JoAnne Skelly: Time for fall planting
My friend Kristen and I were discussing that fall is the best time for planting almost everything. Not only are plants on sale at nurseries, the soil is warm and the weather is cool, which is less stressful on newly installed plants.
Kristen had recently purchased a 5-gallon red currant called ‘Red Lake.’ I suggested she plant it now. Roots in the ground rarely go dormant, unless the soil freezes quite deeply, which is rare anymore. What happens is they grow very slowly, and this added root growth gives the plant a head start come spring when the weather warms. Fall-planted trees and shrubs often outperform spring-planted ones, since those planted in spring have to adjust to a cold soil. They go into a bit of shock before growing, which sets them back.
I hadn’t heard of this particular currant, so I checked it out. Its scientific name is Ribes rubrum (Red Lake). While it is not native to Nevada, it is an adapted, cultivated variety known for producing prolific, dark red juicy berries that, while a bit tart, are good for jams, jellies, muffins and pies, if the birds don’t eat them first. You only need one plant for fruit production.
The Red Lake currant requires a well-drained soil, rich in organic matter with a pH around 6.5. While it will grow in full sun to part shade, I think that in our arid and windy environment part shade during the hottest time of day would be appropriate. It needs to be protected from winter winds. Soil should be kept evenly moist throughout the year including fall and winter. Mulch helps. It may take four to five years for the plant to become established at full fruit-bearing potential.
The Red Lake currant may reach three to four feet in height and spreads in fertile soil. It can be used as a hedge. As I mentioned, it does attract birds. It sounds like a great edible plant for our landscapes.
A caution – while Kristen doesn’t live where there are white pines, neither ornamental nor native, a concern for anyone who does is that this currant is an alternate host for white pine blister rust disease, which is usually fatal to white pines. The disease requires two hosts to complete its life cycle. Currants need to be kept at least 900 feet from white pines to avoid infecting them.