The color of the ripe fruit varies from green to red depending on the variety and cultivar, so color isn't a reliable way to tell when to pick. A more reliable way is to give a berry a very gentle squeeze. Ripe gooseberries are soft and will burst open if you squeeze too hard.