Currant Rejuvenation - Knowledgebase Question

St. Johnsville, NY
Question by mmercer4
January 4, 1998
I recently purchased an old farm house that has a currant bush. I was told that in NY it is against the law to remove currant bushes. What can I do to bring it back to a harvestable state? It had green leaves this last season but no fruit. The leaveswere sparse. It is about 4 feet in diameter, a few feet from the house and has southern exposure.

Would you be able to tell me what zone I am in? It seems like we are right on the line of 4 and 5.


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Answer from NGA
January 4, 1998

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I would be very surprised if there were a law forbidding the removal of currant bushes. 'Ribes', as currants and gooseberries are called, are known as the Typhoid Marys of the plant kingdom! They carry a plant disease known as "blister rust" which infects native white pine. It (blister rust) doesn't bother the Ribes however. The pines will not spread the disease to each other, but instead must have a Ribe as the intermediary! Wierd, eh? There are laws in some states that requirea distance of 900 feet or so between these wonderful berries and any pine trees. At any rate, this would lead me to believe that someone had the rule a bit "discombulated"! Anyway, if you really want to remove the bushes...no problem.

Having said that...Enjoy some current jelly before you rip them out. They're wonderful. My children have NEVER forgiven me for pulling out some currants 20 years ago!!!

Now, for rejuvinating it. Take three years. I use the following as a ruleof thumb: "Cut out 1/3 of the bush every year. Take the oldest, biggest branches and cut them clear to the ground". Since the bushes bear on one and two year old wood, this method eliminates the old, non-yielding branches. By the third year,you'll have an entirely new bush. If you'd like to shorten this the first year, you could do half the bush this year and then take out the other half next year(leaving the new growth of course.)

As far as your zone...I always take the lower number if I'm unsure. That way you'll be sure everything you get will make it through the winters. If you then want to try a plant requiring the warmer zone, just give it a bit extra protection during the winters.

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