Pruning gooseberries and currants is simple if done well. A pruned fruit bush is goblet-shaped with an open centre. The branches should be facing away from the middle, and supposed to not be competing for sunlight. The light is the one that ripens the fruit, and therefore, should be distributed evenly for good crops.
When to Prune Gooseberries?
Pruning Gooseberries and Currant bushes are done when they’re dormant, in the time between October and early March. Pruning the plants before coming out of dormancy allows them to heal quicker and encourages them to vigorously grow in Spring.
Gooseberry Bushes, however, are best pruned until the buds are beginning to open. The advantage of an unpruned bush is its spines that deter bullfinches that like to eat the buds.
Guide to Pruning Gooseberries the Right Way
STEP 1 – Choose the Right Gooseberry branches
The branches that are 2 or 3-year-olds are the ones that produce most fruits and the best crops. This is why you’ll have to cut the branches produced 4 years or older. 1-year-old branches do not produce fruits, and once they go past 3 years, their productivity will decline. The same goes for gooseberries and red or white currants. However, Black currants are advised to have their 3 or older branches pruned.
A yearly pruning session should only remove ⅓ of the branches. Removing the branches right down to the base will encourage growth. Trimming them between buds or side shoots will give you vigorous growth of small branches that aren’t necessary for its purpose. Having thicker bushes would only block the sunlight.
The large branches crowding the centre should be removed completely. The older branches tend to be darker and have peeling bark, making them easier to spot. Cut the older branches right to their point of origin. Doing this part should be done with a good set of loopers due to the thickness of mature branches.
STEP 2 – Identify Damaged Woods
Any dead, damaged, diseased wood should be removed. Dead woods are brittle and have no buds. Damaged woods are 2 branches rubbing. Diseased woods are those rough and raised areas of broken bark.
Remember that It’s always best to cut a small branch to the point where it meets its parent branch.
STEP 3 – Remove Old Gooseberry Branches
Branches that are growing to the centre of the bush should be removed, this is because branches like these tend to block out the light from the other branches. This process would also promote good ventilation, reducing the chances of mildew. This would also make the harvest easier.
STEP 4 – Remove Outliers to Continue pruning gooseberries
Suckers that are growing out of the soil from around the main stem should be pruned. You’ll also have to prune branches that are growing on top of each other, if this was allowed to happen the branch below the other would not get enough sunlight. In the situation of branches on top of each other, it’s best to remove the lower one or simply retain the one younger.
STEP 5 – Adjust the Gooseberry Bush Size
If you need to, you can adjust the size of the fruit your bush produces. You’ll have to cut back the side shoots to 2 buds if you want bigger fruits. However, if you have blackcurrants, do not do this because their 1-year-old branches produce fruits too.
Keep in mind that 1-year-old woods are light grey and older barks are browner. Cut 2 buds, and make sure to cut above an outward-facing bud, making the growth away from the centre of the bush.
The cut should be just above and slanted away from the bud you’ve selected. Do not cut too close to the bud or it will die. Leave too much wood above the bud and it will die and become a possible welcome for infection.
The Right Soil Adjustment for Pruning Gooseberries
You’ll have to improve the soil around the bush after pruning. A slow-release feed should be good for the season ahead. The weeds around the base should be cleared out and then add a generous spread of well-rotted manure. Keep your bushes weed and grass free by shallow mulching of lawn clippings, however, avoid deep mulches or you’ll suffocate the surface roots of your plants.