This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Denver is a remarkable market for fruit. I was told by reliable parties that fully $2,000 worth of fruit a day were sold there, and to judge from the frequency of the fruit stands, the estimate is not an exaggeration. Fruit stores are as frequent as news stands in the large cities, and often are seen adjoining each other several doors in succession. On one block fully half the stores were devoted to fruit. All of this fruit is shipped hither from California, and with its golden color, it is a most attractive sight. Nearly all kinds of fruit, plums, peaches, apricots, etc., are sold at the uniform price of twenty-five cents per pound. Pears are very fine, and will average two to the pound, or 12½c. each. Plums average five to the pound, and apricots three to four. Peaches same as apricots. The freight from Sacramento to Denver, is $750 per oar load, which is the principal cause of their high prices; from Kansas City but $150.
Denver is a growing city, and business of all kinds thrives finely. Nearly all the inhabitants indulge in fruit, buying it as freely as we would candy or sweet things at home. Large quantities are shipped into the interior to the mining districts, and right in Black Hawk, the center of the most thriving mines and stamp mills, amid the crush of quarts and debris of mineral, I found a New York boy keeping a stand of California fruit, and who was so glad at our advent, that his joyful memory of the good, old days of the East, sufficiently impressed him to fill our pockets before he would let us go.
Gardening near Denver is successful, wherever the gardener can command a good supply of water. The Platte River is entirely unreliable, sometimes full, often dry. Ditches have been dug to the foot of the mountains, but occasionally the mountains are devoid of snow, and the supply is cut short, but this is not often the case. Strawberries are very productive and very profitable. A fruit-grower by the name of Dillon, who lives one mile from Denver, grows 2,000 quarts to the acre, and sold them at wholesale for forty-five cents per quart; they were then resold by the dealer at still higher prices. They begin at $1.25 per quart, and rarely go less than 60 cents.
Potatoes are the universal crop of the Territory; every one grows them and every one makes money out of them. Mr. Dillon has raised as high as six hundred bushels per acre, and sold them for four cents per pound; this is at the rate of $1,440 per acre. Can any Eastern gardener equal this ? Of late so many potatoes have been raised that the price has fallen in some sections to two cents per pound wholesale, or $1.20 per bushel. Nearly every kind of garden vegetables, except corn, will grow here finely. Water-melons and cucumbers, as fine as at the East, are frequent and delicious; beets are superb. Peter Magnus, the most successful vegetable grower in the vicinity, brought to our hotel specimens that would average twelve to eighteen cents apiece, and potatoes that would weigh a pound. The soil being drift from the mountains is full of mineral matter, of which potash is pre-eminent, and only needs irrigation to set everything going with utmost vigor. Agriculture here is prosperous in the highest degree. Most of the energy of the people has been devoted to trading, mining and stock raising - little to agriculture. A few sagacious growers have felt that the soil would pay better returns than the uncertainty of the mines, and every one who has tried farming or gardening, has been succesful.
Mr. Dillon said if he had forty acres he believed he could make $40,000 in five years and he would put one man to every acre, and grow garden vegetables entirely. Colorado cucumbers sell for twenty-five cents each, and potatoes at retail, 3½ cents per pound. The population of Denver is 8,000, and the increase of houses has been 33 per cent in eight months, still the area devoted to garden products does not increase in like ratio, and the supply is behind the demand. I know of no place with better opening for young, enterprising gardeners, farmers or tradesmen, than here. Wheat crops average forty bushels per acre, and oats sixty. Tomatoes are plenty, yet never sell for less than $1 per bushel.
An instance was related to us of two young men who had only a capital of $500 between them. They selected a small lot of ground on the road between Denver and Golden City, irrigated it, and planted in vegetables; they had good opportunities to sell, either to the miners as they passed along the road toward the mountains, or in the city of Denver itself. They were successful from the very first, and to-day, less than five years from the beginning, they own 320 acres each, and are making $5,000 per year. Cabbages are very profitable, and as an instance of their profits, I may state that Peter Magnus sold, from one acre, $1,900 worth in one season. Upon the ground of Mr, Bearce, President of the Colorado Agricultural Society, I saw quite a nice little vineyard of grapes, mostly Concord, three years old, generally in good health, still the fruit was a little cracked, and the berries considerably smaller than with Eastern growers. Horticulture is as yet an experiment in Colorado. Experiments are but one or two years old, and but little definite is known; still progress is very encouraging. My readers must remember that Denver is nearly 6,000 feet above the level of the ocean, and located upon a treeless plain, with no green thing in sight save the vegetation of private gardens.
To grow vegetables under disadvantages like this is success indeed. We observe in private grounds quite a large number of ornamental trees planted. The cottonwood is especially pre-eminent, and uniformly a vigorous and quick grower. It must, however, be irrigated, or it will not live. Apple trees have been planted in some grounds, and we must admit this year's growth displays the handsomest and smoothest bark we ever beheld on any apple tree, young or old. If protected by boards from the hot rays of the sun from the South, they will stand the winters admirably; the protection needed is not from the North, but from the South, against extremes of heat.
Gardening, in Colorado, I look upon as successful already, but the culture of standard fruits is very doubtful and risky. The judioious planting of trees everywhere, and the raising of groves or belts of timber, may sensibly ameliorate the climate and help fruit culture very materially.
H. T. W. Denver, Colorado Territory.