Growing Stuff – Blackcurrants

In my ever conquering quest to get more people to grow their own fruit and veg,  I wrote a series of blog posts last year on individual veggies, fruits and herbs to show everyone just how easy some are to grow.

The series, of five, which delved into runner beans, parsley, strawberries, blueberries and radishes were all chosen because they are very simple to grow and delicious to either use in cooking or eat by themselves.

Now we’re in the midst of a new gardening year I thought I’d create a new series.

Five more posts on fruit and vegetables that are just really simple to grow and can be grown well in the smallest of places.

I’ve grown every single veg/fruit or herb that I post about which means I can guarantee they are easy to grow!  It also means that I won’t be posting on lettuce, broccoli, nor redcurrants as I have not been successful with those (yet!).

If you want to give any of the choices a go please let me know, and be sure to post your experiences of growing them right below the post –  I’d really like to hear from you!

Week 5 – Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants, as fruit goes, doesn’t get much of a look in when it comes to deciding what to grow in your plot.  Very often it can be overlooked by more fashionable fruit types such as strawberries or cherries.

So, I’m here to try and sway you to think about planting a blackcurrant bush because they really are quite fabulous little currants and are probably one of the all time easiest fruits to grow.

Like most people I was a bit suspect about buying and planting a blackcurrant as first.  It was nothing more than a stick bought from a saver shop and as far as I knew I’d never really eaten blackcurrants but I decided one day to just go for it.  The stick was cheap and if I lost it then it wouldn’t matter – I’d tried and would then move on.  Fortunately the stick had other ideas and I’m really pleased to now have it in my garden.

Why grow Blackcurrants?

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Apart from being extremely easy to grow (in Europe – North America has experienced a few disease issues so I hear with theirs), blackcurrants are bursting with vitamin C.  In fact just east 50g of berries will give you 100% of your daily allowance.  It’s also got high levels of Vitamin E an antioxidant which is essential for increasing your well being and looking after your skin.

Blackcurrants are also great in the kitchen.  While not the first choice for eating fresh off the bush because of their slightly bitter taste, they are great in all things drink and cake related.  The berries can be turned into jams, juices, alcohol, and preserves.  It can blended, mixed and added to anything from yogurt to mincemeat making it extremely useful.

How to grow Blackcurrants?

Okay are you ready for this because you need to read this carefully – it’s very detailed…

  • Buy a plant – I’ve seen them as low as £1.99 in some shops.  They can be bought and planted either in bare rooted form from Oct-Mar or in a pot (all year round).
  • Dig a hole and add plant to ground or place in a pot (at least 50cm in diameter)
  • Water and leave.  Water again during dry spells.

Seriously that’s how hard it is growing them!

At the end of May you’ll start to see flowers appearing up the stems and from mid-summer onward bunches of deep coloured currants will start to form in clusters.

They don’t take up a lot of space, which makes them ideal for smaller gardens and patio areas.  One plant can produce enough currants for a whole family.

Important bit:

  • Cheap plants are okay to buy as long as the stock is certified to be disease resistant so make sure you just take a few seconds to read the label before buying.

Pests and Diseases

Blackcurrants have a nasty habit of being able to attract something called American gooseberry mildew.  It leaves grey powder and white fungus along the stems and leaves causing the bush to not only have trouble growing but also from forming any fruit.  Best remedy is to either cut out all the stems with the nasty fungus or ditch the plant altogether (in garden bin, not composter).

In terms of pests you’ve got two that need keeping an eye out for:

  • Mites that infest new growth in Spring.  In this case trip the infested areas if the infestation isn’t too bad.  If it’s gone too far then consider ditching the plant after you’ve harvested.
  • Birds.  Once the local birds know your growing blackcurrants you’ll be the talk of the community and your currants soon disappear. While this is no great shakes (after all you could just grow the blackcurrants for the birds as a food source), it’s heartbreaking to see your hard work being eaten by feathered friends.  So just cover the plants as they start to fruit with netting.

Don’t let the potential pests nor diseases put you off – they are pretty rare with the cultivated varieties.  I’ve been growing blackcurrants for about three years now and not had any problems (I’ve probably also just jinxed myself now).

Down the line

  • No pruning of the plant is required until the fourth year when you want to prune down all old wood to the base of the plant to encourage new shoots which will then encourage more flowers and more fruit.  This needs to be done when the plant is dormant during the winter months.
  • Leave the currants on the plant until they are ripe and juicy.  If you can’t use them straight away then freezing is the best way to store them until you need them in the kitchen.

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That’s the end of the series.

So what did you think?  Was the series useful?  More importantly – does it make you want to have a go at growing blackcurrants?

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Cover photo courtesy of Isfugl

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