Hedges are great for borders that define a garden space or for creating a privacy barrier at the edge of the yard. But why not go a step further and grow an edible hedge? Currant and gooseberry shrubs, both members of the ribes genus, make excellent hedges and will provide an abundant supply of fruit to eat fresh or make into pies, jams, and jellies.
White, red, and black currant shrubs can be planted in a line to form an informal hedge or grouped to block an unattractive object like a utility box. They will grow to about 5 feet tall. Red currants are more flavorful for cooking, while white ones have lower acidity and are better for eating fresh. Other types have pale yellow or pink fruit. Black currants are banned in some states because they are an alternate host to white pine blister rust, although disease-resistant varieties are available.
Most gooseberry cultivars have thorns, so you'll need to wear gloves when picking the fruit. There are two basic types of gooseberries: American and European. American cultivars have the best disease resistance and include some that are less thorny. European types are more susceptible to disease, but have larger, sweeter fruit. Gooseberry shrubs generally grow to a height of 3 or 4 feet. Healthy plants may be productive for up to 20 years.
Plant the shrubs about 4 feet apart in well-drained soil amended with a good amount of organic matter. You can also amend your soil with Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil or Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Trees & Shrubs. Spread 2 to 4 inches of mulch, such as Scotts® Nature Scapes® Color Enhanced Mulch, around the plants to conserve soil moisture and discourage weeds. Avoid southern-facing slopes, because intense sun will burn the plants. They prefer morning sun and afternoon partial shade. Prune dormant currants or gooseberries annually to cut out dead wood and encourage strong new growth.
Most currants and gooseberries will grow throughout the transition zone, though they grow best where they get a bit of winter chill. Currants are hardy farther north than gooseberries.