Red & White Currants

Red and white currants prefer a well drained, fertile soil, in a sunny position which is sheltered from cold winds. The site should be well worked to a depth of 25cm (10") incorporating plenty of organic material such as well rotted manure or garden compost. Care should be taken to pick out all roots of perennial weeds. Apply a base dressing of general fertiliser as per the Manufacturers recommendation.

Planting should take place as soon as possible, provided soil and weather conditions are suitable, e.g. not too wet or frozen. Remove the protective covering from around the roots and soak in water for 20 minutes should they appear at all dry. Dig a planting hole large enough to accommodate roots easily and plant in the soil at the same level as they were grown in the Nursery. There should be a short stem, known as the 'leg', above ground level. Plants should be spaced 1.5m (5') apart with a 1.8m (6') gap between rows. Immediately after planting, prune each main shoot by half, to an outward facing bud unless branches are drooping, in which case prune to an upward facing bud.

It is essential to prevent the plants from drying out in the first year. Keep well watered. It may also be necessary to water in dry weather as the fruits begin to swell.

Red and white currants produce their best and most fruit on spurs (short stubby stems) that we encourage to form on the older branches. Because of this, pruning in the first three to four years of their life has to be centred around the formation of the structure of the bush. The best way of doing this is to start off by growing the new bush on a ‘leg’ or short trunk.

Formative pruning – year one

This is done in the first winter when the bush is dormant. Select four or five strong shoots to form the basic skeleton of the future bush. These we shorten back by about a third to a half. This may seem a lot but it ensures that we form strong branches. Any side shoots are ruthlessly cut back to their point of origin.

Year two

In the second winter, the leading shoot of the main branches is again cut back by about a third to a half. Because we are forming a cup-shaped bush, the branches will be further apart the more they grow away from the centre. This allows you to keep one or two more shoots on the existing main ones for building into branches. When you have selected these, they also are cut back by about a third to a half.

Mature bush pruning

After three or four years of this treatment, you will have some very respectable fruit bushes.

Throughout their life, this routine of shortening the branch leaders by a third or so of their length and cutting back the side shoots to an inch or two will continue.

One other aspect of pruning is ‘summer pruning’.

At the end of June, the side shoots off the main framework are cut back to 4-5in (10-13cm). These long spurs are further cut back to 2in (5cm) in the winter.

There are several benefits to be gained from giving a light prune in the summer too:

It reduces the vigour of the bush, removes the tender tips of the side shoots, thus greatly reducing the risk of mildew, channels more ‘energy’ into fruit production, allows more sun and fresh air into the centre which, in time, gives you better and cleaner fruit, you can see the fruit better for picking and finally, it’s a bit of a fiddly job which is much better done in the summer than in the depths of winter.

Don’t avoid having to do winter pruning by pruning back hard in the summer. The plant needs the leaves. That’s why we don’t cut the side shoots back too far.