Growing Black Currants
BLACK CURRANTS are important because they contain more Vitamin C than any other British fruit. They prefer a heavyand will put up with bad drainage conditions better than any other fruit.
TYPE AND AGE OF BUSHES
It is important to buy clean black currant bushes that have been given the Ministry of Agriculture’s certificate of health. Buy strong-growing two-year-olds carrying from two to four young branches.
The bushes may last for 20 years provided the big bud mite is controlled and the virus known as reversion kept away.
Plant on an open site in November or early December if possible. Planting can be done later than this—in fact, right through to late February, but by this time the soil is cold and the roots are not able to make an early start. Plant in rows 6 ft. apart, allowing 5 ft. between the bushes. This method of planting gives the heaviest yields per acre of ground.
If the soil is heavy clay, after planting apply a top dressing of well-rottedor dung at the rate of one barrow-load to a 6-yd. row. With light or sandy soils dig the manure in during October or November when the ground is being prepared and give a mulch in spring.
In the May following planting, cover the whole of the ground where the black currants are growing with old straw up to 1 ft. deep, or sedge peat 2 in. deep. This will obviate cultivation which might damage the shallow-rooting bushes and will, at the same time, conserve moisture. Do not remove the straw in the winter, but if much of it has been pulled into the ground by worms, add more straw in the spring to maintain the depth of 1 ft.
Each year, about the middle of February, apply hoof and horn meal all over the straw or sedge peat at the rate of 3 oz. per sq. yd. Distribute this evenly and let it be washed in by the rain. If the soil is light and sandy, apply wood ash as well at the rate of 8 oz. per sq. yd. or sulphate of potash at 2 oz. per sq. yd. every three or four years.
Pruning and Propagating Black Currant Bushes
If the black currant bushes are planted in November, cut down to within 2 in. of the ground in February. When planted later than November, prune in March. The one-year-old healthy shoots that are cut off can be used asfor raising new bushes.
As the bulk of the fruit is borne on wood produced the previous year, the general rule is to cut out the old wood and retain the new. Very little pruning, if any, is necessary in the second and third years, but thereafter remove one-third of each black currant bush each winter, immediately the leaves have fallen. Cut out the oldest wood, starting with branches that are drooping down to the soil. Then remove one in the centre of the bush. After the sixth year, the pruning may be reduced once more by cutting out only, say, one-sixth of each bush, keeping the bushes upright and easy to pick.
Blackcurrants can be cut at any point, for there seem to be numerous tiny buds which break out into growth quite happily when encouraged to do so.
It is quite easy to increase a stock of black currants by using 9-in. Long cuttings of young, healthy wood. Prepare these cuttings by making a cut with a sharp knife just below a bud at the base of each cutting.
Dig a V-shaped trench 8 in. deep with one upright side. Lay the cuttings upright 4 in. apart against this straight side, leaving l in. of each cutting peeping above soil level.
Put the soil back into the trench and tread down well.
Cuttings that are inserted in November or December should be left in position until the following autumn when the plants may be lifted and planted out where they are to grow.
Wild bees, small flies and other insects are useful for pollinating black currants in cool weather, and hive bees are useful in warm weather.
The flowers can be protected from wind if the bushes are tied into the shape of a cone during the spring.
Black currants start to turn black a week or so before they are ripe. Be sure to wait until they are fully ripe before harvesting, but always pick the berries on their stalks and, if possible, on a dry day, before they begin to split.