Currants & Gooseberries Garden Guide

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Currants & Gooseberries Care At A Glance

  • Currants and Gooseberries are both Ribes species, that generally prefer cool climates.
  • Many different named cultivars are available. Some native, some non-native.
  • Plants typically grow 3-5 ft. high and wide.
  • Zone hardiness varies by cultivar, see additional notes below.
  • Berries can be used for fresh eating, jams, jellies or for pies.
  • First harvest is typically 2-3 years from planting.

Currants & Gooseberries Planting Instructions

  • Bare root plants should have roots soaked for 8 to 24 hrs. prior to planting.
    NOTE: Root soaking does not apply to varieties shipped as potted plants. Potted plants should be hardened off for 7-10 days then planted out after threat of frost has passed. Protect foliage from hard frosts should they occur.
  • Dig a large hole 2-3 times the size of the rootball.
  • Amend existing soil with 50/50 blend of compost and aged manure.
  • Loose, well-drained, organically rich soils with slightly acidic pH are best.
  • Plant with the top of the rootball no more than 1 inch below the natural soil grade. The crown should remain above the soil surface to prevent issues with rot.
  • Ribes species do not tolerate weed competition. Clear any grass or competing weeds from 3-4 ft. circumference around the new plants and mulch over root zone with 2-3 inches of fresh compost or mulch.
  • Water new plants thoroughly and slowly to ensure all air pockets have been removed.
    NOTE: Bare root varieties should be tip pruned by 1/3 to 1/2, which stimulates axillary bud break. Potted varieties do not require pruning unless plants suffer from transplant shock or unexpected late frost damage.

Watering Tips For Your Currants & Gooseberries

  • Currants & Gooseberries prefer moist, well-drained organically rich soils.
  • New plants should be watered using the 1 inch per week rule, which equates to about 2.5-3 gallons of water, per plant, every 2-3 days.

Currants & Gooseberries - Maintenance After Establishment

  • Allow plants to grow to full size for 2-4 years before any major pruning is done.
  • Do keep Currant and Gooseberry plants lifted by thinning to keep lower limbs from bending to the ground.
  • Minimal renewal pruning can be done in late winter to early spring while plants are dormant.
  • Open the middle by thinning plants, keeping 9-12 main stems. Plants will produce fruits on younger branches.
  • Applying fresh compost blended with aged manure in early spring as top-dressing.
  • Plants can be fertilized once annually, in early spring using 10-10-10 all-purpose or a 3-5-3 organic food.
  • Avoid crowding plants. Provide good air circulation through and around them to help prevent fungal diseases.
  • In small spaces, training currants and gooseberries to trellises can be done.

Currant & Gooseberry Varieties

Currants - Ribes rubrum, Ribes sativum hybrids, or Ribes nigrum

  • 'Red Lake', 'Rovada', 'Pink Champagne', and 'Consort' are popular examples of named cultivars.
    NOTE: Hybrid, rust resistant black currants, like 'Consort' can be grown without issue where many others cannot. The federal agriculture department and many states have eliminated laws prohibiting growing currants, because studies have proven that red currants and other hybrids do not spread white pine blister rust.
  • These currants are non-native selections from northern Europe & Asia, but with little to no invasive potential.
  • All are extremely adaptable, well-behaved plants for sun to part shade reliable in zones 3-7
  • Some fungal susceptibilities can be suppressed with proper IPM methods and management, such as proper spacing, plant placement, and proper rotational fungicide applications with Sulfur, Copper, or Bio-fungicides like Revitalize®.

Gooseberries - Ribes hirtellum which are American species, and Ribes uva-crispa, are European species.

Many named Gooseberry cultivars are hybrids between American & European species. American breeding stock offers disease resistance and regional reliability, while European species bring better fruit flavor and sweetness.

  • 'Hinnomaki Red™' - Dark red medium-sized fruits, have good, sweet flavor and tangy skin. Bushes are small to medium-sized.
  • 'Invicta' - Green/yellow large fruits with high yields. Fruits have a good, sweet flavor when fully ripe. Plants have a sprawling habit and produce large thorns.
  • 'Pixwell' - Dark purple/red fruits. Plants are very productive and virtually thornless, but fruit flavor is less desirable for fresh eating and better suited for preserves. Reliably hardy for zones 5-7, mulching and winterization rules apply if 'Pixwell' is grown in zone 4.
  • Tixia™ - Produces large, attractive red fruits with dessert quality suitable for fresh eating or preserves. Plants are described as vigorous, and semi-thornless showing some resistance to mildew diseases.

Jostaberry - Or "yostaberry" are a complex three-way cross between currants and gooseberries, originally created in Germany before WW II.

  • Plants produce large, dark purple flavorful fruits good for fresh eating or cooking.
  • Jostaberries are highly disease resistant to many common fungal diseases that can plague other Ribes varieties.
  • Jostaberry plants are reliably self-fertile, although like many self-fruitful plants, better and bigger crops of higher quality fruits come from cross-pollination.
  • Jostaberry plants typically grow larger than either of their cousins, to about 5-6 ft. high and wide.
    NOTE: Jostaberries and Black currants have traditionally been grown as coppiced crops in commercial production. Coppicing is a process of pruning all stems down to a height of 2 ft. at the end of each season, to allow for new growth each year, but in this method staking and support is needed. This traditional method is not necessary for home gardens.