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Monday, 4 January 2016

BEAUTIFUL BLACKCURRANTS news from GIY Ireland



I have two blackcurrant bushes in the garden – they are prolific croppers and don’t get a huge amount of love from me if the truth be known. I always consider them a second-tier crop – not quite as tasty as say raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. At the same time, we always do our best to bring the crop in and get it in the freezer, because it’s great for jams and ice-creams. At this time of the year we are able to grab handfuls from the freezer at night time and let them thaw out so they can be thrown on porridge in the morning. They are rich in numerous health benefiting phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants.

If there’s a downside to them, it is that they get enormous and if left un-pruned they will quickly become overcrowded which will lead to poor harvests. Naked stems at this time of the year make it easier to prune, and of course the plant is lying dormant so it’s not knocked back by the pruning.

The basic idea is to create a light airy plant in a bowl shape, but keeping as much of last season’s growth as possible since it is these that will bear most of next year’s fruit. The new season shoots should be relatively easy to identify – they are quite smooth, tea-coloured, and clearly “new” looking. The older shoots will be more gnarled and grey looking. Start by removing congested and weak stems, any diseased branches or those branches that are crossing over.

Then take out some of the older growth that is clearly unproductive – that is, not carrying any new growth. I try to remove about a third of the plant, leaving about 10 strong healthy shoots. You can also give the base a good dressing of compost. The result should be a healthy plant that will pay you back in spades.

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