Planting & Growing Currants
Currants are an easy crop to grow in the garden, which is good because they are still quite rare in the supermarkets. Home grown, they are almost free and packed full of important anti-oxidants such as anthocyanins, Vitamin C, Potassium, Calcium, Iron and other goodies.
Currants are more tolerant of their site and soil conditions than many fruits. What they do like, though, is a moist soil, but not water logged. They need the moisture for the fruits to develop. Their ideal site is in full sun, but the effect of partial shade does them little harm. Avoid frost-pockets; their flowers can be damaged by a late frost, which will of course result in a lower yield of fruit. Their ideal soil is a rich, well-drained soil, which will not dry out. They prefer a slightly acidic soil - around pH 6 to 6.5. They will grow well, however, in most normal soils.
The best varieties of Currant bushes are available bare-rooted from America’s original currant source, CurrantC.com or 1-800-Currants.
They are shipped bare-root through the mail to every state except DE, MA, ME, NC, NH, NJ, RI, or WV where it is still illegal to grow them.
Arrival of Your New Plants
When the currant plants arrive, open them immediately. Place the plants in a container of water just above the roots. Allow them to soak for a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 48 hours. Prepare the planting area by digging the soil to a spade's depth (12” -14”) and at least as wide before planting. Add a generous amount of well-rotted compost (preferred) or peat moss (2nd choice) and dig it in well. Incorporate into the soil in the hole a handful or so of either bone meal, 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer.
The ideal times to plant currants bushes are September to mid-October and April to mid-May. The plants can be spaced about 6 feet apart for ease of picking or closer, 3-4 feet, if you are planting many of them.
The depth of planting is quite important with currants. The bushes of black currants naturally produce a large number of stems from just below ground level (unlike red, white and pink currants). To encourage this growth, plant the bushes a few inches deeper than the previous soil line on the plant. Fill around the roots with soil and firm it down with your foot. When planted, trim every shoot to within two buds above soil level. This may sound drastic and will eliminate any fruit the first year but it will encourage a strong root system as well as sturdy growth above ground.
Weeding and Watering
Watering, weed prevention and pruning are the key requirements for currants. They will appreciate watering when conditions are dry and especially when the fruits are forming. Keep the weeds at bay to prevent competition for moisture and nutrients. An annual mulch of wood chips will make easy work of both.
A good two handfuls of bone meal or 10-10-10 each spring, spread around each plant and worked into the soil will also do a whole lot of good.
Do not prune the plants in the first winter after planting.
In the second and subsequent winters, remove any stems which are damaged, diseased or crossing each other. Then, trim away 20% of the central part of the plant to leave the center more open. Finally, remove about 15% of the oldest, thickest stems.
Harvesting and Storing Currants
Currants are ready for harvest when the fruits of the black currants are black and the red, white and pink are brightly colored and most of the green color is gone. Always try and pick them in dry conditions - wet currants store very badly and will mold quickly.
If the intention is to store the currants fresh for a few days, it's best to pick an entire strig (the pendulous bunch), which will keep longer. Currants will keep best dry in the fridge and will last for five or six days or more.
Enjoy your Currants!