How to Grow Blackcurrants
How to Grow Blackcurrants
The black currant is a particularly rewarding crop for the amateur gardener, especially if space is at a premium. The fruit has high food value and its flavour usually appeals to most members of the family; it is comparatively easy to grow; and the fruit is excellent for deep freezing. As smaller and cheaper freezers become available this is giving more and more families the opportunity to use their home-grown produce more effectively as well, of course, as to economise by buying produce in larger quantities.
Black currants are grown in bush form, with the main shoots arising from ground level instead of being borne on a short main stem (or ‘leg’ as it is called) as is the case with red currants and gooseberries.
Plant the bushes between November and March in rich, well-cultivated rather moist in a sunny or partially shaded position. Avoid sites which are subjected to frequent winds. Plant two-year-old bushes 6ft. apart each way, and immediately after planting cut them down to within 4 to 6in. of soil level. This is essential to ensure the production of plenty of good strong new shoots in the season following, and it is on these that fruit will be produced a year later. There will not be any fruit in the first season after planting.
Mulch the plants heavily each year with, either in the late winter or after fruiting in summer, and apply a light potash dressing after fruiting in summer to help ripen the wood and encourage future fruit production. Putting straw down all over the soil round the bushes is a very good way of keeping under control, and it also supplies some organic matter. It can be left down permanently and renewed as required.
Black currants do not need support or training, but if they are unavoidably planted in a windy position, protect them from the prevailing wind with hessian, sacking or some sort of barrier, otherwise they will suffer from what is known as ‘run-off’. In such conditions the bees will not work the blossom and only one or two flowers near the top end of the ‘strig’ (the bunch of fruit) are likely to set, the flowers getting progressively less well set the nearer they are to the free end of the strig.
Pruning can be carried out in summer after fruiting, or as soon as the leaves have fallen in November. The black currant fruits best on new wood, and hardly at all on the older wood, so fruiting shoots should be cut right out. This encourages the production of new shoots the following season. It will mean removing at least one-third of the wood, cutting it back to the point of origin. Some varieties are inclined to produce strong new shoots on older shoots, and then the older ones should be cut back only as far as the new.
Black currants can be increased from both hardwood and softwoodand by . The , made from the current season’s wood and some 10in, long, are planted in a prepared trench in October so that only the top three or four buds remain above soil level. The other buds, however, are not removed. Space the cuttings 9in. apart and when returning the soil to the trench firm well with the feet. Softwood cuttings, made from side growths of which the top 3in. is used, are preferred by some gardeners as they are taken in July when buds affected by Big Bud (Reversion), the most serious trouble of this fruit, can be seen and affected plants avoided for propagation purposes. These cuttings are rooted in a shaded cold frame and they must be well supplied with moisture to make sure that they do not dry out. The rooted cuttings will be ready for lining out in nursery rows in autumn. The third method of increase, by layering, is carried out in June and July.
Varieties. These include Mendip Cross, early. Wellington XXX, mid-season, heavy cropper (rather straggling grower and needs severe upward-tending pruning). Westwick Choice, rnid-season to late, fine flavoured (makes a neat bush and grows strongly). Daniel’s September, late, heavy cropper (compact growing).