Growing Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants are a particularly versatile fruit, packed with vitamin C.  Use them in pies, summer pudding, jams, cordials, smoothies, fruit compotes and if there is a surplus they are easily frozen. One healthy bush will yield 10lbs of fruit.

They are one of the easier fruits to grow; not fussy about soil requirements and straight forward to prune.  In Patrick’s Patch school children happily pick the blackcurrants as they are not devilishly prickly like the gooseberries!

Planting

Any reasonable garden soil enriched with organic matter will suit.  As with all fruit choose a sunny spot which is relatively sheltered.    The container grown plants sold at Fairweather’s can be planted at any time of year providing the soil is not too wet or frozen, however we would recommend early spring as the best time to establish a new plant.   If planting more than one bush space them 1.5m apart.

Tip – planting the bush about 5cm deeper than the original level in the pot will encourage the blackcurrant to develop young shoots from the base.

Short of space?  Blackcurrants will grow well in containers providing they are large enough.  We would recommend a planter with a diameter of 50cm and pot up using a rich loam based compost such as John Innis No.3.  Don’t forget crocks in the bottom of the planter for drainage and it would also be a good idea to add some extra grit to the compost.  Every two to three years remove the bush from its pot and gently trim away some of the root ball.  Re-plant in the original pot.

Tip – after planting cut all the shoots down to one bud.  You will have little fruit in the first year but it will encourage a strong growth pattern to develop for future years.

Pruning

The fruit ‘sprigs’ (or bunches) form on young wood from the previous year.  Your pruning aims to promote this younger wood.  Prune when the plant is dormant (late autumn/winter).  Remove older wood leaving the younger shoots.  You will notice that the young wood is a paler colour.  Aim to have around 10 shoots per plant.

Protect from birds!   Blackbirds in particularly love blackcurrants.  When in-fruit put netting or horticultural fleece over the bushes.

Feeding

Apply a general fertiliser in early spring such as Growmore or fish blood and bone.  In Patrick’s Patch we use Top Rose which is slightly higher in phosphate for good fruiting.

Choice

At Fairweather’s we have selected good modern varieties which have fruits which all ripen together.  This means you can harvest more quickly by picking the whole sprigs rather than individual fruits.  You can also purchase a picking ‘comb’ to speed things up.

Recommended varieties:  Ben Connan, Ebony

If space permits redcurrants and whitecurrants are complimentary to blackcurrants.  Note that they do require a different pruning technique and are less productive.

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