How to Grow Blackcurrants

Growing Currant Bushes

It seems that currants have always been something of the Cinderellas of the fruit world, where gardens are concerned. They are not often eaten as a fresh fruit but are some of the best there are for ‘processing’ in one way or another. There’s red currant jelly to go with lamb instead of the rather acidic and overpowering mint sauce. Black currants are unrivalled as a supplier of vitamin C and make a lovely syrup. And I can personally recommend my own home made black currant gin. White currants are more of novelty value and are simply a colourless variety of the red currant.

A possible disadvantage of currants is the amount of room they take up in the garden. This is an unjustified complaint because there are several ways of growing them so that they take up next to no room at all.

In general, the growing of currants is perfectly simple.


Black Currants

'Ben Sarek' blackcurrantsFeeding is important for black currants. This is because the bushes are grown as stools and a continuous supply of new wood must be encouraged, as well as the crop itself. A good routine to get into is to apply a dressing of general fertilizer, such as Growmore, in the spring at the first sign of growth followed by a heavy mulch of garden compost or manure.

Black currants, in particular, are apt to shed their half-grown berries if they get too dry at the roots.

They must also be pruned correctly if they are to crop well. The general rule is to cut out branches once they are four years old. This is done as soon as the leaves start to fall in the autumn and is easily mastered by counting back the years of growth down a branch. They are easy to see as the wood gets darker with every year of age.

As regards varieties the new ‘Ben Sarek’ and ‘Ben Connan’ are likely to be the garden varieties of the future. They carry very heavy crops of large berries and, most important, are far less vigorous than other varieties and need only be planted 4ft (1.2m) apart instead of the usual 5-6ft (1.5-2m). Big Ben is all that you would expect it to be; heavy crops of huge berries. It is also resistant to mildew and leaf spot. It fruits in early July.

The latest flowering is Jet and this should certainly be grown where spring frosts are troublesome. Where not, ‘Ben Sarek’ is much better.

Another good one, having taken over as the standard commercial variety, is Ben Lomond.

As regards ways of growing black currants, to reduce the amount of space they occupy, a simple solution is to prune out branches before they reach four years old. In fact, we can carry this a stage further and emulate what was sometimes done commercially.

The system there is to treat a plot of black currants as two and, provided that the bushes are still young, cut down to the ground either one half of the area or alternate rows.

During the following year, the retained half will fruit while the cut-back ones will send up new shoots. In the autumn, the fruited bushes are cut to the ground while the others are left as they are. Come the summer; the ‘young’ bushes will carry a crop and the others will be growing. The former are then cut to the ground again. And so on, with any bush cropping every other year.

This is normally too wasteful of space for gardeners, but we can make use of the idea. All the bushes are cut down in the first place to set the system in motion, but, instead of cutting them back again straight after their first crop, they are allowed to grow on for another year when just the two-year-old branches are removed, together with any that are in the wrong place or damaged.

The result is a bush with two and one year-old shoots fruiting and a younger lot growing. The system is simple and the currants can be planted about 2ft (60cm) apart to make a sort of hedge.

The worst problem likely to be encountered is Big Bud Mite, recognised by the large, pea-sized buds that appear once the leaves have fallen in the autumn. These fail to open, with obviously harmful results.

Equally bad is the Reversion virus disease that the mites spread from bush to bush. This causes a slow degeneration of the bushes with a dramatic reduction in crop. The only sure way to get rid of big bud mite and, therefore, reversion, is to dig up the infected bushes and burn them.

16. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Soft Fruit | Tags: , | Comments Off on How to Grow Blackcurrants


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