Growing Red Currants
UNDER this heading are included yellow currants and white currants, since they are grown in a similar way.
Red currants are quite different from black currants in that the fruit is produced on old wood. The red currant can be grown, if desired, as a half standard on a 4-ft. Stem with the berries borne all the way up the stem as well as on the branches.
Such little trees are most attractive and even look quite well when grown as specimens in a mixed border.
SOIL AND PREPARATION
Like other soft fruits, red currants require good drainage and if this is ensured the bushes will do well on almost any soil. They do, however, need plenty of organic matter and ample supplies of potash. Give them a good open sunny situation sheltered from gales.
TYPE AND AGE OF BUSH
If red currants are to be grown as bushes, buy two-year-old plants; if they are to be grown as cordons trained against a north wall or fence, buy three-year-olds, and for specimens on 3- or 4-ft. Stems, buy four-year-old plants.
Even in the case of bushes it is worth while asking that there should be a stem of about 9 to 12 in., so that the branches can grow well above soil level.
Plant in November, if possible, immediately the leaves have fallen, for then the roots will establish themselves before the winter sets in. Planting may continue until the end of February if necessary.
Plant bushes 6 ft. square and cordons 2 ft. apart. Dig a hole 2 ft. square and 8 in. deep, and spread the roots out carefully in it. Prune back with a sharp knife any that were damaged at lifting time so that they point downward. Put back the soil and tread down firmly.
The best way to feed red currants is to cover the soil after planting with straw 1 ft. deep. This makes it unnecessary to hoe in between the bushes or even to fork in between them in the winter. Each February a little more straw may be added if necessary. This is usually only necessary for the first three or four years. In addition, each February apply fish manure with a 10 per cent potash content, at 3 oz. per sq. yd.
If the soil is sandy and likely to be low in potash, give wood ash also at \ lb. Per sq. yd. Once every four years in February. Sulphate of potash may be used as an alternative, at l oz. per sq. yd. annually.
During the first four winters, cut back the one-year-old leaders on bushes by about half to just above an outward-pointing bud, to produce a goblet shape. Prune back the laterals or side growths to within about 2 in. of their bases, thus gradually forming six or seven good branches to keep the goblet shape. Aim to make these branches about 7 in. apart at their tips.
In addition to winter pruning, in mid-June of each year break off with the back of the knife all laterals to within 6 in. of their bases. This treatment will enable the fruit to ripen well.
Do not summer-prune the leaders, but after the first five years cut them back by a quarter each winter.
In the case of red currants grown as half standards prune back in June the side growths on the main stem to within 2 in. of their bases, but prune the leaders in exactly the same way as recommended for bush trees.
Keep cordons as a single stem, cutting the leader back by about half each year and the side growths or laterals to within 1 in. of their bases each winter.
PROTECTION FROM BIRDS
Birds can give a great deal of trouble by pecking out the fruit buds in the spring. Keep them away by stringing black cotton between the branches every January. Red currants are better grown in a wire cage if possible because birds seem to prefer them to any other fruit.
Pick the currants the moment they are a good clear colour. Pick whole bunches at one time and do not attempt to pick off single berries.
Earliest of Fourlands, very early. Long bunches, clear red. Upright grower and regular cropper.
Fay’s Prolific, early. Long bunches, large. Useless in a windy situation because branches break.
Laxton’s No. 1, mid-season. Large, crimson. Good flavour. Heavy cropper.
Minnesota, mid-season. Brightly coloured, large. Strong grower.
Perfection, mid-season. Large, heavy, long bunches. Spreading bush.
Raby Castle, mid-late. Medium-sized bunches and fruits. Excellent for cordons.
Red Lake, mid-season. Brightly coloured, delicious. Upright and vigorous.
Rivers’ Late Red, long bunches, bright red. Spreading bush, best late variety.
Wilson’s Long Bunch, late. Long bunches, medium. Strong upright grower.
White Dutch, late. Whitish-yellow. Spreading bush, heavy cropper.
White’sTransparent, mid-season. Large white. Sometimes called White Pearl.
White Versailles, early. Long bunches, sweet. Growth medium and upright.