One of the easiest fruit bushes to grow, black currants even do well in containers, producing healthy berries, packed with vitamins. They can be eaten fresh but taste far better in jams, pies, and summer drinks.
How to Grow
Black currants require moist, fertile soil and prefer full sun but will also ripen, albeit later, in some shade. Plant bare root shrubs in the winter; container-grown plants can be planted at any time if well watered. Dig in well-rotted organic matter, and plant deeply as a “stool” bush. Black currants grow well in containers filled with soil-based compost. Before the fruit is ready to harvest, from mid- to late summer, cover plants with netting to deter birds. Water well during dry periods, and feed in the spring with granular fertilizer or well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost.
Be sure to support fruiting plants with string and canes to prevent branches laden with fruit from drooping and snapping off. What's more, black currants are a magnet for birds, so net the plants to prevent damage.
Try These Varieties
Modern black currant varieties have been bred for improved disease resistance. These are often denoted by ‘Ben’ in their names. Try ‘Baldwin', ‘Ben Connan’, ’Ben Gairn’, ‘Ben Hope’, ‘Ben Lomond’, ‘Ben Sarek’, ‘Big Ben’, ‘Ebony’ and ’Titania' varieties.
Pruning and Training
Black currants fruit on one-year-old wood. They should be pruned in the winter to encourage new fruit-bearing shoots. Plants can also be pruned in the summer to allow light in to ripen the fruit and improve air circulation between branches, which helps to deter disease.
In the winter, prune established shrubs by cutting a third of the oldest branches off at ground level and removing dead, damaged, or diseased wood. Horizontal branches that are lying close to the ground should also be removed. Don’t prune healthy young stems.