Blackcurrants are a popular garden fruit because of their high vitamin content. One bush is often sufficient to provide enough fresh fruit and some left over for the freezer. Although red and white currants appear similar, apart from the colour of the fruit, they have a different pruning regime, so do not apply the same techniques to them all.
Blackcurrants do not need supports. However, the bushes need netting to prevent birds stealing the fruit. One or two bushes can be netted individually but it is more practical to grow blackcurrants in a fruit cage.
Plants are often sold bare-rooted. If you cannot plant them in their final position straight away, heel them in temporarily in some spare ground. Plant to the same depth, or fractionally lower, as they were grown in the nursery (look for the soil mark on the stems), then cut them back to a bud roughly 5cm (2in) above ground-level. This will result in the production of strong new shoots in the following year. These can be left unpruned, but you will need to cut out any weak ones. Fruit will appear on these shoots in their second year, and new growth will begin to develop from the base of the plant. In winter, cut out about one-third of the old fruited wood and any weak shoots.
The fruit of blackcurrant bushes is carried on the previous year’s or older wood. Older wood, however, progressively loses its ability to fruit well, so some of the oldest fruited wood should be removed every year to ensure that new wood will be produced and the bush revitalized.
Each year, between fruiting and the following spring, cut out two or three of the old branches completely. You also need to cut back some of the remaining older wood to vigorous new side shoots. Remove any branches or side-branches that are close to the ground and thin out the centre of the bush so that light enters and air can freely circulate.
Pruning a young balcurrant on planting
1: A newly planted blackcurrant bush before it is pruned.
2: First remove any weak growth, cutting it right out and removing old wood if necessary.
3: Finish by cutting back the longer shoots by half to a strong outward-facing shoot.
With blackcurrants the fruit is carried on the previous year’s or older wood. For this reason, it is important not to over-prune or all the fruiting wood will be removed. However, it will be necessary to prune out older wood.
Year one, winter: After planting, completely cut out any weak wood and reduce the other shoots to about 5cm (2in) or so above ground-level.
Year one, summer: The following summer, growth will spring from these reduced shoots, as well as completely new growth from the base. Cut out any weak shoots.
Year two, winter: In the winter, cut out one-third of the old wood and any weak or damaged shoots to the base.
Established pruning, winter: Once established, cut out up to four of the oldest branches each winter and then cut back the remaining fruited branches to a strong shoot.