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Enormous Gooseberry Brush

Morning all,  first post on here, so please be gentleimage.  9 days ago we took over an overgrown allotment and have inherited a huge gooseberry bush, probably 5ft high.  Very overgrown with bindweed, stray raspberries, couch grass and I am sure there will be other vegitation lurking amongst it. I am going to attack it this weekend.  What's the best form of attack?  Any suggestions hugely appreciated!


  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 3,700

    Thick gloves and watch your eyes.

  • keepitlivekeepitlive Posts: 101


    there is a video on the Gardeners World website where Monty Don demonstrates how to prune gooseberries and redcurrants, among others (link below).

    If you have the patience, it may be best to wait until this winter, then carry out a major renovation on the shrub. Restorative pruning should be carried out in winter. If the bush is healthy and cropping well, it may be worth saving. Gooseberries can be very long lived (20 years or so). First remove any shoots that are dead, broken, weak, diseased or damaged. Then thin out the branches to open up the centre of the plant to let in air and light. Your are aiming to create a goblet shape with 6 to 8 main branches.

    The advice on the RHS website for regular annual pruning of gooseberries is:

    1. In mid-June to July, shorten the current season’s growth back to five leaves, except for those branches needed to extend the main framework. This pruning should not remove fruit, as fruit develops mainly on the older wood, not the current season’s growth.(probably pointless this year on this shrub).
    2. In winter, remove dead wood and low-lying shoots. Then spur prune all side shoots by cutting them back to one to three buds from the base. Shorten branch tips by one quarter, cutting to a suitable outward facing bud.
    3. Repeat step 2 each year as maintenance pruning.

    Feed the shrub with Sulphate of Potash in late winter/early spring, or if the soil is not in very good condition, a more general purpose fertiliser (bonemeal or blood, fish and bone). Water well and mulch round (but not touching) the shrub (garden compost, bark etc). Often, neglected gooseberry bushes self-layer when a shoot droops to the ground. If yours has done this, you may be able to get some young plants for free.

    The weeds are a real problem. I would say that Couch Grass is the worst, because it is so difficult to get at it without disturbing the roots of the gooseberry. Systemic weedkiller is the stuff, but getting enough of the Couch Grass to act on will be the problem.

    I have been able to completely eradicate Bindweed from my garden by doing this:

    1. unwrap as many of the Bindweed stems as you can and gather them into bundles, trying not to crease of break them

    2. half bury in the ground as many containers (glass/plastic) as there are bundles

    3. half fill each container with a systemic weedkiller solution

    4. gently insert each bundle into a container, ensuring that a good proportion of the leaves is submerged

    5. cover each container to keep rain out (clingfilm is good)

    6. leave for as long as you can, but at least until you can see the stems discolouring and wilting (you may have some regrowth in following years, but persistence pays off)

  • MawbsMawbs Posts: 13

    Thank you both, I will certainly have thick gloves and heavy clothing on as I expect I will be scratched from head to toe!  I particularly like the Bindweed tip. 

  • ColinAColinA Posts: 311

    When I took over my allotment several years ago there was eight massive overgown gooseberry bushes like yours, approx six foot high by six foot wide.

    My wife works in a local garden centre she asked the plant manager what to do with them the advice given was to cut down totally to approx a foot high. And then prune as required in the future-----It worked

  • nightgardennightgarden SW ScotlandPosts: 112

    On a similar fruit bush theme - I too inherited hugely overgrown fruit bushes so the advice here is great - but mine are scattered all over the garden so would it be best to cut down and move them now or cut down and move in the autumn?

  • keepitlivekeepitlive Posts: 101

    hi nightgarden

    I think that trying to move massively overgrown fruit bushes at any time of year would be difficult purely because of their size, so would recommend pruning first. Having pruned it, you probably won't get much of a crop (if any) the following year. There is also the risk that an old, neglected fruit bush won't survive the trauma of being moved.

    The best time to move fruit bushes (and most other shrubs) is when they are dormant in winter (November-December). If you do it then, you can try and insure against loss of the shrubs by taking hardwood cuttings beforehand (October is best).

    Cut ripe shoots of gooseberries and currants to length (Blackcurrant - 8"-10", Red- and Whitecurrant - 12", Gooseberry - 12"-15"). On blackcurrant and gooseberry, keep all buds to assist rooting. On red- and whitecurrant, remove all but the top 3 - 4 buds to prevent suckering (rub the buds out with your thumb). To prepare the cutting, make a horizontal cut just below a node at the base, a sloping cut away from the bud at the top - this helps to ensure the cuttings are planted the right way up.

    Using a spade, prepare a slit trench in a sheltered location in free-draining soil (if on heavy soil, add some gritty sand to base of trench). Insert cuttings of gooseberries and red/whitecurrants to half their length, with blackcurrants, leave only top 2 buds above soil. Firm the soil and water in. Label the cuttings. They should be ready to plant out in the following autumn.

    Before replanting gooseberry cuttings, rub out any shoots on the lower 4" of stem or any buds from the root area to avoid suckering.

  • nightgardennightgarden SW ScotlandPosts: 112

    hello keepitlive

    Thank you so much for your help - I think you are right, moving 14 bushes would be an enormous task for very little reward!  

    So I think I'll leave them where they are, prune them back now and try taking cuttings later.



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