Red currants and gooseberries produce fruit at the base of 1-year-old wood, with the greatest production on spurs of 2- and 3-year-old wood. After 3 or 4 years, the older wood becomes less productive and therefore should be gradually replaced with young shoots by a thinning and renewal process. Black currants produce the best fruit on wood that is 1 year old, although this wood is supported by the 2- to 3-year-old shoots. All canes older than 3 years old should be removed to encourage the growth of new canes.
Prune dormant plants in early spring just before growth resumes, usually in March or early April in Pennsylvania. Remove canes that drop on the soil or canes that shade out the center of the plant. After the first season of growth, remove all but six to eight of the most vigorous shoots. After the second season, retain four or five 1-year-old shoots and three or four 2-yearold canes. Following the third season, keep three or four canes each of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old wood. In subsequent years, remove all of the oldest canes, replacing them annually with new canes.