Redcurrants

Redcurrants produce abundant yields on old branches. A strange way to start an article perhaps but the truth is that when pruning is so important for gooseberries and blackcurrants but this is one fruit that doesn’t always obey the rules. The fruit has an incredible flavour and is highly versatile in both sweet and savoury dishes.  It’s also beautifully attractive, with clusters of jewel-red carnelian fruit hanging like pendants from green, leafy branches.

Where To Grow

Redcurrants probably prefer cool conditions and they produce their best crops in colder climates. They also like sunlight although they will tolerate some partial shade such as under apple trees. However, the sweetest flavour is in those fruit enjoying a fair bit of sun. They also ripen quicker in a sunny position.

Place plants in a site that is not too affected by frost or strong, gusting winds. They like well-drained soil – not too claggy.

If space is an issue, grow as a multiple cordon or single-stem variety.

Planting

Bare-foot plants are probably best for getting established and these are usually planted at the end of Autumn which is late November to mid-December. (Remember, the first day of winter is not the 1st December but the 2st-22nd !) They can however be planted into the beginning of spring. Container grown specimens are put in the ground all year round. Place each bush about 1.5m apart, with the same spacing between rows. Once planted, water sufficiently, especially in hot weather.

Redcurrants do reasonably well in containers along as they have enough room. Problems like drying soil or waterlogging can occur. They need to be watered regularly and the tubs they are in should be off the floor using bricks so as to reduce root rot or waterlogging.

Aftercare

Established fruit bushes do not need further mollycoddling but always keep reasonably well watered especially the new plants. Remove any weeds from around the bushes using a hoe or hand weed when close to the stems.

Pruning is essential. Conduct all pruning in winter using secateurs. Any dead or diseased foliage is removed. Also snip back any branches which are obviously old and they will be past their best. At the beginning of summer, trim your bush so they retain a smaller size and shape. Do this by cutting fresh branches down to only two buds.

Harvesting

Pick bright red fruit from July to August. Given they grow in clusters, it is easy to pick the whole bunch and remove from the strig as and when necessary. eat fresh for best results otherwise consign them to that other great condiment, the redcurrant jelly which is an alternative to mint for lamb.

Pest

Birds are a shocking nuisance. We cover all our fruit with nets although they still get in underneath. Be careful as blackbirds regularly trap themselves.

Gooseberry sawfly not only attacks gooseberries (obviously) but also other Ribes species like redcurrants. All stages of the insect are damaging. the leaves are eaten by the larvae which look like speckled caterpillars. remove these by hand where necessary. Check for their presence from April onwards and right up to the point of harvesting. Biological controls can be tried and these pathological nematodes are very effective.

Varieties

One of the most popular varieties is ‘Rovado’ because it produces large attractive yields from mid-July  and well into August. Also suitable for containers which makes it great for gardens with little room or just a patio. When space really is short than ‘Stanza’ AGM will cope better with container conditions. Most cultivars have unique characteristics so just spend time checking a type that suits the spot you want.