The Q&A Archives: gooseberries

Question: I have a very old gooseberry bush that is at least 15yrs old. New shouts have grown and the whole bush does produce berries. But some of the berries are about the size of a pea. How do I get more of the large size gooseberries to grow. Also in the past three years the berries have started to get brown spots on the berries and rough brown blotchy areas.

Answer: I can't tell from your description but the fruit may be infested with a sawfly maggot. The adult is a small yellowish fly, about 0.33 inch long, with smoky bands across the wings. The maggots are white, cylindrical, and tapered at the head. The maggots develop inside and feed in the berry, making them inedible. Infested fruit often drop prematurely, but others remain on the bush. Infested berries show a discolored area where the egg was inserted. Infested fruits often turn red before they drop. I'd pick a few of the fruits with brown spots and cut them open. If you find worm like pests, pick and destroy all the affected fruits. Brown patches on the fruit, as well as on the stems and leaves can indicate a fungal disease called powdery mildew. Preventative sprays in the early spring just as your plants are leafing out is the best way to control powdery mildew. You didn't mention whether or not you regularly prune. If not, you should, to open the plant up to better air circulation and to encourage heatlhy new growth. Best wishes with your gooseberries.

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