Red currants Photo: iStock

Planning the crop
Currants thrive in full sunshine but also do well in slightly shaded sites. Avoid pockets and hollows subject to late spring frosts, which damage the flowers of red and white currants. Currants grow in any moist, well manured soil that isn’t waterlogged.

How many to grow- A mature blackcurrant will yield 5–7 kg of fruit. A compact, fully grown bush will need an area of about 1.5 m in diameter. Red and white currants yield 4–5 kg. Mature bushes occupy 2–2.5 square metres; they can be cordon-trained.

Varieties
The Ben varieties have revolutionized blackcurrant growing, bringing heavy crops, disease resistance and a more compact habit. The New Zealand-bred Blackadder is also excellent. But if space is no problem, choose from these three older varieties:
Wellington XXX- Midseason; heavy cropper; sweet fruits; do not spray with lime sulphur.
Baldwin- Late; medium-sized currants; compact bush.
Malling Jet- Very late; also flowers late so escapes frost.

For redcurrant varieties, Rovada, Laxton’s No. 1 and also Red Lake are good. The most widely available white currant is White Versailles.

Growing tips
Buy certified disease-free plants from a reputable nursery. Enrich the soil well with compost or manure. Both red and white currants are susceptible to potash defi ciency, so for these plants also incorporate 30 g of sulphate of potash per square metre. Most plants are sold in containers so may be planted any time the weather is right. Even so, planting is still best done in autumn, while the soil is still warm enough to get the roots growing but watering is not usually necessary. Plant blackcurrants 1.5–1.8 m apart, red and white 1.5 m apart (if growing as cordons, space 40 cm apart). Position compact varieties slightly closer. Place them in the ground a little deeper than they were in the container, using the soil mark on the stem as a guide. After planting, prune all the shoots to four buds above ground level, cutting just above an outward-facing bud. The bushes will then produce vigorous new growth that will provide a good crop in the second summer after planting. After this initial pruning, mulch with a layer of compost, manure or other organic material. Repeat this every spring, at the rate of two buckets per square metre, to feed the plants and conserve moisture in the soil. Dress the soil in midwinter with 30g sulphate of potash per square metre and again in early spring with 30 g sulphate of ammonia. Every third year, apply 60 g of superphosphate per square metre. Or top-dress each spring with a general bush fruit fertiliser. After hard frosts, use your feet to firm in any bushes that have been
lifted.

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