The Ribes uva-crispa or gooseberry bush is a fruit-bearing bush, which is 3-10 feet in height and bears gooseberries, small green berries with red and purple color variants. There are 2 sub-species of this bush, European and American.
The gooseberry yields a large amount of fruit, in comparison to its size and is quite easy to grow and propagate. Along with soil, water and sunlight, pruning such fruit trees and bushes is an important way to ensure a good fruit yield and a longer life for the plant. Here are few steps and instructions listed on how to prune gooseberries.
How to Prune Gooseberry Bushes
Gooseberries can be easily shaped into a form or design with careful trimming and pruning. Without pruning, the stems will grow all tangled together and it will slowly wither away. The main parts of a gooseberry bush are:
- The main stem or trunk of the bush
- The branches that grow directly from the main stem
- The lateral branches that grow off the main branches
The bush should be pruned such that the main stem remains open to sunlight and air. Main stem branches should be few but well-spaced out, so the bush has a uniform look. Trim away excess branches to let the main stem "breathe", otherwise diseases like mildew, can set in the bush due to lack of air.
The gooseberry bush should be sturdy and not too tall with upward branches that grow away from the center of the bush. The optimum shape for such a bush, is a wine glass shape, which has an open and airy center with a distinctive form.
The main stem should be maintained at a height of 6 inches. In the plant's first winter season, begin the pruning process. To get a wide but neat form, cut off all but 3-4 main branches, that are growing outwards and upwards.
Shorten these main branches by 6 inches from their tip. This strengthens them and helps promote further branching for the bush to grow. Branches that droop or loll too low, should be trimmed.
Trim away dead and brittle stems. In some areas of the bush, where there are too many branches, prune away excess and tangled branches. Cut off branches that grow above or below the 6 inch stem. Look for new growth and shoots towards the outer side of the bush. Don't trim such growth but older side shoots should be trimmed back to within 1" of their base.
In the 2nd year of growth, shorten the main stems of last year by half. Shorten any new side shoots which have grown this year. This is also the year in which the plant starts to bear fruit.
Fruits will grow only from shoots, that are at least 2 years old. Any low hanging or dangling branches, even with fruit, should be pruned away. Such fruit attracts rats and insects, which will then attack the entire plant.
In the 3rd year, trim all main leading stems by half of their new growth. Remove crisscrossing branches and reduce branches at the center. Shorten any downward or upward pointing branches, to 2-3 inches. Once the plant starts bearing fruit, the younger stems will produce better and more fruit, so prune away older stems.
It is best to maintain branches of 1, 2 and 3 years of age on the bush. 3 years and older gooseberry bushes require minimum maintenance and pruning. At such an age, the bush must be pruned twice a year, once in the summer, once in the winter.
Aside from pruning, a gardener must also be vigilant against natural pests and enemies of the gooseberry bush. A fruit bearing tree will attract birds such as bullfinches, so cover the bush with netting. The gooseberry sawfly, fruitworm and currantworm are 3 insect pests that should be watched for.
Inspect leaves for holes or caterpillar bite marks and if found, remove the pests by hand. While pruning, protect your hands from the sharp thorns of the bush, with gloves and wearing a long sleeved coat. In summation, the gooseberry bush is quite fertile and an easy to grow bush, if the proper care and pruning steps are followed.