RED CURRANT GROWN EASILY AND ORGANICALLY

Whereas black currants are sweet, the fruit of the red currant has an acid flavour. It makes a tasty dessert, and is highly esteemed for making tarts, jam, jelly, wine. It is grown in bush form; and as cordons with one, two or three stems. In cordon form the red currant occupies the minimum of space, planted against a fence or wall or against wires strained between end posts. As either bush or cordon it can be depended on to produce heavy crops year after year.

Ready for Use. First pickings are available in July, and the season can be extended to September by choice of suitable varieties. For early pickings the most suitable site for cordons is a fence or wall facing south; later crops can be secured from a north-facing fence or wall.

Varieties. These include Earliest of Fourlands (very early); Laxton’s No (mid-season); Lax-ton’s Perfection (late), producing specially large bunches of excellent fruit.

Soil Preparation. Very heavy, damp ground needs to be lightened by digging in deeply plenty of sand, sharp grit, or mortar rubble. Very light soil needs the addition of old manure, or decayed material from the soft rubbish heap. This currant will flourish in any ordinarily fertile garden soil.

When and How to Plant. November is the best planting time, though this can be done during mild weather, when the ground is not too wet, up to February. Bushes should be spaced 4 ft. to 5 ft. apart each way; cordons 12 in. apart. Full details are given in the section THE ABC OF PLANTING.

Watering and Feeding. First-year plants need special attention with the watering can; soil must not be allowed to dry out during spring and summer. Established plants also appreciate plenty of moisture at the roots, and a surface dressing of old manure, or wet hop manure, put down in late spring helps the production of a fine crop.

Pruning. Fruit is produced from short spurs, and a framework of vigorous older wood must be maintained. In summer (June or July) side shoots formed the same year should be nipped back to within four leaves of their base, and again shortened in winter – cut back close to the basal fruit buds; this applies both to bushes and cordons. An old, worn-out branch should be removed from a bush in winter, its place being taken by a conveniently placed younger growth, the latter not to be summer pruned but shortened back to 6 in. or 8 in. when the old branch is removed. Main branches should be slightly shortened in winter so that about 6 in. of the summer’s extension growth is left. Propagation. Red currants are very easily increased by means of, cuttings as explained in the section How TO PROPAGATE FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES, where also is a stcp-by-step explanation of how bushes and cordons are made. Caterpillars, Other Troubles. Grubs eating the leaves can be dealt with by dusting or spraying with Derris insecticide, just after flowering. Fly – black or green – should be attacked on their very first appearance with quassia solu- tion. Scale on branches, stems and shoots can be countered by spraying with a tar oil winter wash when the buds are completely dormant. Methods of using these remedies are explained fully in the section How TO DEAL WITH FRUIT PESTS AND DISEASES.

When gathering the fruit, complete bunches should be picked when the berries are dry and before they become squasliily over-ripe. The currants soon reach the latter stage when in full sun; bushes and cordons in a position shaded during the hottest hours keep the fruit longer in prime condition. The less handling the bunches receive, the fewer currants will be spoiled.;

For Winter Use. Red currants can be enjoyed after the fresh season as jam, jelly or wine.

Roots should be disturbed as little as possible – they move best with plenty of soil clinging to them. If pot plants are dry at the time, soak them with water an hour or two before setting out.

Generous-sized holes should be made with a trowel, deep enough to allow the plants to rest with their lowest leaves level with the surface. Soil should be returned to each hole and firmed over and around the roots with the fingers or the butt end of the trowel. The plants should then be watered in, unless it happens to rain as planting is concluded.

Watering and Feeding. A large part of the contents of the strawberry is water, and plants can scarcely have enough of it in dry weather. Ground can be prevented from drying out too rapidly in hot spells by spreading old stable manure containing short straw around the plants – between the plants in a row and between the rows. This should be put down in early spring. Rains (or watering) will wash the straw clean, the manure going down to the roots and the clean straw then preventing the berries from being splashed with soil. If that cannot be done the plants will profit from occasional feeding, whilst the berries are swelling, with a special strawberry fertilizer or weak liquid manure.

Removing Runners. Plants will send out slender stems, flat with the ground, these producing at intervals baby plants. Only those required for propagation purposes, as explained in a later paragraph and in the section How TO PROPAGATE FRUIT TREES AND BUSHES, should be allowed to remain; the others should be cut off as soon as noticed. Protecting the Berries. If strawy manure is put down early, as a mulch, this will safeguard berries against soil-splashing. In the event of hard, late frosts some of the straw should be picked up and lightly placed over the blossoms. Frost not infrequently spoils the prospect of a bumper crop, and this flower protection is therefore worth every attention. Clean, short straw, or even dry leaves, can be used for the latter purpose, and removed from over the blossoms when frost has gone and then placed on the soil around the plants. •

Where only a few plants are grown the berries can be kept

In the dining-room biggest bunches of the largest currants make a fine show if piled on a leaf-lined dish and presented at table for dessert.

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