If you’ve got enough space to dedicate an area to growing soft fruit it is always worth growing currants. Black, Red and White varieties are all easy to grow, tolerate a little shade and will reward with a heavy crop of vitamin rich fruit.
Currants from cuttings
Currants can be propagated quite easily from hardwood cuttings taken during the dormant season. Choose healthy blemish free branches from the previous seasons growth that are about 20-25cm long and cut it from the plant right at the base.
Trim the cutting just below a bud at the base, and above a bud at the top. Remove any soft growth at the stem tip. Leave all the buds on for blackcurrants. For redcurrants and whitecurrants remove all but the top three or four buds to create a clear stem.
Make a trench and add a little sand to it if you have it. Then plant the cuttings around 20cm apart. insert them into the soil to about half their length. Water well and they should be ready to transplant in about a year’s time and to fruit in around 3 years.
Alternatively Nurseries and Garden Centres can provide an array of mature plants ready fruit straightaway.
Aspect, soil and Growing in Pots
Currants are heavy feeders that need a deep, fertile and well drained soil. It’s well worth taking the time to prepare the soil properly. Dig well rotted compost or manure in prior to planting. For heaviest crops choose a sheltered sunny site but all varieties will cope with some shade.
If you want to grow soft fruit in a pot then 20L Vigoroot Pots are ideal. Currant bushes will do well in normal pots for several years but they will eventually become pot bound. The result of this will be to stop fruiting. You will find that once this has happened even repotting is unlikely to reverse it and the plant will never fruit again. This will not happen in Vigoroot pots as the roots will be air pruned. Therefore if properly watered and fed currants will go on indefinitaly in Vigoroot pots.
Container grown stock can be planted out at any time but bare root stock should be planted in late Autumn or early winter. Plants should be spaced 1.5m – 2m apart to allow for growth and easy access for picking.
Encourage new shoots by planting 5cm deeper than it was grown in the nursery – currants grow as ‘stooled’ bushes sending up new shoots from below ground level.
Blackcurrants in particular will benefit from feeding – they have a high nitrogen requirement so use blood, fish and bone or other similar feed in the spring. Additionally, a mulch of well rotted manure will help support the fruit production.
No support or training is needed for currants – they grow well as free standing bushes. Fruit is produced on wood made the previous year, which means that little or no pruning is needed in the first year, other than removing damaged or diseased branches.
After the first year, annual pruning should be done in late summer after fruiting. It is best done on a three-year cycle, pruning out growth over 2 years old down to ground level to thin out the bush but still leave branches that will fruit the following year and others that will mature to fruit the year after that.
Harvesting and Storage
Pick the fruits as clumps when they are ripe. Some gardeners prefer to cut out the whole branch for convenience, pruning the bush at the same time!
Currants are best eaten straightaway or otherwise frozen for use later. They do not store particularly well in the fridge. Delicious used to make puddings, jam, cordials or liquers.
Pests and diseases
A Fruit Cage or net will help prevent the birds from stealing the crop. Birdscare could allso be used but otherwise currants are fairly resistant to disease when well fed and grown in an open sunny spot.