This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
These form a very important item in the bush fruit of a market garden. The variety of uses to which the fruit is put gives it a wide range of usefulness and occasions a demand for it in large quantities. Soil that will grow top fruit will readily carry Red Currants. That is to say, they may be cultivated in any soil that is not waterlogged or too clayey for ordinary cultivation, or that is not too stony or chalky to carry ordinary farm crops.
Red Currants can be planted closer than Gooseberries. Generally speaking, the best distance apart is 5 ft. by 4 ft. The young bushes should have a stem of at least 9 in. long; this will check the growth of suckers, and keep the fruit from the splashing of soil during heavy rains.
The system of pruning Red Currants is based on the knowledge of the fact that fruiting buds form round the base of the previous year's growth and on the older wood. The best form for a Red-currant bush is that of five main shoots springing from the centre stem in the form of a cup. The main shoots each year should be pruned to the third or fourth bud, always selecting an outside bud. All the laterals should be cut back to within 1 in. of the stem. The fruit will be found to come round the base of each of these laterals.
In some places there has grown up a practice of leaving JRed Currants to grow uncut; it is claimed that they crop more heavily. The practice has as much to recommend it as any other "do nothing" policy has. It saves trouble and provides an excuse for cutting down the wages bill. The test of experience proves that the fruit loses in colour and size; the bushes become lanky and flop about, so that the fruits are mostly on the ground, splashed by every rain, and made an easier prey for the birds.
It will be found well to defer topping the main shoots till as late as possible in the spring, because the little blue tit, in hard weather, has a fondness for the buds of the Currant and Gooseberry, and he may choose just the bud left to form next year's main shoot, which will spoil the plan; but if the topping is not done till late the damage he has done can be seen and discounted.
The Red Currant is liable to the attack of a fungus which shows itself in red spots which form on decaying wood. All dead wood should be cut off and quickly burned.
Small birds are very fond of the Red Currant, and some growers spend money and trouble during the fruit season in keeping men with guns to scare them away. It may be doubted whether in the case of bush fruit there is any return at all for such outlay. It drives the birds from one part of the garden to another, it is true, and probably increases their appetite with exercise. The time to keep the bird pest in hand is the winter.
Red currants will begin to bear the third year. The cost of plants is a little less than that for Gooseberries. The selection of sorts is small. The old "Red Dutch" is still largely grown, but "Enfield Long Bunch" is better. For late work " Raby Castle " is good. (See Coloured Plate.)
The cost of pruning Red Currants is about the same per acre as Gooseberries. The cost of picking is generally 6d. per half-sieve, the average crop 3 to 4 tons per acre, and the price variable from £6 to £12 per ton. If the grower is near a good market and can get some selected large fruit put up in punnets or pecks for table fruit, he can thereby considerably increase his average of price. The cost of cultivation would be the same as for Gooseberries, and the remark there made as to intercropping will also apply (see p. 145).