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My fiancee is moving in with me, and would like to bring her gooseberry bush along, since it makes excellent jam, and the melomel (mead) that we made with the gooseberries appears to be promising as well.

My thought is that we should wait until it has gone dormant for the winter, cut the branches back somewhat, and then dig it up, hoping that we've got a decent root mass to above-ground mass ratio. I'm not totally comfortable with that, but the only other established plants that I have successfully transplanted (from the ground) are bulbs and groundcover, and I assume this will work somewhat differently. Also, gooseberry bushes are somewhat thorny, so we'll have to contend with that somehow, as well.

In full foliage, the bush takes up probably 6 or 8 square feet of area in the yard. It has been in that spot for 5-7 years. My expectation is to get it back into the ground in its new location within a day of digging it up.

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This question asked earlier today: How can I safely transplant blueberry bushes planted in the spring before the winter hits covers nearly the same ground as your question. I believe the answers to that (when it is answered) will be fully applicable here too (and for most other plants/berries). Since that's older and has 4 upvotes, I think this should be closed as a duplicate of that and people can answer that question instead. What do you think? –  Lorem Ipsum Oct 3 '11 at 22:50
    
that's probably what got me thinking about it, though i think both plants may have dissimilar nutrient requirements. otherwise, it's acceptable to me. –  baka Oct 3 '11 at 23:19
    
My $0.02 (given my answer on the other question): this is different because the plant is established, where the blueberries are only months old and are not yet bearing. This gooseberry has more value. –  bstpierre Oct 3 '11 at 23:52
    
@bstpierre hmm.. that's a fair point. Also, if baka can afford to wait a little past the worst of winter or perhaps till the last frost, it's an entirely different game and much easier to deal with. –  Lorem Ipsum Oct 4 '11 at 1:52
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@baka What size is the gooseberry bush? If possible could you please post a photo of it... Also when you transplant the bush are you planning to-do-so in the same day, or will the bush spend sometime out of the ground (in some kind of container/pot)? –  Mike Perry Oct 4 '11 at 3:17
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My thought is that we should wait until it has gone dormant for the winter, cut the branches back somewhat, and then dig it up, hoping that we've got a decent root mass to above-ground mass ratio.

I believe you are on the right track, thought process. Below is how I would go about moving/transplanting a mature gooseberry bush...

  • First, if you can wait until late Winter or very early Spring to dig it up and move it, that would be ideal.

  • Second, before digging it up, spend sometime choosing an appropriate location in your landscape and preparing that location.

Below is from your states University Extension Office, Fruits & Nuts: Landscaping with Fruit and Nut Crops (direct link to PDF)

Gooseberries grow normally in cooler climates, so heavy mulching of the base of these plants is desirable to keep roots cool. Some shade is permissible, but heavy shade is detrimental to growth and fruiting.

  • Seeing as your Summer's can be pretty (brutally) hot, I would be inclined to find a location that gets full morning sun, then offers some shade from 2 or 3 o'clock onwards.

  • If the soil in your chosen location isn't organically rich and/or has poor moisture retention, take the time to dig-in plenty of organic matter (eg compost, manure, shredded fall leaves). Taking the time to do this, if needed, will pay huge dividends once you come to transplant time.

  • Me, being me, I would use compost as the mulch layer. Using compost as a mulch has the added benefit of feeding plants naturally and slowly. Also if your soil is "poor" using a compost mulch layer will help improve the soil over time (as you add a "fresh" layer, once to twice a year).

    • If you don't have access to homemade compost, locate a local resource and ensure you can have some on hand (enough for a 2 to 3inch / 50 to 75mm thick mulch layer) on the day you transplant.

Below come via Gooseberries and Currants

Site Selection and Soil Preparation

Unlike most other fruit crops, currants and gooseberries tolerate partial shade and prefer a cool, moist growing area. Northern slopes with protection from direct sun are ideal. Planting along the side of a building or shady arbor is suitable as well.

Avoid sites with poor air circulation, which increases the incidence of powdery mildew. Sloping ground alleviates this condition. Also avoid light-textured, sandy soils. Rich, well drained soils that have a high moisture holding capacity are best. Incorporate organic matter (compost, peat, or manure) to improve the soil, particularly if it is somewhat sandy. The ideal soil pH is about 6.5.

Transplant day (assuming later Winter or very early Spring)

  • First, prune the gooseberry bush. Personally I would prune as heavily as I dare, make the physical size of the bush as small as possible, thus making manhandling of the bush as easy as possible...

Pruning gooseberries

Gooseberries produce fruit on 2-year-old canes, 3-year-old canes and older canes. New canes originate from the underground crown each season on vigorous plants. The younger canes are more productive, so it is desirable to remove the older, weaker canes by cutting them out at the soil line. This leaves a preponderance of the younger, more vigorous canes and encourages a continuous replacement of new canes. Young plants, therefore, require little pruning for the first three or four years.

Pruning - Currants and Gooseberries in the Home Garden

You should prune established currant and gooseberry shrubs to encourage vigor and fruit production, improve sun penetration into the bush, and maintain good air circulation to minimize disease. During the first three years of growth, allow four or five canes to develop per year, removing only weak or damaged wood. Beginning in the fourth year, prune out the oldest wood annually in early spring before growth begins. In addition, remove any weak new growth. A mature bush should have 9 to 12 canes once pruning is completed. Fruit is produced on one-, two-, and three-year-old wood.

  • After you've finished pruning, if the ground isn't wet, soak the soil around the bush.

  • Then dig all the way around the bush, dig as far out from the it as you can, you want to limit the damage as much as possible to the root system (which is shallow).

  • Work a tarp under and around the root-ball, this will help keep the root-ball encased in soil during the lifting and moving processes. Then when moving the bush, pick it up (manhandle it) via the tarp.

    • If you haven't got a tarp, pick one up beforehand and have it ready to go.
  • Dig the new hole only as deep as you have to ie When you put the bush in its new location it shouldn't seat deeper in the soil than it did previously. Also dig the new hole twice as wide as the root-ball you managed to remove from the ground.

  • Back fill the hole with the material you dug out (the well prepared soil you had prepared months, weeks beforehand), making sure you heel it in well as you go.

  • Once the bush is in its new home in the ground, give it a long, slow drink, you really want to water it in well.

  • After that, put down your (compost) mulch layer.

Some of the above points come from this answer, Any special steps which should be taken when transplanting a potato bush? here on SE.

Below are some resources I used for this answer, plus additional information that I believe should prove helpful/useful:


Good luck! and I hope the above helps somewhat...

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Mike's answer is very helpful in that it walks you though the transplanting process. Remember to get help because the root system is likely bigger than and the soil ball heavier than you expect. Remember also to wrap the root ball tightly while transporting the shrub. You do not want the root ball to fall apart on the way. Also keep the stems covered and moist during transit. You do not want them drying out.

Moving an established woody plant is hard to do by hand. You need to be prepared for the likely possibility that much or all of the root ball will fall apart. Unlike bulbs and perennials, woody plants stop growing completely when the top goes dormant — the roots do not continue to grow. After you move the shrub, you are, in effect, storing it in its new location until it begins to grow again in the spring. So if you lose the root ball or if only end up with a relatively small root ball, you need be concerned with protecting the canes during this storage period. You will need to prune differently also.

Wait until the plant has gone dormant. Then before you begin to dig it up, you will want to prune it back. The second and third year canes on a gooseberry produce the most fruit because they store the most food. They are the stems you want to save. Remove all the old canes (year four or more) at ground level. Remove all the new and twiggy growth and shorten the stems that remain. This will make the plant easier to handle, and, if you get a good root ball, it is all the pruning you need to do. If you lose much of the root ball, get it planted in its new location and then remove another 50% of the stems at ground level and perhaps further shorten the remaining.

For many shrubs, if the root system has been badly damaged, the stems may dry out and die over the winter. This is particularly true of suckering shrubs like gooseberry. The protection you provide the stems will vary depending on how successful the transplanting was. Occasionally misting the stems on sunny fall days followed in late fall by a small pile of oak leaves or marsh hay over the crown may be all you need to do. If much of the root system is lost, however, you may need to very regularly mist the stems through the fall and, then, mound soil over the crown, and put down a layer of oak leaves or marsh hay before winter hits. You must remove the mound before the buds expand in the spring.

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Just dig it up & move it! I have transplanted numerous gooseberry bushes & they are hardy. As long as you do it all in the same day, you can do it anytime of year & not worry about the root ball. Just make sure you fill the new hole with water & supplement like Miracle-Gro before inserting the bush. Then, water & fertilize thoroughly again once planted. Prune once winter comes.

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that's basically what we did. we're working on harvesting our second year's worth of berries since we transplanted it. my wife even rooted some pieces that came off of it with the move, and they're growing nicely, too. –  baka Jun 18 '13 at 20:20
    
Glad to hear its doing good! :) –  Joe Jun 19 '13 at 3:01
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