Have you ever picked fresh currants? The sharp, pungent, herbal fragrance of ripening currants pervade the air each time you brush the leaves to find the fruit in late summer. The dark berries are richer in vitamin C than almost any other garden fruit.
Currants are an excellent choice for home gardens. In fact, they have recently become more popular than ever among home gardeners. Most use the berries for baking and making jams and jellies because of their tart flavor. But white currants are sweet enough to eat right off the bush.
Growing Your Own Currants
If you are thinking about growing currants, you should know that they grow bigger than you might imagine. You’ll need to ensure some 1.5 meters between bushes. If that sounds a bit much for your space you can invest in cordons that can be grown vertically up fences.
Red and white currants can be grown as cordons. But blackcurrants, on the other hand, are best grown as bushes.
When and Where to Plant
The best time to plant currants is between November and March in the northern hemisphere. In Australia, it’s best to plant them in autumn, from March to May.
The plants like sheltered spaces away from strong winds. While they generally do best in full sun, both red and white currants will grow in shady spots, too. The fruit will still be good but very sharp.
Plant currants in full sun in an area with well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.0. You should mulch every spring, especially if your soil is thin.
Currants prefer a medium to heavy soil mixed with several inches of organic matter or compost. Before planting, cut all the stems to 6 to 10 inches above the soil. If you are planting bare root currants, soak the roots 3 to 4 hours before planting.
Dig the holes about one foot deeper than the plants will be set. Fill with a mixture of compost and soil. Be sure you trim off very long or broken roots.
Plant so the lowest branch will be below ground level. This will encourage the plants to assume a bush form. Plant into the hole and back fill with the loose soil.
Gently press soil in around the root ball. Transplants need good root-to-soil contact. Do not press too hard. Doing so might cause soil compaction and root damage.
Gently water around the root ball to settle the soil and drive out air pockets.
How to Grow Currants
Keep your plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. They will need about an inch or two rain each week during the growing season.
Water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
In spring, before any leaves sprout, apply a granular fertilizer to the soil following the instructions on the label. Most new growth will come from the plant’s crown from under the soil. Do not let the plants dry out.
Experts suggest that it’s best not to prune your plants for the first three years, but do remove broken or dead branches. You can start pruning in winter or early spring before the new growth begins.
Currants can be harvested in the summer when the fruits are firm and juicy. Cut whole trusses and use the berries immediately.
You can also store them in the fridge for a few days or else place the trusses in bags and put them into the freezer for later use.
Have you grown currants in your garden? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.