Currant Care Guide
L to R Elderberry, Currants & Kiwi Vine
The ease of culture commends these fruits; though they grow under neglect, good care is well paid. in fact no other fruit responds more than do these two to cultivation and manuring; in home gardens mulching often successfully takes the place of cultivation.
Cultivation should be frequent and in most soils shallow, so as not to destroy roots or tear out plants. In the home garden, the ground may be kept in good condition by digging up with a spade in early spring followed by hoe cultivation through the summer. or in small plantings
the plants can be mulched with straw, hay or in heavy clay soils, every few years with coal ashes.
A good dressing of manure is most helpful in maintaining fruitfulness in the bush fruits. Supplement manure with a dressing of 5-10-5 fertilizer. An occasional dressing of wood ashes, from which the plants get lime and potash, is also to the liking of these fruits. See to it that there is always an abundance of organic matter in bush fruit soils.
Pruning is easily done, but the gardener must know about the bearing habits to do the work well. Currants, Jostas and Gooseberries bear fruit near the base of one year-old shoots and on spurs from older wood. Perhaps the best fruit in most varieties is borne on two and three year
old wood. All canes over three years of age should be pruned away, leaving six or eight vigorous canes. If the variety has a sprawling habit, cut out the prostrate canes; while those with an upright habit of growth should be thinned out in the center to let in air and sun.
Several insect pest can be easily controlled. Perhaps no fruits in the garden are less often prayed than the bush fruits, yet the currant, josta and gooseberry need careful attention for
the currant worm. the imported currant worm is a green worm with black spots which appears in the spring and devours the foliage, soon stripping the bushes. A second brood appears about July 1, and a third brood may appear late in the season. The insect can be controlled with
Bacillus thurigensis (Dipel) when early stages of damage appear or one week before. if the first brood is destroyed, the late ones will not appear.
San Jose scale, when present is controlled by spraying in the spring, while plants are still dormant, with lime-sulfur at the rate of 1 gallon to 8 gallons of water. Currant bovers burrow in the canes and weaken them so that they make little growth. All infested canes should be cut out and burned before May 1 or before adults emerge. (Dates for New York area).
Aphids feed on the young shoots and foliage, sucking the juice and causing the leaves to curl and wrinkle. badly infested leaves turn yellow and drop off. As soon as the aphids appear a contact spray should be applied. Insecticidal soap or nicotine sulfate (Black leaf 40) should be applied.
Powdery Mildew is often serious on European varieties of gooseberries and to a lesser extent on the American. it appears on the young leaves, shoots and fruit as a whitish powdery mold, which later turns to reddish brown. The most satisfactory remedy is spraying lime-sulfur at the rate of 3 gallons to 100 gallons of water. The 1st application should be made when the leaf buds are opening, to be followed by applications at intervals of 10 to 20 days, until 3 to 5 applications have been made. In severe cases the tips of the diseased canes should be cut and burned, since the fungus lives over the winter in these diseased tips. Anthracnose can be found on currants and gooseberries as numerous, small, brownish spots thickly scattered over the upper surface of the leaves, which later cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop. The bushes are frequently stripped before the fruit has ripened. Leaf spot is similar to anthracnose in its appearance
and behavior. the treatment is the same for both diseases.
The gooseberry is quite unappreciated as a dessert fruit in the U.S. When ripe they should be liked as dessert as much as any other fruit. Gooseberries of some varieties are delectable.
The black currant so greatly prized in all other northern countries, is hardly known on this side of the Atlantic. One must learn to like its assertive flavor and aroma, but prejudice overcome, it is most pleasant to eat out of hand or in culinary dishes.
Two groups of gooseberries are grown in America, the "Americans" and the "Europeans". Of the two, the American varieties are most common, since they are more resistant to diseases, more productive and have fruits of better quality. The European varieties are superior only in bearing much larger and handsomer fruit, and having a far greater diversity of varieties. Three American and two European varieties are sufficient for the home garden. -U.P. Hedrick