Currants come in three colours: red, white and black (white currants are actually a sport, or interesting mutation of redcurrants). The growing requirements of all currant bushes are fairly similar, although blackcurrants tolerate heavier soils than other currants.
Redcurrants have beautiful red, tart berries. The whitecurrant has translucent berries with a delicate flavour, and the blackcurrant is sweet and packed full of vitamins and antioxidants.
Redcurrant bushes can be trained to grow in a cordon or a fan shape against a fence or trellis. The leaves can be damaged by sunlight, so grow them in partial shade in a sheltered spot. They enjoy a moist, but well-drained heavy soil, so will do well in clay but less so in sandy soils. If you do grow them in clay, ensure you incorporate plenty of organic matter and grit to improve drainage.
Blackcurrants enjoy similar growing requirements to redcurrants, but require more food to get a good crop. Blackcurrants grow easily from cuttings of around 20cm in length. Simply buy the cuttings in autumn from a reputable supplier, then fill a large flowerpot with a mixture of garden soil, compost and horticultural grit and sink the cuttings halfway down in the soil.
Leave the pot in a frost-free place such as an unheated greenhouse or cold frame during the winter and you should start to notice signs of life in spring (the buds will move, and grow). Leave the cuttings in the pot for another year to develop healthy root systems and transplant the next autumn.
The best time to plant fruit bushes is in November, when the soil is still warm so the plants can develop a healthy root system so they can get off to a good start in the spring. Dig a large hole to allow the roots to spread easily, and mix in a little leafmould or garden compost and a general fertiliser.
Water the hole, place the bush inside, making sure it is upright, and return the soil, firming it securely and removing any trapped air pockets (this can be done by using your feet to tread around the stem). Keep the plants well watered during their first few months to establish their roots, and again during the growing season.
Prune the plants once a year in autumn and apply a thick mulch of well-rotted animal manure, compost or leafmould (this is especially important with blackcurrants as they demand more nutrients). Feed them with an organic liquid feed once a week during the growing season.
Most currants start to ripen in mid summer. They’ll be an unmistakable deep red, white or black and be roughly 8-12mm in diameter. To protect the fruits when you harvest them, simply snip of the entire truss, and remove individual berries once you’ve got them to the kitchen.
It’s easy to grow currants. Once the bushes are established you’ll just need to prune and muclh them once a year to ensure a continuous crop for years to come.