Try the new Southern Sensation Seedless Grape developed by Texas A&M and the University of Arkansas

The new Southern Sensation Seedless has clusters that resemble Thompson Seedless table grapes, pictured.

The new Southern Sensation Seedless has clusters that resemble Thompson Seedless table grapes, pictured.

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Consider the new Arkansas-Texas grape, two of my favorite peaches and the Rodeo Tomato in your garden this spring.

The Southern Sensation Seedless grape was developed and is promoted as a cooperative effort between the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M. Among the Southern Sensations' claim to fame is a resistance to Pierce's disease. Pierce's disease is the fungus that limits the range of quality grapes from Texas.

A Southern Sensation Seedless growing in Arkansas or the Central part of Texas would immediately make you think of the popular Thompson Seedless grape. The developers of the selection would agree that is what the grape tastes like.

The Southern Sensation Seedless has good vigor on its own roots. Vines have semi-erect growth and may be trained upright or downward.

The selection has attractive clusters that resemble Thompson Seedless and offer good fruit quality with large clusters weighing between ½ and 1½ pounds. The seedless berries are ½ to ¾ inches long, and the fruit is seedless.

This grape is especially adapted to production in the South as was revealed in its defying any damage from Pierce’s disease over a 34-year trial, while the Blush Seedless, Beauty Seedless and Flame Seedless in the same period  did not produce grapes, and the plants died.

At some point in the near future, the Southern Sensation is expected to be patented and identified as a Texas Superstar species. It is currently available from Double A Vineyards in New York and a few local nurseries, including Milberger’s, Fanick’s and Rainbow Gardens.

Wholesale growers report that the Southern Seedless Sensation is shipped as a bare root plant, so if you purchase a container plant, make sure it is well rooted before transplanting it into the garden.

Consider adding a peach tree to your backyard this spring.

Consider adding a peach tree to your backyard this spring.

Flowerphotos/Universal Images Group via Getty

Which peach trees deserve your attention? As long as you have the space, consider adding a couple of special peach trees to your backyard orchard.  
My favorite low-chill peach is Florida King. They require 450 hours of temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees, and are blooming now in San Antonio. Expect them to produce a large consumable peach before the end of March. And expect a crop every year, even with our unpredictable winter weather. The Florida King peaches are cling stones but are large and tasty.

This next peach I recommend is the Red Baron selection. Its chill requirement is about 500 hours. The Red Baron does not produce fruit to compete with other peach selections; it produces modest fruit but spectacular blooms that are large, brightly colored and long-lasting.  

The recommended grapes and peaches can be planted in the garden now, but the new Rodeo Tomato (the Thunderbird) needs to be held back awhile. Pot it in a 1-gallon container and place the container in the sun, but out of the wind, until sometime after March 15.

The same advice goes for other recommended tomato varieties such as Tycoon, Red Deuce, Red Snapper, Celebrity, Ruby Crush and BHN968. Be especially careful to move the potted tomatoes into a warm shelter if temperatures are forecast to fall below 32 degrees.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M horticulturist.

This week in the garden
  • Grassy weeds growing in the winter lawn are controlled well by mowing. Broadleaf weeds respond to contact herbicides such as Weed Free Zone. Follow label instructions.
  • Top dressing with compost improves lawn attractiveness and drought tolerance, and conserves water.
  • Take advantage of the CPS Energy shade tree rebate program by following the program's advice on which tree species to use and where to plant them in relation to the landscape buildings.
  • It is possible to apply Cut Vine & Stump Killer to the pruning cut on unwanted seedlings to greatly reduce the number of stems and roots that regrow.