This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Many kinds of American Grape vines are grown in the gardens in and around Galveston, and although some sorts of them do well, the more experienced gardeners (I apply this term to those people interested in and doing their own gardening) are of opinion that it is a waste of room, time and means to grow the American grapes, when the finest European kinds can be as easily grown, besides being so very much more remunerative. At Mr. Stringfellow's gardens, some two miles southwest of the city, I saw the European grapes in as healthy and fruitful a state as I ever did under glass. His gardens are near the sea beach, and like all the south coast of Galveston, subject to most devasting south winds that do more harm than north ones. To guard against these winds he has his gardens fenced in with a wooden fence, just inside of which, is a high "sea-cedar" and oleander hedge; oleander hedges some eight feet high and fifty feet apart run east and west through the grounds to act as wind-breaks too. In these sheltered plots Mr. S. has the Black Hamburg, Canon Hall Muscat, Bowood Muscat, Muscat of Alexandria, several kinds of Chasselas, and other sorts that he has fully attested, and is satisfied that they are decidedly better adapted for Galveston than the American grapevines.
They ripen and color well, produce large bunches of fine flavored fruit, and the berries adhere well to the clusters and are not so liable to rot as the natives. He grows his vines on three barred wooden trellises three feet high, for should they be higher the vines would be blighted and prostrated by the winds sweeping over the oleanders. As in hot-houses, so are these grapes out of doors, they require thinning, and this the grower considers an objection, but it is a small one, for when we see plainly the great good thinning out grape berries in the clusters does to the appearance, quality, and value of the crop, we can hardly grudge the trouble and time spent in it. The vines are subject to mildew but Mr. S. tells me that he keeps them effectually clean by using powdered sulphur three times a year, viz., before they come into bloom, after stoning and before coloring. Ten dollars worth serves him a year, for how many vines I cannot say, but he estimates his crop this year at 5,000 pounds. He applies the sulphur through a fine wire sieve.
Mr. Stringfellow considers the Delaware the best of the Americans for Southern Texas, and particularly for Galveston, where it ripens early and well, colors beautifully, and bears heavily. He is very hard on the Scuppernong, and asserts that it will grow like a weed, but with any amount of coaxing he cannot get it to bear and ripen. I may mention that Mr. S. is giving the Golden Champion a fair trial. This is its first bearing year, and now (April 29th) it has several very solid bunches of flowers, and is withal in a most promising and healthy condition.
Lawyer Tucker, a gentleman who grows grapes for pleasure and profit, has the finest collection of kinds that I know of in Galveston or in Texas. He has now in admirable vigor and fruitfulness forty-two distinct sorts of European grapevines, all three years old, besides several one year old plants and cuttings from California and elsewhere. He, too, is of opinion that the European kinds are by far the best for Galveston, and places great stress upon the different kinds of Chasselas as being the best. He tells me that he sells his fruit for $1 a pound in Galveston and that they retail in the same city for $1.25. His mode of culture is almost'a fac simile of Mr. Stringfellow's, but his garden is further from the sea-coast and bet. ter sheltered with big trees than Mr. S's, and the soil is older and deeper. Mr. Tucker places much weight, and I think justly too, in surface dressings, and for this purpose he keeps under cover heaps of fresh earth, decomposed organic manure, wood-ashes and charcoal, and leaf soil, so as to be able to mix it and apply it as he considers necessary, and his whole garden bears ample testimony of this efficacious practice.
Mr. Chappell, a farmer some five miles west-the-island showed me an immense Scuppernong vine that he has trained on a trellis over his water cistern at the north side of the house, and from which he says he cut 310 pounds of grapes, besides what the folks about the house had eaten off it. He prunes off a good deal of old wood annually, shortens the ends of the remaining shoots, and as the vines begin to grow he leaves only every third or fourth bud along the shoots, rubbing off the rest. Mr. C. showed me several other fine Scuppernong vines, all of which promised well for a heavy crop, but seeing the clusters in flower and in ripe fruit are two different things. Just observe the difference of opinion existing as regards this grape between Mr. Stringfellow and Mr. Chappell.
Mr. Shrader, a German farmer some distance north-west of Mr. Chappell's place, and a thirty years' "residenter" on the island has the most tastefully kept garden I saw amongst the farmers in that district. He is a most polite and entertaining old gentleman, and in his fruit trees and flowers he takes great pride and interest. He has Concord grapevines, but he does not like them; they bear regularly and heavily and have large clusters and berries, but should there come a rain at ripening time they are sure to rot. He has the Isabella too, and it does well with him and he never found it to rot. This gentleman has many other very fine grapevines, but having lost their names and not keeping a written record of them he does not know what they are.