This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
So far as my observation has extended (which I must confess is not very far) this has been an exceptionally unfavorable year for out-door grapes. We have had so much rain and so much cool weather for the season that not only has the fruit not ripened well, but mildew and rot have been unusually prevalent. Such a season emphasizes the importance of good and nutritious culture, that the vines may have such vigor of constitution and of growth as to be able to withstand such attacks of disease as soon vanquish those that have been enfeebled by neglect and starvation. I have seen some striking illustrations of this lesson within a few weeks. Some vines that have been left to forage for their food as best they could in the absence of all attempts to supply their wants, have uttered their protest against such treatment by lifting up diseased foliage and scanty and worthless fruit. While other vines of the same variety and in naturally poorer soil, have expressed their thanks for the generous supply of food which had been given them, in vigorous growth and splendid clusters.
Those who desire fine fruit and an abundance of it, need to remember, as many do not, that we can no more reasonably expect our vines to thrive without food than our children or our cattle.
But I took my pen to offer a slight contribution to the general information in regard to the conduct and promise of some of the newer varieties of outdoor grapes. My knowledge is based simply upon experience here in my own grounds, and may of course be quite misleading if applied to different latitude or soil. The soil here is quite light and porous, but has been well enriched with ground bone and hard-wood ashes. The culture has been clean and careful.
1. El Dorado. This has made a very vigorous, almost rampant growth. It has shown no disease in leaf or berry. But unless it bears more abundantly than it has this year with me it is unworthy of cultivation. A large vigorous vine that should have given at least ten pounds of fruit had the effrontery to offer me for all my care not more than half a pound. But what there is, is very fine, tender, crisp and high-flavored.
2. Prentiss. I have two vines of this variety, which, notwithstanding all my petting and coaxing, seem hardly able to decide whether " life is worth living,"so far at least as they are concerned. One of them has been planted for two years in the border of my cold grapery where it gets such nourishment as ought to have stimulated it to do its best, and yet it is still a puny little invalid that seems utterly exhausted in the attempt to bear two little bunches that together would not weigh half a pound. I shall give it one year more of probation; if it does no better I shall decide for it that its room is more valuable than its company.
3. Lady Washington. This is a magnificent grape for some other grounds than mine. It is very vigorous in growth, quite healthy in foliage, and bears an abundance of most splendid clusters. Several of mine will weigh, I think, more than a pound each. And the quality too is superb. But, Oh! it is so tardy in ripening. Here it is October 4th as I write, and not a single one of these beautiful bunches is sufficiently near ripeness to give any promise of being eatable by any one more fastidious than Jack Frost. In the latitude of Virginia or the Carolinas this must prove one of the finest out-door grapes that can be grown. But here in New England I fear it must be sorrowfully abandoned.
4. Jefferson. This seems to me to take the palm for quality over every other hardy grape I know. I prefer it to Black Hamburg, as it has a much more pronounced and spicy character, while it has no objectionable toughness of skin or pulp. It is a good and healthy grower, and bears, with reasonable abundance, good sized and very heavy clusters. But I am disappointed in its time of ripening. None of my bunches are yet fully matured, while some seem not more than half ripe. I had hoped this would fill the place which we once thought the Iona would take, but which seems still vacant, that of a first quality grape ripening sufficiently early to answer for New England. That throne seems still waiting for the coming monarch. I wish he would hasten his steps.
5. Brighton. On the whole I should place this variety at the head of the list for general worthiness. In quality very fine and sweet, in vigor of growth everything that could be desired, carrying healthy foliage and abundant fruit and ripening its large clusters (one of which I have just found to weigh very nearly twenty ounces) as early as any variety than can for a moment compare with it. It seems to me to stand at the very head of outdoor grapes yet tested. If any one wishes to know what variety to plant for family use, my experience answers at once, Brighton. I know of no other that I think will be so sure to give satisfaction for quality and quantity of fruit and vigor and healthfulness of vine, while at the same time the fruit ripens early enough for Eastern Massachusetts.
But I am asking too much of your valuable space and must stop, though not yet half through with my list. Maiden, Mass.