Currants Growing Guide
Currants Growing Guide
Recent years have seen a surge in the popularity of producing home-grown vegetables. Rightly so – it’s hard to beat the flavour and nutritional value of freshly-pulled carrots, or tomatoes straight from the truss. But as more of us master new gardening skills, the big push now is to grow fruit. Contrary to common misconceptions, these crops needn’t take up lots of room, and a good harvest can be had in as little as a year. There’s as dizzying an array of fruits suitable for British gardens as there are vegetables.
For those new to home-growing there’s no better place to start than soft fruit. Red- and whitecurrants in particular are a beginner’s dream – easy to care for, selffertile and with straight-forward pruning requirements that anyone can master.
These beautiful currants can yield as much as 5kg of fruit per bush and may be grown as fence-hugging, single-stemmed upright cordons or fans to save on space. Their spring flowers are followed by the tempting hanging ‘strigs’ of red or pearllike currants, making them incredibly decorative to boot. A well-tended bush can be expected to yield its versatile fruits for as long as 20 years after planting.
Redcurrants have a fairly tart taste but are perfect for incorporating into pies and jellies or as an attractive garnish for lamb and game dishes. Whitecurrants are a colour mutation of redcurrants. The translucent fruits tend to be smaller and more delicate in flavour. Both types have high levels of pectin, which makes them excellent for turning into jams and jellies. Alternatively, enjoy them fresh with other fruits such as blackcurrants and chopped strawberries with cream.
Growing Currants month-by-month
Winter prune your plants. Take back last season's growth to two buds and cut out old wood to stimulate new shoots in the spring.
Complete winter pruning before the currants start up into growth. Continue planting bareroot specimens throughout this month, as long as the soil is not waterlogged.
Add a top-dressing of general-purpose organic fertilizer to give established plants a boost and then apply a generous mulch.
Apply mulch if you haven't already done so. Protect the flowers that appear this month from any late frosts.
Your plants will be growing vigorously by now. Maintain soil moisture and cover them over with netting at the first signs of interest from hungry birds.
Keep plants watered during the summer as these bushes are fairly shallow-rooted. Protect developing fruits from bird attack.
Pick the first red- and whitecurrants from early varieties. Finish summer pruning new growth to five leaves.
Remove protective bird mesh as soon as all the currants have been picked. This will allow avians access to peck up lurking insect pests.
Bare-root plants will be available now for planting. Prepare the ground beforehand by adding well-rotted organic matter.
This is the best month of the year for planting your red- and whitecurrants. Reinstate netting or fruit cages to protect winter buds from bullfinch damage.
Continue planting your new stock, but only if the weather isn't excessively wet or the ground frozen solid.
How to harvest Currants
Your long-awaited currants will be ready in July or August, depending on the variety you’ve chosen. Unlike other fruits, the entire truss, or ‘strig’, of red- or whitecurrants is removed at once. This is because the thin skins are very delicate – pluck away one at a time and they will not keep for long.
Wait until the entire strig has taken on its desired colour before cutting it away from the plant using secateurs or scissors. Handle the strigs with extreme care to avoid bruising and, if needed, remove the currants individually, just before use.
When the fruits are ready, redcurrants will have a full, clear red colour, while whitecurrants will take on their translucent pearl shade. Individual currants can swell up to 8-12mm in diameter and should be consumed fresh to appreciate their full flavour.
Should yields begin to decline, start feeding bushes and cordons each spring with a top-dressing of organic, general-purpose fertilizer such as blood, fish and bone, before the annual top-up of organic mulch. The extra nutritional punch, coupled with regular removal of old wood in winter, will keep plants productive.