BLACK CURRANTS

Black currants are always grown as bushes, the branches springing from below ground level and not from a main stem (or leg), as with red currants and gooseberries. Nurseries are only allowed to sell bushes produced from stock certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Cultivation (including Feeding):

Black Currants produce fair crops on almost any soil, even on chalk or sand, but will never give of their best without liberal treatment; indeed, no fruit responds better to generous feeding. They tolerate wetter ground than other soft fruits, but good drainage is essential. Avoid exposed, windy positions. Lime is not essential, unless the soil is naturally deficient. Work in plenty of farmyard manure (black currants are very partial to pig manure) or compost. Plant one- or two-year-old bushes in rows 6 ft. apart and allow 4 ft. between individual plants — strong growers such as Boskoop Giant and Wellington XXX may be spaced 7 ft. or more apart. After planting, growth should be cut to one or two buds from the ground, thereby encouraging young shoots for future cropping. As already emphasised, black currants are gross feeders and established bushes are very appreciative of heavy dressings of animal manures. Surface mulches of farm-yard manure and/or compost in spring and summer are recommended. They also respond to inorganic fertilisers, which may be applied broadcast in February or early March. They also benefit from extra nitrogen applications in the form of ‘Nitro-Chalk’ when in bearing — apply in February, repeating after the crop has been picked.

Pruning:

Black currants, unlike the red and white, bear their best fruit on wood of the previous season. Pruning of established bushes consists of the removal of as much old fruiting wood as can be spared. This operation is generally carried out in winter, but it has now been established that pruning directly after picking produces better crops, as both air and sunshine can penetrate the centre of the bushes and help to ripen the wood. The new shoots must, of course, be retained.

Propagation:

Cuttings are taken in early autumn from well ripened one-year-old shoots about 10 in. long. All the buds on the shoot are left. Plant the cuttings about 6 in. apart and 8 in. deep. They should be left for twelve months and then transferred to their permanent quarters. After a sharp frost, cuttings may be loosened in the soil, and it is advisable to go over the rows and tread them down again.

Choice of Varieties:

Amos Black: flowers late and often escapes frost damage.

Daniels’ September: the latest variety to ripen, ready 2 or 3 weeks after other kinds.

Laxtorfs Giant: an early kind which is rather less vigorous than other varieties and does not usually crop so heavily. It is, however, decidedly worth planting in gardens for the extra large sweet berries (often as large as cherries) which are excellent for jam. Can be eaten raw with positive pleasure, unlike most black currants.

Mendip Cross: a very early variety which will probably supersede the well-known Boskoop Giant.

Seabrook’s Black: an early variety which makes a compact bush and is strongly recommended for small gardens. Fruits on small side but of good flavour. Favoured by the preservers for jam making by reason of its slightly tough skin.

Wellington XXX: Usually ready a few days before Seabrook’s Black.

Strong grower and of spreading habit — plant at least 7 ft. apart.

Westwick Choice: a late variety originating from Norfolk, the county famous foi black currants. Good flavour, the ripe berries hanging well.

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