Ribes nigrum

Ravensfield Farm will supply the Bee & Thistle Winery with Black Currants to expand the fruit wine flavour selections available to you. It has selected the Ben Nevis variety for its first Currant offering.

The initial planting was 100 2-year-old Ben Nevis shrubs, added to the orchard in late May, 2019. Over the next year, cuttings will be taken from each plant and the Black Currant section of the orchard will expand to 4 rows of 88 plants each (352 plants). We hope to harvest the first planting in 2020.

The Ben Nevis variety of Black Currants was chosen for its hardiness, fruitfulness, freedom from disease and ease of care. It grows approximately 4 feet high and 3 feet wide, filling out to ground level. Because it is a full shrub, it must be pruned.

Black Currant pruning takes place in late summer following harvest. They need to be judiciously pruned for several key reasons:

  • proper pruning will maximize fruit production the following year;

  • the growth area will be free of disease;

  • plants will become stronger; and

  • plants will be healthier overall.

Black Currant fruit is borne primarily on one-year-old shoots. Our newly-planted bushes will be pruned quite severely, cutting all shoots back to two buds above ground level. The general rule is to remove all weak shoots and those growing out sideways (this encourages an upright habit which facilitates mechanical harvesting). The remaining branches will be thinned to remove old, unproductive wood and to encourage new shoots. An established bush will not be allowed to become overcrowded and will have about one third of its main branches or stems removed each year.

We look forward to seeing how well our Black Currants do in remote Saskatchewan. All signs point to a promising growth period followed by successful harvesting. Watch for our first batch to be ready in 2020. We haven’t picked a name yet, but we’re working on it.


August 2019: Black Currant Propagation

It is exciting to continue on with our efforts at creating new plants from old ones. Black Currants are particularly suitable for cuttings, both soft and hardwood. Since we have to prune anyway, fall is an ideal time to create cuttings and root them, thereby expanding our orchards with little financial input and just a bit of fun work.

The following materials were chosen:

ProMix plant starter: a mixture of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, coarse perlite, vermiculite, macro and micronutrients, limestone (for PH adjustment) and wetting agent. The brand we chose also has mycorrhizal fungi, which definitely aids in correcting proper balance of nutrients to roots and plants.

Semi-hardwood and hardwood cuttings: although it is said that softwood cuttings (from this year’s growth in the spring) are easier to propagate and root, we have found that at least some hardness in Black Currants gives better rooting results. So we chose to do our cuttings after the berries are harvested and the plants are starting their dormancy period. We have already done 140 semi-hardwood cuttings, of which 100 rooted successfully—we planted those directly into the nursery earlier in the summer (see photo).

Rooting Powder: we purchased the brand Stim-Root (™); it is the #2 and #3 potency, containing 0.4% and 0.8% indole-3-butyric acid. The #2 is used on the semi-hardwood, and the #3 on the hardwood. The mechanism of action of IDA is based on the auxin characteristics of the make-up and works scientifically described as follows:

In plant tissue culture IBA and other auxins are used to initiate root formation in vitro in a procedure called micropropagation. Micropropagation of plants is the process of using small samples of plants called explants and causing them to undergo growth of differentiated or undifferentiated cells. In connection with cytokinins like kinetin, auxins like IBA can be used to cause the formation of masses of undifferentiated cells called callus. Callus formation is often used as a first step process in micropropagation where the callus cells are then caused to form other tissues such as roots by exposing them to certain hormones like auxins that produce roots. The process of callus to root formation is called indirect organogenesis whereas if roots are formed from the explant directly it is called direct organogenesis. ……Wikipedia

Cuttings were carefully prepared by stripping off most of the leaves and scraping down the outer ‘bark’ or cambium at the bottom inch or two of the cut area (which was cut on the diagonal) to expose more of the rooting area. We have done this before on an experimental basis, and determined what works best for Black Currants.

Then, the cutting end inch or so was dipped carefully into the rooting hormone and planted into the Pro-Mix. This time, we chose the recycled 7” deep x 2.5” square plant trays since the cuttings were quite long. Everything was carefully watered and humidity maintained by placing a translucent plastic tote over the tray and placing it in the shade. We don’t have a greenhouse so sometimes we need to resort to creative solutions.

It is expected that roots will show in 2-3 weeks, with daily checks for moisture and humidity. We do have a grow tent in the basement, and if frost comes early, everything will be moved down there. Margaret has successfully rooted many things in that tent before. If the roots grow successfully, the plants will be frozen at a controlled -3 to -4C in the basement freezer until spring.

Pro MiX

Pro MiX

The 7” x 2.5” pots with soil/peat moss mix

The 7” x 2.5” pots with soil/peat moss mix

Mock Greenhouse/Humidity hood

Mock Greenhouse/Humidity hood

Cuttings planted and watered

Cuttings planted and watered

Softwood Cuttings planted directly in nursery in June, 2019

Softwood Cuttings planted directly in nursery in June, 2019

Preparing the hardwood and Semi-hardwood cuttings

Preparing the hardwood and Semi-hardwood cuttings

Cuttings before preparation

Cuttings before preparation