Archive for the ‘Blackcurrant’ Category


The garden at home is bursting with produce right now. The peas and beans, kale and cabbage, chard Swiss and Rainbow are all featuring in the kitchen. Courgettes and pumpkins are in flowers. The raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants often don’t make it as far as the kitchen. The tomatoes are ripening and the sunflowers are reaching for the sky. However, one sunflower succumbed to a slug attack. They chewed all around the base, ‘ring-barking’ the plant so it wilted. It is now unable to take up water and nutrients from the roots. The wasps then feasted on the sweet sap exposed , but ‘it wuz the slugs wot dunnit’. So copper anti-slug tape has been wrapped around the healthy tall sunflower nearby so fingers crossed I have thwarted another sneaky slug attack.

Slugs or no slugs, this weekend was a great time to gather at The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim for the annual Garden Party on Sunday 18th July,  for growers and eaters of home-grown garden produce. Neven Maguire, the legendary chef from Blacklion in nearby Co. Cavan kept a huge audience enthralled by mouth-watering ways of preparing chard, tomatoes and hake. He made pesto making look really easy. I could see tongues (almost) hanging out as he prepared a delicious tiramisu.

Then  famous vegetable gardening author, Joy Larkcom and her husband Don from West Cork did a fascinating presentation on growing salads of the cut and come again varieties, with good handouts and illustrations on PowerPoint.

The team at the Organic Centre, many of whom are volunteers, provided delicious soups and lunches, teas and coffees, cakes and all manner of refreshments for the 500 or so who came for a great day out in dry warm ‘Lovely Leitrim’.

Hans and Gaby Wieland and Andy Hallewell and all the Organic Centre team were thanked by me at the end of the day just before I pulled the raffle tickets for the Castlebaldwin Donkey Sanctuary. The Centre and the Sanctuary raised a few bob and need to raise much more, I have no doubt both people and donkeys went home happy.

The Organic Centre has some great courses coming up and other events. I learned a huge amount there about picking and preparing mushrooms. Check out their website at and go visit them, they need your support.



Fellow kitchen gardener Cathy Gaffney from down the road and her daughter Jenny helped this year to pick and share blackcurrants while the weather was dry.

I get a generous crop from just two blackcurrant bushes – or ‘Ribes Nigrum’ as the Romans (or Michael Palin in ‘The Life of Brian’) might have said! A GIY friend was saying how the birds devour her blackcurrants and she needs to net the bushes. Maybe the variety I use is not so palatable to birds – but I certainly like it, as a dessert, on porridge or as a drink when juiced. I do not have time to make jam from it so I freeze any surplus in batches to use during the year.

I did not know much about fruit bushes when I bought and planted these two bushes in 1996. As luck would have it however, I accidentally gave them ideal conditions. A well manured deep soil and moisture during the summer, a regular mulch of lawn clippings and a pH of around 6.2 . The bushes are planted on the moist banks of the small garden pond so the roots never dry out.

The only snag is the fruit is difficult to reach with all the growth nearby. So I cut out and take away the stems using a secuteurs. I can then pick the mature fruit at the kitchen table. This makes the harvest an easier and more sociable activity. At the table a kitchen fork can also be used to remove the bulk of the fruit which speeds up the operation.

One drink using balckcurrants I have not yet tried is Cassis – apparently it is made from the juice mixed with a dry white wine and I’m told it goes down a treat on a hot day. Let me know if you can vouch for this or if you have other useful tips about  the beautiful blackcurrant.


This mild and still weather after the ‘shock and awe’ of the BIG FREEZE really makes me appreciate the occasional foray into the garden. I was recently at an organic gardening talk by local experienced grower Nicky Kyle who asked me to pull a few raffle tickets as part of a fundraiser for disaster relief in Haiti.

I asked Nicky for advice on pruning blackcurrants. I was delighted when Nicky offered to visit my kitchen garden and show me how to wield a secateurs herself. I hope you can see the results of the visit on this video clip to follow for yourself.


This is now the week to look towards the jobs that come around each autumn. Cutting back of raspberry canes and blackcurrant bushes marks the beginning of autumn.

I’m glad to report another good year for the blackcurrant bushes. The raspberry canes were new so I did not expect a bumper crop but hope for great things next year. Cutting back the canes is going to encourage new growth but also in a small garden keeps things tidy enough for myself and visitors to walk around.

The blackcurrant pruning involves taking out branches which fruited this year and this also de-clutters the bush which helps air to circulate and keeps any disease at bay. The cuttings also serve as useful sticks which can be used again for climbing plants next year, or if dried can be used to help start a fire in the winter. The ash from the fire will return to the compost heap, keeping the cycle of life going full circle.

Mid-June review.

The garden is full of lif right now. It’s fantastic to see how much growth there has been in the last month. The weather has been almost ideal, with lots of bright sunny days and the occassional shower to keep things moist. The video gives a quick tour of the garden and it’s interesting to compare it with the overview taken in May. It’s geting difficult for the camerman to find a place to stand!

February, 2nd. Week- Pruning fruit trees & Blackcurrant bushes

Second week in February

Pruning 1

Pruning the Apple Tree

My fruit trees and blackcurrant bushes especially need to be pruned in the New Year before the sap rises and buds open.

The garden is too small to allow the apple tree, in particular, to grow as large as it would in the wild.

A long-armed loper and a saw are required, as well as a small stepladder, to prune the apple tree.

2009_0216TrevorsGarden0047The objsectives are (a) to remove branches which obstruct a pathway (b) to reduce the height of any skyward bound branches so that the tree in leaf will not shade my herb patch and finally (c) to remove any damaged boughs or branches. If left, these would dmage the bark with chaffing in fuyure.

2009_0216TrevorsGarden0048If  a bough is too thick to be cut by a secateurs or a loper, hen a saw is called for. It is important that the cut is clean and that it heals flat and quicckly without any cracks which could become infected.

Pruning Blackcurrants

My two blackcurrant bushes are planted on either side of the bird table and have served me well for the last ten years. 2009_0216TrevorsGarden0037The birds fo not seem to eat the fruit, which is plentiful. A lovely dessert is fresh blackcurrants, a dollop of yoghurt and a spoonful of honey on top.

2009_0216TrevorsGarden0040Blackcurrants fruit on new wood which is paler in colour that wood which has grown up from the base  a couple of years ago. I use a secateurs to firstly remove the older, dark wood.

After the dark wood , I look for any branches which are touching each other and remove the least crooked on2009_0216TrevorsGarden0042e. My objective is to thin out the branches so I can reach all parts of the bush to pick the fruit in the summer.