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Many hobby gardeners want delicious gooseberries in their own garden so that they can nibble straight from the bush into their mouths or be processed into jam and other tasty dishes. The care is relatively easy, but for a rich harvest, the gooseberry bush must be cut back regularly. When is the right time for this, which tool is ideally used for this and how should usually be cut back is described in detail in the following article.

Ideal time

The ideal time to cut gooseberries, whether as a shrub, standard stem, trellis or spindle, is spring in March. A warm, rain-free and yet overcast day should be chosen for the pruning. This allows the interfaces to recover better and dry faster. In this way, the shrub is better protected against invading diseases or fungal infestation. As a rule, care should be taken that no flowers have formed on the day of cutting.

Cut right

Like most berry bushes, gooseberries grow straight from the root with individual shoots pointing upwards. In order to ensure a good yield in the harvest, the gooseberry bush must be pruned regularly so that the shoots do not block each other's light. Therefore, inward growing shoots should also be removed.

Because otherwise the fruits remain small and in the case of bushes with spines, these can hardly be reached even if the shoots are too close together. In addition, a single shoot only bears berries for a maximum of five years. If the shoots are older, they must be removed.

When cutting, you should therefore proceed as follows:

  • cultivated as a shrub, pruning is not necessary for the first three years
  • Allow eight to twelve main shoots to develop, cut the rest
  • before flowering, remove shoots just above the ground
  • every shoot that survives needs enough light
  • therefore remove so that the remaining shoots are well distributed
  • leave new shoots in the years to come
  • Remove shoots older than five years
  • these no longer bring any income
  • However, shorten new shoots
  • Cut back to five or six eyes

The gooseberry bush should be pruned every year, removing the old shoots entirely and pruning the remaining, younger shoots as described above. So that the hobby gardener knows how old the individual shoots are and when they need to be cut, the new shoots that have grown and should remain should be marked with a colored ribbon every year.

This way you can always see exactly how old the shoots are and when they have become too old for further yield and are removed completely. Ideally, a different color of ribbon is used for each year. An ideal gooseberry bush should have two one-year-old, two-year-old, three-year-old and four-year-old main shoots over the next few years.

Cultivate as a standard

Hardy shrubs that have been cultivated by cutting so that they only have a short, straight trunk with a bushy crown are referred to as high stems. So gooseberries can be cultivated and used not only as a shrub but also as a standard and thus as a gooseberry tree. If you don't want to buy a tree directly from a garden store, you can also grow the standard tree yourself, which is not easy, however. When raising the gooseberry into a tree, you should proceed as follows.

  • a straight, strong central shoot is important for cultivation
  • this is attached to a rod for support
  • all other shoots are removed just above the root
  • also remove any side branches that may form on the main shoot
  • once the desired height has been reached, remove the shoot tip except for three to four leaves
  • this is how the trunk height is determined
  • new side shoots are now forming up here, which are also being shortened
  • in this way a dense, round sphere is formed
  • If the trunk grows wider, the stick can be removed

Gooseberries are not only suitable for the decorative sight when cultivated as tall stems, which can even find their place in a bucket on the balcony or terrace, the harvest from a gooseberry tree is often more plentiful than from a shrub.

Pruning gooseberry tree

So that the tree also bears many gooseberries, the crown must also be cut regularly. This usually happens at the same time in spring as it does for the shrubs. When pruning the gooseberry tree, whether you have grown it yourself or bought it ready-made in stores, you should proceed as follows.

  • carry out a shape and maintenance cut
  • clear for this
  • remove all dry, rubbing and close-set shoots
  • Cut off the branches growing towards the ground
  • only leave about five to seven of these
  • leave about two to three side shoots per branch
  • shorten the others except for two eyes
  • here, too, pay attention to how old the shoots are

Last year's shoots bear the fruit on a high stem, which must be taken into account when pruning. The crown should be airy and permeable to sun and light to ensure a rich harvest.

Save a balding standard

In contrast to a shrub or espalier fruit, the crown of the standard tree can be bare if it is not pruned in just one year. Then the tree bears only a few and small, undeveloped gooseberries. The only way to save the tree is to make a radical cut, which should be done as follows.

  • only leave five branches
  • cut all others radically
  • also cut the bare shoots directly on the trunk
  • shorten the branches that remain, except for two eyes
  • this is how new shoots are usually formed
  • a new one forms above the old crown

In order to prevent further balding, a regular, annual cut should be carried out in the spring in the following years.

Cut espalier fruit

Trellis grating is popular in many hobby gardens because it is versatile and also space-saving. Many trees and shrubs are often pulled along the garden border to the neighbors as a natural fence.

This has the advantage that the hobby gardener can harvest plenty of fruit, but the fruit plants require little space as a narrow boundary. One or more gooseberry bushes can also be grown as espalier fruit. The cut here is basically the same as the cut of a shrub, but various other things must also be taken into account here.

  • provide space for development
  • more than eight to twelve main shoots may remain
  • Remove tails that develop too far from the stick
  • cut all base shoots that are more than four years old
  • Side shoots with fruit find more support on the trellis
  • Leitast can certainly carry more than two to three shoots

Spindle bush when space is limited

There has also been a recent trend towards growing shrubs as a slender spindle. This method can also be used with a gooseberry bush, especially if there is not enough space. Through targeted pruning, every hobby gardener can train his gooseberry tree into the shape of a slender spindle.

This should be done as follows:

  • When planting, use a stake 150 to 200 cm high
  • tie the strongest shoot to this
  • Cut back side shoots, two eyes remain
  • Cut back further shoots to the ground
  • continue to attach the main shoot to the stick during growth
  • thus some fruits are formed in height

Of course, this method only makes sense if there is really little space, for example only a very small balcony, on which a shrub or standard tree would not find space. The harvest is much smaller with this method as a spindle.


The right tool is important so that the gooseberry bush or tree does not suffer any damage when it is cut. So it is particularly important that the cutting tool is sharp and has been disinfected before cutting back. For this purpose, pure alcohol from the pharmacy or a special disinfectant from the well-stocked garden trade is used.

This is important to prevent bacteria or disease from entering the interface. Depending on whether the gooseberries cultivated in your own garden are specimens with thorns, gardening gloves should also be worn as a precaution when working with the shrub, otherwise there is a high risk of injury from the thorns.

In addition, the following tool is recommended for a pruning:

  • Rose Scissors
  • sharp knife
  • pruning shears help to protect yourself from the thorns
  • this is longer in the shaft and the thorns are not touched by the hands

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