Growing Currants and Gooseberries (Ribes)

Siting, spacing, and planting: Plant Currants and Gooseberries in a full sun or partial shade location, and in well-drained soil amended with a generous quantity of aged manure or compost. Both should be planted 1/2-1in deeper than plants were in the nursery, using the soil line on the stems as your reference. Plant Currants 2-3ft apart in rows, Gooseberries 4ft apart. For both, leave 8-12ft between rows.

Watering and feeding: Currants and Gooseberries should be watered thoroughly at planting time and then several times a week for the first month or so until they're established. Thereafter, they should be provided the equivalent of at least 1in of rain per week if nature doesn't take care of it for you. If you water with a hose or watering can, keep the water at the base of the bushes and off of the leaves, so as not to encourage mildew.

Neither Currants nor Gooseberry need to be fertilized during the year in which they're planted. Beginning in the second year, use either a timed-release fertilizer or an organic fertilizer in early spring, before growth resumes. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for fruit bushes or shrubs. Plants also benefit from 1-2in of compost or aged manure worked in at the bases each spring.

Training and pruning: At planting time, cut branches back to half their length. No further pruning is necessary the first year.

At the beginning of the following season, before growth resumes, prune out all but the 3-4 healthiest and most vigorous of the original branches and the 3-4 healthiest and most vigorous first-year branches.

In late winter of the third year, thin only the previous season's growth, eliminating all but the 3-4 healthiest and most vigorous branches. You should now have 9-12 branches that are between 1 and 3 years old.

In late winter of each subsequent year, you should prune to maintain this ratio, keeping 3-4 branches each of 1-year-old, 2-year-old, and 3-year-old wood. To do this, eliminate all but 3-4 branches from the previous year's growth as well as all of the oldest (4-year-old) branches.

For Black Currants, in late winter after the second season and each subsequent year, it is important to prune out a few of the oldest canes by cutting back just above a strong new shoot near the base after the second season each year in late winter. No canes should remain on plants longer than three years. Six to eight upward growing main shoots should be left for the current year's fruiting.

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