How To, Jorge, Plants

Pruning Currants, Gooseberries & Jostaberries

Currants and Gooseberries are all part of the Ribes genus. Jostaberry is a cross between two gooseberry species (R. uva-crispa and R. divaricatum) and blackcurrant (R. nigrum). White-currants (and pink-currants) are the same as redcurrants (R. rubrum).

Pruning takes place when the bush is dormant, ideally in late-winter/early-spring. Some may prune in late-summer to tidy up vigorous varieties. As always, practice makes perfect and over time you’ll learn what works best.

Gooseberries and redcurrants fruit on short spurs on 2-3 year old wood. Blackcurrants and jostaberries fruit at the base of 1 year old wood and on spurs on 2 year old wood. It is for this reason that 4 year old wood is removed for gooseberries and redcurrants, and 3 year old wood removed for blackcurrants and jostaberries.

You can easily identify the age of the wood by its colour. Older wood is often black/listless white, while the youngest is brown.

As usual the four Ds (dead, dying, diseased or damaged) should be removed.

Gooseberries and redcurrants can be grown as a freestanding bush (where you remove all suckers and branches originate from a single stem), a stool (where you allow multiple stems to grow from the roots), and as a cordon. Blackcurrants and jostaberries can only be grown as a stool as they need constant renewal.

Free-Standing Bush

With the free-standing bush method, you are seeking to establish a goblet shape with branches growing away from the centre. This allows light and air to penetrate the bush, reducing disease incidence and promoting ripening. Stems growing towards the centre are thus removed.

The buds you prune to should be based on the height and direction of your branch. Branches that grow upwards, prune to an outward-facing bud to encourage spreading. Branches that sprawl, prune to an upward-facing bud to encourage vertical growth. You are aiming for a 45 degree angle.

Branches too close to the ground should be removed. Laden with fruit, branches will droop down further. (Keep that in mind when selecting outward or upward buds.)

You’ll also wish to remove branches that cross (or grow too closely together) as rubbing can cause canker.

Suckers can be removed in summer and are best pulled than cut, which takes the growth node.

Formative Pruning

Nurserymen and women will shorten the main stems of your bush when it’s young to encourage branching. This will leave you with a plant with multiple branches growing off the main stem (known as the central leader). You’ll want to select 4-5 branches, 2-3 growing in one direction and 2-3 in the opposite direction, and remove all others. Ensure the branches on each side aren’t too close together. These branches are known as your primary scaffold.

In the first year, cut each primary scaffold to an upward facing bud.

By the second, the primarily scaffold will have branches growing off them (the secondary scaffold). Cut all branches back and select only upward/outward buds, depending on the height and direction of the bud.

By the third year, you’ll have a nice goblet shape.

Maintenance Pruning

Once you have established a goblet shape, prune to maintain it.

In winter, remove all low lying and dead, dying, diseased and damaged branches. Cut back new growth on branches by half and new growth on side-shoots to 1-3 buds. Side shoots growing towards the centre can be shortened to 1 bud to allow light to penetrate the interior.

Late June, shorten side-spurs to five leaves from the base.

Stool

The stool method bears some similarities with growing raspberries, whereby you allow suckers/stems to grow and then cut then right back down to the ground.

With the stool method, you want a mix of wood growing to ensure a good annual harvest. Thus with redcurrants and gooseberries keep a mix of one, two and three year old stems and with blackberries keep just one and two year old stems.

Usually 9-12 canes are kept with redcurrants and gooseberries, and 10-12 with blackcurrants/jostaberries. With vigorous varieties, you can have more stems growing at any one time.

It’s important you don’t remove suckers, but thin them, selecting the best. And just like with a freestanding bush, remove all low lying, rubbing and dead, dying, diseased and damaged branches.

Redcurrants/Gooseberries

In the first season of planting, keep 6-8 shoots.

In the second, leave 4-5 one year old stems and 3-4 two year old stems.

From then on, select 3-4 one and two year old wood and remove all third year wood, cutting 2 inches from the ground.

Blackcurrants/Jostaberries

In the first season of planting, keep 6-8 shoots.

In the second, leave 5-6 one year stems and remove all two year old stems, cutting 2 inches from the ground.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *