Currant and Gooseberry

By The Old House Web

Currant and Gooseberry

Currants and gooseberries can't be planted in some parts of Michigan unless a permit is obtained. In southeast Michigan permits are not needed but Black Currants, a host for white pine blister rust can't be planted. Do not plant these fruits within 900 feet of white pines or within 1500 feet of a nursery growing white pine.

A planting of currants or gooseberries should last for 10 to 12 years.

Currant Varieties

The following varieties of currant are recommended for planting in Michigan.

Red Currant White Currant Red Lake White Grape Wilder Cascade Prince Albert Viking--rust resistant

Gooseberry Varieties

There are two types of gooseberries, the American and the European. The European varieties have larger and more flavorful fruits. The American varieties are being healthier and hardier.

American Gooseberry European Gooseberry Downing Fredonia Houghton Chautauqua Poorman Industry


Currants and gooseberries prefer cool moist growing conditions. The soil should be well drained and high in organic matter but avoid light sandy soil. A dry soil may cause premature leaf drop on gooseberries causing the fruit to sunscald due to lack of shading. Gooseberry likes a partially shaded growing area. Select a site with good air circulation and avoid frost pockets.


Control any problem perennial weeds before planting. Work the soil the fall before planting and if available work in well rotted manure in the fall or early spring prior to planting. Fall planting right after the plants go dormant is best. Spring planting will have to be very early, as currants and gooseberries are quick to begin growth. Use 1 or 2 year old plants and space them 4 to 5 feet apart in rows 8 to 11 feet apart. Remove any broken or injured roots or branches. Prune the top to within 6 to 10 inches of the ground. Set the plants so the lowest branch is just below the soil surface. Make sure the soil is firmed down around the roots.

Cultivation and Mulching

Cultivation should be shallow and continued until the harvest is completed.

Mulches may be used as a substitute for cultivation, however a 6-inch layer of mulch can attract mice. Any natural material may be used as a mulch.


The best fertilizer for currants and gooseberries is manure. If applied annually the plants will be productive. On infertile soil use a fertilizer with a 1-1- 1 ratio such as 12-12-12. Apply a half to three quarters of a pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Fertilize in the fall after growth stops or in the spring before growth starts. If fresh sawdust or straw are used as a mulch, double the fertilizer rates the year the mulch is applied.


Prune when the plants are dormant in late winter or early spring. At the end of the first season remove all but 6 or 8 of the most vigorous shoots. At the end of the second season leave 4 or 5 one year shoots and 3 to 4 of the two year shoots. At the end of the third season leave 3 to 4 first, second, and third year shoots. Each plant should have a total of 9 to 12 canes.

Prune older plants so they have 6 to 10 fruiting canes and 3 to 4 replacement canes. Leave only enough new canes to replace the older canes that are removed. Wood older than 3 years produces inferior fruit. Remove all branches that lie on the ground. The center of the bush should be fairly open.

Harvesting may last over a period of time as long as a month.

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