The care and feeding of currants and gooseberries is almost identical when it comes to backyard fruit growing, so rather than repeat myself, here’s the data with important differences noted.
These small fruits grow in almost any soil so that’s the good news. You’ll find a heavy clay doesn’t work as well.
And if you’re looking for the optimum soil, it’s a cool, evenly moist but well-drained, rich clay loam. (And good luck finding that) 🙂
These are not heavy feeders so several shovels of compost around the base of the plants in the spring should be all you require in the home garden.
- Early spring planting is best in colder climates but a fall planting will work in anything over a zone 5.
- Commercially we’d use 1 year old plants but 2 to 3 year old plants are fine in the garden setting. This plant grows *very* fast so young plants are fine.
- Plant each bush 5 feet apart. They’re big spreaders. You can squeeze them down to 4-feet apart but you really have to watch your pruning at this spacing. Rows should also be 4-5 feet apart (as wide as the plants are in the row so equal spacing all way round)
- The roots are covered and indeed because of the way this plant grows, you can plant it a touch deeper than it was in the nursery and it will be fine.
- Firm soil around the roots and water it in thoroughly
Shallow hoeing or a deep mulch will keep the surface roots from being damaged. If they were mine, I’d be mulching them.
Remember – you have to keep this plant evenly moist if you want to see fruit.
Now this is where the rubber meets the road. If you prune properly, you’ll get fruit. If you don’t prune, your harvest will be decidedly low or non-existent.
Black currants produce the most fruit on strongly growing one-year old wood. So you need to cut out the old wood every year. Any shoot (and there will be lots coming from the ground) older than 2-years is removed. You also only allow 10-12 shoots (the biggest and strongest) to survive and grow (spring pruning) from each mature bush.
Red Currants and Gooseberries produce on 2 to 3-year old wood for the most part. Keep 2-4 shoots (again the largest and strongest) of 1-year old canes every year. This way you have 2-4 of 1, 2, 3 year old canes (for 10-12 canes per plant) and you cut out the 4-year old canes in the spring.
if you don’t do this – you can quickly see your canes will go mature and you won’t get any fruit.
If your bushes are giving you 6 quarts of fruit per bush, you’re in the ballpark. If they’re giving you less, your cultivation or pruning techniques are not good enough (see feeding and watering needs)
Older Usually Easily Found Varieties
- Topsy – early season (early July). Plants are vigorous, productive. Berries are firm.
- Consort – mid summer a week after Topsy, Vigorous, Moderate resistance to rust, berries medium size, firm but not as firm as topsy.
- Magnus and Kerry similar to Consort but ripen between Topsy and Consort.
Does not require two plants for cross-pollination.
- Stephans #9 – ripens mid-July. Moderately vigorous, spreading growth more than upright, berries are large
- Red lake – ripens a week after Stephans, Very Vigorous, more upright growth, berries not as large and lighter in color
- Cascade: ripens a week earlier than Stephans. Vigorous and sprawling. Berry larger than Red Lake but must be picked immediately when ripe or they sunscald.
Gooseberries (British type)
- Clark – ripens mid-July, plants spiny, fairly short, good branching, berries large and red when ripe
- Fredonia – ripens a week after Clark, plants spiny, short but branching not as dense as Clark. Berry large, red and good quality.
Gooseberries (American type)
American varieties tend to be hardier, more vigorous, less susceptibility to mildew (a problem with this plant) and have much smaller berries than British types.
- Captiva is the common one and it ripens with Clark. Plants tall, very vigorous and almost thornless. Open growth habit and lesser thorns makes it very much easier to pick. Berries medium to small, dark red and of good quality.