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.
This is a much more important item in the fruit garden than either Red or White Currants; its uses, both for culinary and medicinal purposes, ensure for it a wide demand, although the ravages of the " Big Bud " have materially lessened the area of culture.
Black Currants like a strong soil, and will do well in land too stiff for most other kinds of fruit. Plants can be bought at the same price as Red Currants, that is £3 to £4 per 1000. A guarantee should be obtained that they are free from "Big Bud ".
The old system of planting was to put the bushes 7 ft. by 6 ft. apart, putting them well clown in the ground so as to encourage sucker growths from the bottom. A new system is now being tried, and it is claimed with much success. It is to plant the bushes deeper still, so that the main shoots are well under the ground; the distance is 1 ft. from plant to plant and 2 ft. 6 in. from row to row. Every year the old wood is cut out, and only the young growths from the bottom left.
Black Currants fruit on the young wood, and it is claimed that by this means the " Big Bud " is cheated of its prey, because it is in wood of the second year's growth that it has the most opportunity of doing damage. The plan is worth the trial, but there has not been sufficient test of it yet to recommend it for widespread adoption.
The plan for pruning the bushes planted on the old style is to cut out the old wood back to strong young shoots, as soon as the bushes become thick, arranging so as to leave the bush open to light and air.
There are several varieties of Black Currant favoured by market growers, the preference seeming to run in localities, so that it would appear that some varieties do better in certain districts. Liability to, or immunity from, " Big Bud " are the chief governing factors in the selection or rejection of a variety however, so much has that terrible pest impressed itself upon the mind of the growing fraternity.
The price of late years has varied over a wide range; in 1909 they made £32 per ton. There cannot be the least doubt of their value as a crop if the "Big Bud " can be kept down. It must not, however, be taken as a conclusion that apart from this pest they are certain regular croppers - late frosts at critical stages of the blossoming period will destroy the crop prospect sometimes.
White Naples is an old variety with the reputation for heavy cropping, but in some places it has shown itself to be an easy prey to " Big Bud ".
This is a red-budded variety, bearing medium-sized fruit, and a fairly good cropper. It seems to be less easy a victim to the "Big Bud " than the foregoing variety.
This is an importation from Holland. The bush is of vigorous habit, quickly attaining a great size. The fruit is very large and set wide apart on long bunches. The buds on the stems are formed with long spaces between them. On the whole it cannot be called a heavy cropper. It was claimed for this Currant that it was immune to the "Big Bud", but, alas! that can no longer be set to its credit. (See Coloured Plate.)
Lee's Prolific and Carter's Champion are each of them good varieties, and well worth planting. [W. G. L.]