Care and Cultivation of Currants and Gooseberries

Upon receipt of your currants and gooseberry plants, unpack and check your plants immediately to ensure they are exactly what you ordered and in the condition you’d expect.

Soil Preparation and Planting

Gooseberry plants from Mr Fothergills'Prior to planting, give the plants a thorough watering. Choose a sheltered area of the garden, avoiding exposed sites. Both currants and gooseberries do best in full sun but will also fruit reasonably well in partial shade.

For best results, a fertile, moisture-retentive but well-drained soil is needed, so dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter like farmyard manure. Generous manuring is particularly important for blackcurrants.

All varieties can be planted in rows 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) apart, with plants 1.5m (5ft) apart in the rows. Spread the roots out carefully in each planting hole and, after refilling, tread the soil thoroughly to firm the bushes in.

After planting, cut all shoots of blackcurrants back to about 5cm (2in) or two buds above ground level.

Aftercare Tips

Blackcurrant plants from Mr FothergillsYour bushes will benefit from an annual mulch of organic matter, like well-rotted manure or good quality, weed-free garden compost, to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture. Spread it thickly every spring on the surface of the ground while the soil is still moist from winter rain. Gradually over the years it will improve the soil’s structure, drainage qualities and ability to hold plant nutrients in the root zone.

Each year in March, at the same time as you mulch, top-dress the plants with some balanced compound fertiliser and a high potash fertiliser to encourage flowering and fruiting. Blackcurrants also benefit from a high nitrogen feed at this time.

When you weed around your bushes, be careful with the hoe, since these are shallow-rooting plants which are easily damaged by an over-enthusiastic hand.

In dry weather, especially on light soils, give bushes a generous watering about every two weeks.

Pruning

Blackcurrants fruit best on one-year-old wood and the aim of pruning is to ensure that the oldest wood is continuously replaced with vigorous new growths.

At the end of the first growing season the only pruning needed is to cut out to the base any very thin or weak shoots less than 30cm (12in) long that may have been produced.

In later years, pruning consists or removing any straggly and broken branches and between one quarter and one third of the oldest growth, depending in how much new wood there is. New wood is easily distinguished by its lighter colour and pruning can either be carried out after fruiting or in the autumn.

Gooseberries, red and white currants fruit mostly on old wood and pruning aims to control the shape of the bush, keep the centre open and increase the number of fruiting branches.

After planting and each winter thereafter, cut back all main shoots by about half and lateral shoots to about 2 or 3 buds. At the same time remove any broken, very weak or crossing shoots, any suckers that might have developed from the ‘leg’ and any branches crowding the centre.

Make each cut to an outward-facing bud, unless you are pruning a gooseberry that has a rather drooping habit, in which case cut to an upward pointing bud.

The formation of fruit buds will be encouraged if you also summer prune lateral shoots to 5 leaves at the end of June.

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