Training Gooseberry Bushes
Your plants can be grown as single stemmed cordons if you are low on space, but the best way to grow them is as a fairly upright, open centered bush.
Gooseberries make fruit in 2 places: little spurs on the old wood and at the base of side-shoots that grew the year before.
It should take 2 years to shape your plant into a sturdy framework of mostly upright branches which all point more or less away from the centre.
With a mature bush, you just need to keep the centre free of ingrowing branches and trim back the new season's side shoots to help divert energy to the berries that will appear at their bases.
Where to make the cuts: This varies depending on the angle of the branch. You want to counteract the Gooseberry's tendency to be a bit droopy:
- Horizontal stems: Prune back to an inward/upward facing bud or an upright side-shoot.
- Upright stems: Prune normally to an outward facing bud if the branch.
Gooseberry Pruning Year by Year:
- Pruning Gooseberries after Planting: After planting, trim all the branches by one half of their length, as described above.
- Year Two: The following winter, around November, shorten all the main stems that you trimmed last year by one half of their new growth. Now inspect the new side shoots that appeared this year: use your judgement to choose the best placed ones (outward and upward facing, not congested with other branches) and shorten these stems by half as well, removing all the others. If there are any suckers or shoots low down on the trunk, remove these too - do this every year from now on (some bushes will do it more than others).
- Year Three: Your gooseberry bush should have its core framework of main branches from last year, each with two or three new leading stems from the summer, and be ready to begin serious cropping: well done! During the winter, prune all the leading stems back by a half of their new growth. Remove any shoots that point into the centre (one won't hurt if it is well placed) and identify leaders that are crossing or pointing downwards: shorten these down to about 2 - 3 inches.
Happily ever after!: Your bushes now need a twice yearly trim to keep them in shape.
- Summer: In the first week of July (not earlier), trim all new side-shoots down to 5 leaves. There's no need to prune the tips of the leading stems unless they have mildew.
- Winter: During the winter, cut back the leading stems by half of their new growth. Now shorten all the lateral side-shoots that you took down to 5 leaves in the summer: this time, cut them back to two buds. If you cut them back to three buds, you will get more, smaller fruit.
Note: Red and whitecurrants are pruned as a bush in the same way. They are naturally more upright, so it is fine to prune them back to an outward facing bud, even if it is facing downwards.
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