Glorious Gooseberry!   

Gardener’s Notebook  


kahvikisu from Kangasala, Suomi (Finland) / CC BY (


We survived the winter and March is here. That means it’s time to take action and shape the scope of our summer gardens. Everything we do in the spring months affects the outcome during the coming growing season.   

Ribes speciosum is a type of gooseberry with spiny stems and fruits and glossy dark green leaves. Photo by Joshua Burman Thayer

My mission today is to encourage you to plant Ribes uva-crispa, commonly known as the gooseberry. This larger cousin of the currant is a lovely, lacy, and elegant upright plant that might prick you a little if you grab onto its branches. It can yield a harvest of sweet, tart berries that are good for kids and birds alike, and what’s amazing is that it can do this in a shady part of your home garden that you might have neglected.  

Find gooseberry plants at your local nursery in 1-gallon or 5-gallon containers. While you’re there, pick up a sack of an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute)-listed planting soil such as Happy Frog or Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest and a sack of worm castings. 

Back at home, find a mixed-light spot that will allow each to grow into a 5-foot spherical shrub. Dig a hole that is three times bigger than the container and add 1 cup of worm castings to the bottom of the hole. Place the gooseberry plant into the hole so that the root crown sits 1–2 inches higher than the surrounding soil: This will allow for settling. Water 2–3 times per week until the rainy season begins in the fall. 

SEASONAL NOTICE: California is now in a drought and the soil is rapidly drying out. With the lowering water table we can wind up with stressed plants. You should water your garden twice per week unless the rains return. 

This Gardeners Notebook is one of Joshua Burman Thayer’s monthly columns for this newsletter, East Bay Appetizer. He also contributes longer articles for Edible East Bay’s print magazine, all archived at Check out his design site: