CURRANTS (Black, Red and White)

Size: 1.2 to 1.5 m by 90cm (4 ft to 5 ft by 3 ft).

Pollination: Self-fertile.

Climate preferred: Cool temperate.

Aspect: Sunny or partial shade.

Soil: Any, provided it is moisture retentive and well-drained.

Yield: Four bushes will provide enough fruit for the average family.

Planting and cultivation

The soil should be well prepared by digging and working in plenty of compost or peat. Planting can be carried out between late autumn and early spring when the weather is mild and the soil is not too wet. The bushes should be spaced at least 1.2m (4 ft) apart. Blackcurrants should be set 5 cm (2 in) deeper in the soil that they were at the nursery. Redcurrant and whitecurrants, on the other hand, are planted at the same level as at the nursery or not quite so deep in the soil. Feed each bush in early spring with general fertilizer at the rate of 135gm per sq m (4oz per sq yd). In mid-spring surround the bushes with a thick layer of compost or moist peat to retain moisture and to keep down weeds. The roots of currants are close to the soil surface and care must be taken when weeding not to damage them.

Harvesting

Pick the individual berries one at a time if you want to enjoy them at their best. Otherwise wait for two weeks after the first fruit has coloured completely before cutting away the bunches with scissors.

Pruning and training

After planting cut back all the branches of black-currants to within 2.5 cm (1 in) of soil level. In the first autumn after planting cut down the weakest blackcurrant shoots to soil level. In future years, once the bushes are established, cut about a quarter of the oldest branches of blackcurrants down to soil level annually in autumn to encourage renewal growth. When pruning, attempt to produce bushes with open centres which let in light and air. After planting red- and whitecurrants, all the branches should be cut back to 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 in) to an outward-facing bud. In future winters cut back the. Leading shoots by half, and in late winter cut back the side-shoots to two or three buds.

Pests and diseases

Aphids, blackcurrant gall mites (buds in winter swell up and wither in spring – remove and burn infected growth; spray with lime sulphur when the flowers first open and repeat three weeks later), and birds (cover the bushes with netting to protect fruit buds in winter and fruit in summer).

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