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Pruning Soft Fruits – Currants & Berries

Use either a pruning knife or secateurs for pruning. Keep the blade very sharp, for clean cuts heal quicker and there is less risk of the shoot dying back. You will need a small saw for large trees, also a pot of white lead paint for covering large cut surfaces. For cane fruits you will need raffia or fillis (soft string) for tying them to the wires to which they are trained.

Do remember this is a dig for victory leaflet from the Second World War and modern pruning practices have changed a little in some respects. White lead paint is no longer available to seal wounds in trees although you can obtain horticultural wound paint which does the same job.


The canes of these are either tied to wires or trained up poles. During the summer, to prevent damage, tie in loosely all young shoots growing from the base of the plant. After the crop has been gathered, remove the strings holding the plants to the wires, and cut down to ground level all canes that have fruited, as these will not crop again.

Thin out all weak young shoots, or any showing purplish spots (Cane Spot), on the stems about a quarter of an inch in size or larger, usually near the ground. Keep about six or eight of the strongest shoots and tie them to the wires.


Most varieties are summer fruiting. These are grown in rows, with the canes tied to wires. During summer, cut out weak new shoots and those growing too far away from the wires, but leave five or six of the strongest growths from each plant. After fruiting, cut down to ground level all old canes, you can easily tell them for they bear the remains of the fruit stalks and are darker and tougher than the new growths. Tie the new canes to the wire, five to six inches apart. In March in the South—about a fortnight later in the North—tip these canes to a uniform height of 41/2 to 5 feet.


Prune black currants as soon as possible after the fruit has been gathered. As new shoots bear better fruit than old, cut down to ground level as many of the oldest branches (which may be two or three years old) as the young shoots can replace. If there are not enough young shoots growing from ground level cut back some of the old branches to a young growth as low down the stem as possible.


These are grown as bushes or, occasionally, as cordons. They bear fruit on short spurs on the older shoots. In winter pruning shorten all side shoots to three or four buds. Cut back the main branches to an outside bud, leaving about six inches of new growth each year.


Gooseberries are mostly grown as bushes, occasionally as cordons. Unpruned bushes give crops of small berries rather difficult to pick. Pruning improves size and makes picking easier. Thin out badly-placed shoots in the , centre to leave it open. Cut back new growth at the end of the main branches to a bud pointing outwards about half way down.

More severe pruning is necessary to produce large dessert gooseberries. In addition to the pruning already described, cut back all side shoots, leaving a short spur with two or three buds. Remove any sappy shoots (water shoots) growing out generally at the base of the main branches.

Prune usually in winter, but in districts where birds peck out the buds, leave it until spring.