Planting currants on allotments

This is the time of year to be planting fruit, which is good, as that’s what we’ve been doing. Actually, it’s a bit more than ‘planting’. January’s workshop on plot #103 is ‘Improving the Plot’ and as I was writing the outline for the session, a creeping feeling doubt began to grow on me. Eventually I put down my keyboard and went up to the plot to try and see what it was that was making me so uncomfortable and as soon as I got there I saw it was the proposed asparagus bed.

When I looked at our raspberry bed, and where we wanted to put the asparagus, I felt we’d made a mistake. Both beds run east to west and for perennial crops that’s less than ideal – it means that one end of the row always gets a lot more sun than the other. So I wanted to have north/south beds if possible, but that would mean dismantling the raspberry bed – and I couldn’t imagine OH being willing to do that.

In fact, when we’d had a long debate about it, and then gone away to do something else while the ideas percolated, we found a compromise solution that works really well. We’re going to plant the raspberries along one of our boundary lines which is difficult to maintain because our neighbours have a bit of an unruly hedge. That means the plants will be north/south and as raspberries are hardy creatures, they’ll cope well with the brambles, elder and other items that make the hedge difficult to cope with. The asparagus bed will run north to south, taking up some of the space that the raspberries used to fill.

While we worked all this out, we planted currants. Bare rooted plants are available from around November to March and December is the ideal planting time for them. Container currants, which is what we had, can be planted all year round, although my preference is to plant in early winter so the plants aren’t stressed into immediate productivity in a spring planting or shocked by sudden cold in autumn into a dormancy that can be difficult to break.

As long as winter soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged, you can plant currant bushes. They need a degree of shelter from strong winds, and like full sun although they will produce good fruit in dappled shade too. Currants need a good-sized planting hole with well rotted manure or compost beneath and around the roots. If you have a container plant with the kind of root binding this one exhibits, you also need to get in there with a hand fork and open up the roots by main force, or the plant may remain root bound forever. Currants just don’t spread bound roots naturally so you have to untwine them and spread them out in the hole to get a good crop of fruit. Given that a good currant bush can fruit consistently for twenty years, it’s worth making the effort.

After planting I prune out any crossing branches and take back other stems to a third of their original length, ensuring that the cut is diagonal so that it doesn’t hold water and that it is made just above an outward facing bud.

It may not look like much now, but this will be a productive fruit garden, with both early and late red and black currants. All we need to do now is work out how to net them against birds!

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Friday, December 30, 2011


Blogger The Liquineer said...

When I read your headline I had visions of you planting dried fruits in the ground- took me a moment to realise it was currant bushes!
Made me laugh anyway.


December 30, 2011 at 6:02 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Ah, well it would be the time of year to plant them, for sure, maybe after soaking them in brandy to encourage them to grow!

January 3, 2012 at 7:03 AM  

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