"If you want a few fine flowers, cut hard; if you want plenty of little ones, cut lightly": thus the expert Rose grower. Very much the same advice might be given respecting Gooseberries. Those people who want a great quantity of fruit, and do not mind lacerating their hands in the gathering of it, may imitate the popular plan of letting the bushes run wild; but those who want quality as well as quantity, and deem it humiliating to have to fly to gloves in order to protect themselves from scratches while gathering, will give the bushes a little attention with the secateurs. I could tell of old, neglected bushes, nearly as thick as a thorn hedge, which have been caused to bear splendid fruit by being thinned under practical instructions, and afterwards dressed with a fertiliser. I agree that such bushes are not satisfactory subjects to take in hand, but they are never beyond improvement. If operating on them myself I invariably attack them from the base, first clearing away any suckers which may be springing up from the rootstock, then getting to work on some of the main branches with a small saw. With three or four of these cut away access can generally be got to the centre of the bush, and then the secateurs will quickly clear a space between the principal growths.

Gooseberries ought to be so trained that when gathering time comes the grower has only to take hold of the tip of the branch and draw it down to be able to pass his hand freely along the spurs, and gather the fruit rapidly and comfortably. This condition is easily secured when he has the training of the bushes from an early stage. The nurseryman who raised them from cuttings will probably have shortened them in their first year, perhaps also in their second, so that they have about half a dozen strong young shoots. These may be shortened one-third their length at planting, but after that the leaders may be allowed to extend. Fruiting spurs will develop on these branches. As regards the side shoots that push from them, the lower ones should be shortened to six leaves in August, and cut back to two buds the following spring; the upper ones, or such of them at least as space can be found for without crowding, may be left to bear. In looking over the young wood with a view to select a few for retention, first remove any that grow towards the middle of the bush. Gooseberries should not be pruned in autumn, but in spring, as if left somewhat crowded in the winter and dusted with lime while wet less damage is done by birds. (For details see Fig. 19.)

Fig. 19. Winter Pruning The Gooseberry Tree. - The Spur system.
Fig. 19. Winter Pruning The Gooseberry Tree. - The Spur System

References

A, part of a branch before pruning, but marked by cross lines for that operation: a, hading shoot of preceding summer; b, side shoots; c, natural spurs; d, spurred growths; e, shoots from extremity buds; f, spurs. Ages of wood: 1, one year; 2, two years; 3, three years.

B, part of a branch, similar to A, after pruning: g, leading shoot shortened to cause the buds to break at the base, and thus provide a vigorous continuation growth and spurs, or shoots to form them, for bearing; h, side shoots shortened to within 1 inch of their base; i, natural n spurs; j, shoots ยป from growths spurred in previous year, shortened to within 1 inch of their origin; k, spurs not to be shortened, as that implies cutting away the fruit which they are likely to bear.

C, bearing bush of Red Champagne Gooseberry: l, branches before pruning, but marked by cross lines for that operation; m, branches after pruning.