If you have limited garden space or want to grow blackcurrants in a more controlled environment, growing them in pots is a great option. Blackcurrants are relatively easy to grow in containers and with the right care and attention, you can enjoy lots of juicy and sweet blackcurrants.
In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to grow blackcurrants in pots. We will cover topics such as choosing the correct container, preparing the soil mix, planting and caring for the blackcurrant plant, and harvesting the fruit. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, this guide will give you the information you need to grow healthy and delicious blackcurrants in pots.
Selecting the Right Pot
When it comes to growing blackcurrants in pots, selecting the right pot is crucial. Here are some things to consider:
Size of the Pot
The size of the pot is crucial. Blackcurrants have a deep root system, so the pot should be at least 45cm deep. A pot with a diameter of around 40cm or more is advised to give the plant enough space to grow. With blackcurrants, you will realistically only ever grow a single plant per pot.
Good drainage is essential for healthy blackcurrants. Ensure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent water from accumulating and causing root rot. You can also add a layer of gravel or stones at the bottom of the pot to improve drainage, broken terracotta pots also work well.
Material of the Pot
The material of the pot can affect the growth of your blackcurrant plant. Terracotta pots are popular because they are porous and allow for good air circulation. However, they can dry out quickly, so you will need to water your plant more frequently.
Plastic pots are lightweight, cheap and retain moisture well, but they may not be as durable as other materials.
Metal pots can get hot in direct sunlight, damaging your plant’s roots. Then there are fabric pots which are really cheap and easy to store. In addition to all the pots mentioned above, there are also Air-Pots, which are specially designed to air prune the roots for really healthy growth.
Preparing the Potting Mix
Blackcurrants are suitable for growing in pots, but preparing the right potting mix is essential to ensure they thrive. I like to use high-quality compost, mixed with vermiculite to increase water retention and, finally, some 6X chicken manure to enrich the mix.
I then get stuck in and mix this well with my hands. Vermiculite is added to help water retention; it is super absorbent and soaks up water before slowly releasing it over time. This means you don’t have to water your baskets/containers as often.
Planting the Blackcurrant
Choosing the Plant
When choosing a blackcurrant plant, it is important to select a variety that is suitable for growing in a container. Look for plants that are labeled as “dwarf”, “compact” or “Patio” and have a mature height of around 3-4 feet (90-120 cm).
Some popular blackcurrant varieties for container growing include ‘Ben Connan’, ‘Summer Pearls’, ‘Ben Sarek’, and ‘Ben Lomond’.
Planting the Blackcurrant
The best time to plant blackcurrants in pots is in the spring, just as the plants emerge from dormancy. How you plant your blackcurrant will depend on how you buy it. There are two main ways of buying blackcurrants, that is either as a potted plant or a bare-root plant.
A potted plant will be just that, a growing blackcurrant bush in a pot. A bare-root plant is essentially a stick with roots on it! They usually arrive dormant and will begin to grow once you plant them up.
If you get a bare-root plant then you need to soak it in a bucket of water for an hour or two before planting, this helps the plant to rehydrate fully.
Fill your pot halfway with your potting mix, pop the bare-root or potted blackcurrant into the pot and then backfill it with your potting mix. You want the crown of your plant to be below the soil level by roughly 5cm or so.
Watering and Fertilising
Blackcurrants require regular watering, especially during their first few months of growth. Once established, they generally only need watering during dry spells, but it’s important to keep the soil consistently moist during the growing season.
When growing blackcurrants in pots, it’s essential to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out completely. This means watering them more frequently than if they were planted in the ground. Water deeply and slowly, allowing the water to soak in and reach the roots.
As with all fruiting plants you should feed them in you want to maximise your growth but it is not essential. They will crop just fine but in order to get the biggest crop possible to want to feed them.
I like to fertilise in spring with a general organic feed. This is often chicken manure or fish blood and bone for me. I also often give them a little added feed when they are fruiting and flowering with a general organic liquid feed.
Pruning and Training
Pruning is essential for the health and productivity of your blackcurrant plant. Prune your blackcurrant plant immediately after planting to encourage strong growth and prevent disease. In the first year, remove all the shoots except for the strongest two or three. This will encourage the plant to focus its energy on producing strong, healthy canes.
After the first year, prune your blackcurrant plant in late winter or early spring when the plant is dormant. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased wood.
For mature plants, remove any shoots that are more than three years old. This will encourage the plant to produce new, productive canes. Remove any weak, spindly, or crossing shoots to improve air circulation and prevent disease.
Training your blackcurrant plant will help it to produce strong, healthy canes that are well-spaced and easy to harvest. When the plant is young, tie the strongest canes to a support stake or trellis to encourage them to grow upright.
As the plant grows, remove any shoots that are growing from the base of the plant or from the roots. These shoots will not produce good fruit and will only sap the energy from the plant. Train the remaining shoots to grow along the support stake or trellis, spacing them about 10cm apart.
During the growing season, tie the new growth to the support stake or trellis as needed to keep the canes upright and well-spaced. This will help to prevent the canes from breaking under the weight of the fruit and will make harvesting easier.
Harvesting and Storage
When to Harvest
Blackcurrants are usually ready to harvest in mid-summer, around July or August. The berries should be firm and plump, and have a shiny appearance. They should also have a strong, sweet aroma. If the berries are still small and hard, they are not yet ready to be picked.
It’s important to harvest blackcurrants when they are fully ripe as they do not continue to ripen once they have been picked. If you leave them on the plant for too long, they may become overripe, which can affect their flavour and reduce their shelf life.
How to Store
After harvesting, blackcurrants can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. If you want to keep them for longer, you can freeze them. To freeze blackcurrants, spread them out in a single layer on a baking tray and place them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container and store them in the freezer for up to a year.
If you want to preserve blackcurrants, you can make them into jam or jelly. To make jam, combine the blackcurrants with sugar and cook them over low heat until they reach a thick, spreadable consistency. Pour the jam into sterilised jars and seal them tightly. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
If you have a dehydrator, you can also dry blackcurrants. Spread the berries out on the trays of the dehydrator and dry them at a low temperature until they are completely dry and crispy. Store the dried berries in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.