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How to grow blackcurrants

Val Bourne / 29 October 2014

The best blackcurrant varieties to grow, plus growing and pruning tips.

Container of blackcurrants
Blackcurrants are great to freeze and retain their flavour well

Blackcurrants are far more use than either white or redcurrants because they freeze well and keep their flavour. They crop more heavily when insect-pollinated, but they begin to flower in early March – at a time when not many flying insects are around.

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The main pollinators are bumblebees and mining bees. These are quite large insects so, if you have a fruit cage, make sure you lift the side netting of your fruit cage to allow them access - make sure that the netting has a mesh large enough to allow them through. You will help our endangered bees as well as improving your crop. They make excellent foundation planting in a garden and they produce a lot of vitamin C.

Try this recipe for blackcurrant jam

Where to plant

Blackcurrant bushes prefer cool conditions and rich, heavy soil that holds the moisture. They also enjoy full sun - although they will tolerate light shade.

How to plant

Plant 1.5m (5ft) apart. Once planted, cut back all the shoots to about 2.5cm (1in) from the ground as blackcurrants grow on new growth.

Caring for blackcurrants

Blackcurrants are shallow-rooted and struggled in droughts, so water well during dry periods in the growing season. Feed with nitrogen in spring. Hand-weed and mulch to keep the weeds down and moisture in, because blackcurrants resent the competition.

Pruning blackcurrant bushes

Blackcurrants fruit on new wood and are more vigorous growers, so the technique is to remove two or three of the older, darker stems at the base every year.

This can be done when picking the fruit, or shortly afterwards, or you could do it in winter. However, it is far easier to separate the new wood from the old wood in summer because the freshly produced wood is a pale brown. In winter it can be more of a challenge to spot the age of the branches.

Best blackcurrant varieties to grow

‘Ben Connan’ (‘Ben Sarek’ x ‘Ben Lomond’)
High yields of exceptionally large fruits on a compact bush. Resistant to mildew and leaf-curling midge. Pick mid-July.

‘Ben Lomond’
Flowers and fruits late, so will miss the frosts. A heavy crop of large, sweet berries on a compact bush. Mildew-resistant. Pick in late July.

‘Ben Sarek’
Compact choice for the smaller garden. Frost- and mildew-resistant, so a good choice for colder sites. Heavy crops of large fruits ready for picking in mid-July.

This 1913 variety is a vigorous, spreading bush, producing a bumper crop of thick-skinned, sweet, juicy berries, even in hot summers. Pick in mid-July.

Try our recipe for blackcurrant cordial

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.