Growing Blackcurrants, Redcurrants and Whitecurrants

These fruits are most associated with ingredients for fantastic desserts and preserves. Grow these successfully and you’ll avoid the high prices of supermarket fruit as well as getting great harvests with superior taste and flavour.
White and redcurrants are grown and pruned in the same way, blackcurrants are pruned differently. See the general growing tips below and the separate methods of pruning, depending on which currant crop you are growing.

Planting currants
Plant bare-rooted plants in the dormant season in winter. November is a good time when the soil is workable and warm from summer and the plant has the winter to establish its roots in the soil before active growth in the spring.
Plant containerised plants at any time of the year, but avoid planting in high summer when the heat can exasperate newly planted fruits.
Plant in a carefully-prepared bed which has been cleared of weeds, and has been incorporated with lots of bulky compost to add fertility. Add general purpose fertiliser to the surface of the soil.
Dig out a hole/ trench (for more than one plant) 8cm (3in) deep. Spread out the roots to encourage them to penetrate the surrounding soil. Ensure the dark soil mark at the base of the main stem is flush with the soil surface, and replace soil, consolidating firmly around the plant.

Feeding currants
Currants will appreciate the bulky compost added to the soil prior to planting and the supplementary general fertiliser applied to the soil surface.
Mulch the newly planted fruit with a layer of bulky compost or manure on top of the soil surface after planting. Do not allow the mulch to come into direct contact with the stems as the rich formula may scorch the stem bark.
An application of a high potash fertiliser at the rate suggested on the pack will increase yields. Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen as these will tend to promote too much soft, leafy growth.

Watering currants
All currants need plenty of moisture, particularly at flowering time which is when the fruit start to form. In dry spells it is recommended that the crop is watered every 10 days. Check for any current local watering restrictions before doing this. An occasional heavy watering is better than little and often as this does not get down far enough to the roots and encourages shallow rooting. Watering the soil as opposed to over the currant plants avoids less loss of water to evaporation.

Temperature for currants
Berry plants appreciate a sunny site. Most will do well in light shade however, if sunny sites are limited. Certain situations are definitely disadvantageous– those that are exposed to strong winds. Not only can the wind snap growing stems, the wind also accelerates the rate of transpiration – where the plants lose water. If windy sites are the only option, consider growing a hedge nearby which buffers and filters prevailing winds.
Frost pockets are particularly risky too, where damage by frost can effect flowers, and therefore fruit. If you are growing berry plants in fruit cages, cover the cages in a double layer of horticultural fleece if frost is forecasted.


How to prune currants

Pruning blackcurrants
At planting cut main stem or stems to a bud 5cm (2in) above the ground.
After two years, in winter prune out weak diseased and low branches. Cut out a quarter to a third of the fruiting branches to keep the plants well-aired and room for new growth to come through.
Remove any wood that is more than 4 years old.

Pruning white- and redcurrants
At planting, cut the main stem to half its length and trim any laterals (side stems) to a bud about 2.5cm (1in) from the main stem.
In winter, cut back the new main stems from that season (leaders) by about a half. Cut the side stems (growing from the leaders) by about 5cm (2in).
Remove any wood that is dead, damaged or diseased.


Harvesting and Storing Currants

Harvesting and storing blackcurrants
Once you have noticed the currants turning blue/black, they are ready to harvest after about a week.
For immediate use pick individual fruits. For storing, pick the ‘whole sprigs’ and refrigerate for a week or pulp and freeze.

Harvesting and storing white- and redcurrants
Once you notice that the berries are shiny and vibrant, they’re ready for picking. These currants are best harvested by the sprigs to avoid damage to the fragile fruits.
Best used immediately, though can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Best varieties of currants
blackcurrant ‘Big Ben’
blackcurrant ‘Ebony’
redcurrant ‘Rovada’
whitecurrant ‘Blanka’

Pests and diseases of currants - Big bud mite, Greenfly, Coral spot, Capsid bug