Currants

Autumn is a good time to plant currants and your soil may dictate whether it's a blackcurrant, whitecurrant or a redcurrant. Blackcurrants do best in fertile soil in areas where summer rainfall is higher. They do not crop well on dry, poor ground. Perversely whitecurrant and redcurrants prefer drier conditions on lighter soil. They will also tolerate some shade. Neither enjoys winter-wet soil though.

Varieties and Pruning

Redcurrant bushes produce a heavier crop than blackcurrants, on older wood. 'Laxton's Number One' is the standard redcurrant variety and should produce over 10lb (4.5kg) of glistening, glassy fruit rich in vitamin C. Bushes are pruned sympathetically when dormant. Tip the leaders and reduce the side shoots back to one or two buds. Cut out low branches that reach the ground and any damaged or weak shoots, to create a goblet of roughly ten stems. Gooseberries are also pruned in a similar way.

The Scottish-bred blackcurrant 'Ben Connan' is frost-resistant because it flowers later so it's a good choice, producing large fruit in mid-July. Each bush should yield 8lb of fruit (3 - 4kg) and this can be eaten fresh, stewed, jammed or frozen. These greedy plants demand extra nitrogen, but pruning is easy. In the first year of planting cut the stems back to one bud above the ground (making sure it's an outward-facing bud though). In subsequent years remove the weaker stems, conserving the best new, lighter-coloured stems each year. Aim to create an open shape. Many gardeners cut out the oldest stems as they harvest and then pick the blackcurrants at the kitchen table, without breaking their backs.