Water newly planted currants well in dry weather, but long-established plants seldom need watering. For potted bushes ensure that the compost does not dry out.
Hand weed or hoe carefully to keep the soil free of weeds.
Spread a balanced granular fertiliser around plants in February, at a rate of 2oz per square yard. It is also beneficial to apply a 5cm (2in) mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost around plants if your soil is light.
Whitecurrants hold their fruit on old wood. Prune bushes by removing diseased or very old branches in winter, then prune new growth back to two buds in early summer to keep plants compact. Leaders should be pruned to outward-facing buds unless the branches are bending, in which case they then should be cut to upward-facing buds.
In early spring, prune established cordons. Cut the new growth on the main vertical stem by a quarter of the previous year’s growth, or by half if growth is weak. Cut to a bud on the opposite side to the previous year’s cut to keep the growth straight. Once the cordon is at the desired height, cut to one bud of new growth each year in early summer. Prune the shoots from the main stem to one bud to build up a fruiting spur system.
Ensure the roots of plants in pots don’t rot over winter by placing containers on feet to allow excess water to escape through the drainage holes in the bottom.
Feed plants in pots with liquid fertiliser every fortnight, from late winter to early spring. Every spring scape off the top few centimetres of compost and top up with a mix of potting compost and controlled release fertiliser granules. Every three years repot, either into a bigger pot or back into the same pot after removing a third of the roots and compost.
Plant ready-trained, two to three-year-old bare-root whitecurrants between November and March in well-drained, slightly neutral to acid soil (about pH 6.7 is ideal). Allow 5ft (1.5m) between bushes and 5ft (1.5m) between rows. Container-grown bushes are available to buy and plant all year round, but will establish better if planted in autumn or winter.
Plant in a sheltered site, out of strong winds, and avoid frost pockets. Whitecurrants do best in full sun, but can be grown against a shady, north facing wall, although this will result in a deficiency in the flavour of the fruit.
When strapped for space, choose a single stem or multiple cordon whitecurrant, but if you have more room you will get a better yield by growing as an open-centred, goblet-shaped bush with 8 to 10 well-spaced branches above a short, stumpy leg of between 10-15cm (4-6in).
As an alternative to planting in the ground, grow cordon whitecurrants in a large container – at least 45cm (18in) wide. Fill with soil-based John Innes No.3 compost, although multipurpose potting media are satisfactory.
Gooseberry sawfly: Pale green, caterpillar-like larvae cause rapid and severe defoliation of plants, often reducing bushes to bare stems by harvest time. Damage starts in mid to late spring, but there can be three generations of the pest a year, so problems can continue through the summer.
Remedy: Inspect plants carefully from mid-spring onwards, examining the undersides of leaves and especially the centre of the bush. Remove larvae by hand.
More info on Gooseberry sawfly
Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.
Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.
More info on Birds
Currants can be harvested in summer when the fruits are firm and juicy. Do not pick individual fruit or you’ll squash them. Instead, cut whole trusses and use immediately, or store in the fridge for a few days. Alternatively, place trusses in bags and put into the freezer for later use.
Nigel Slater's redcurrant tart is large and sweet with a crumbly pastry and vanilla filling. Perfect with a little icing sugar sprinkled over the top before serving.
Sweeter than redcurrants, whitecurrants are hardly ever offered for sale in shops, so growing your own is generally the only way you’ll get to experience these exquisite berries that are pure white to cream in colour, with some ripening to almost yellow. Whitecurrants are cool-climate plants and fruit well in northern areas.
Tasty currants and high yielding
‘White Grape’ AGM:
A well-flavoured fruit with strong, upright growth
Versailles Blanche (syn ‘White Versailles’):
Has large, light yellow, sweet-tasting fruit.