Sunday, April 30, 2017

Welcome 2017

Winter has come and gone without leaving nearly as much devastation as the previous one. Our fig trees have recently started leafing out and setting new fruit without the need for excessive pruning. Last year everything above ground died. I'm hoping this bodes well for this year's hop harvest, last year's was disappointing.

After seeing no signs of the Willamette last year I have completely given up on seeing it again. The Columbus and Cascade both produced shoots once the cold started to break. I let them get a little wild before stepping in to tame them:

Time for some pruning and the bamboo poles and twine arranged in a helix:

This year I've decided to have the helices grow up in opposite directions in an extension of previous experiments in handedness.

When pruning I took extra care to eliminate bulls shoots in case they were a contributing factor to last year's poor harvest. Difficult to say with the combination of hard winter, brutal summer, and not cutting back the bull shoots. Time and the summer weather will tell.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Another busy summer

Just like last year, this summer has been super busy with other things. Both this blog and my hops have been badly neglected. The summer in general has been pretty brutal for the hops, which makes something of a contrast to last year when I was worried about the severity of the preceding winter.  Hopefully next year will be a little more even keeled. Anyway, here's this year's harvest:

The Cascade gave me no usable cones at all. Here's the closest it got (I didn't find any others):

I'm now wondering if I let too many of the bull shoots grow:

I did notice that the Columbus was much more productive on thinner shoots than the thicker ones. Next year I will be merciless with any that appear in spring time.

The rhizome I transplanted at the bottom of the garden in an effort to control the invading weeds from next door hasn't exactly flourished but nor has it disappeared:

I'm hopeful it will return next year with a vengeance and push back the invaders further.

One much cooler thing that came out of harvest day was that my better half did some cyanotypes, including one of some hops leaves with a hop cone cut in half:

If you look closely you can see where the lupulin from the cone as interacted with the paper.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Slug damage

It was suggested to my that the damage to the leaves seen previously may be due to slugs eating them. While searching for images of slug damage I found this:

Which in my eyes looks a lot like this:

Snail and slug damage would also explain why the newer leaves are nearly untouched and I have not caught any in the act. The past few weeks here have been very dry and less than ideal conditions for slugs. When things get wetter and more humid I will need to be vigilant. Hopefully in the meantime I can come up with a good slug countermeasure.

Friday, June 17, 2016


I thought that my watering solution was going to mean that I could go away for three weeks without worrying about my hops. I came back to find this:

What I hope is obvious from this pic is that the Columbus on the left has basically stopped growing at just over 10 feet. The Cascade on the other hand has continued, mostly growing straight up the bamboo poles. I also found that the Columbus has well developed cones:

The Cascade had still to produce any burrs. The earth in the raised bed was very dry. Apparently we had had no rain at all during three weeks away. My initial thought was that the drip line had not been programmed for long enough. Upon inspection of the timer I found that I had inadvertently set it to every other day rather than every day. Needless to say I have now returned it to the daily setting. The very same evening I made the change we had a torrential downpour so now I'm worrying if they'll drown. I have also picked the cones that are present and put them in a sealed bag in the freezer. They smell great and I'm hoping that picking them will inspire the plant to producing some more. Despite the apical meristem coming to a stop there are signs of new growth, so hopefully upward mobility can be restored.

Another potential problem I came home to is leaf damage:

This looks very much like the leaves have been eaten by bugs of some sort but I have been unable to catch any red handed. In this same photo there is also evidence of fresh growth that hasn't been eaten yet so I'm hopeful that both plants can recover.

Monday, May 2, 2016

First burrs and split bulls

Having installed the automatic watering system the weather promptly decides that it's time for some rain. Fortunately, this particular system has an easy rain delay feature. This all means that growth of the bines is continuing apace (see hop height graph). The first of the burrs (early stage flowers) are appearing (hoping for an increased yield on last year):

One aspect of training hop bines I have previously read about but not done much about is whether to prune bull shoots or not. It seems that commercial growers prefer to prune these as they can be more easily broken due to being hollow. Up to now I have let them grow as our back garden is pretty sheltered from high winds. Today I found a bull shoot that almost looks as if it pulled itself apart:

In this case I have cut it back to just above the nearest node. I will keep a close eye on the bull shoots that are left to see if more breakages happen and whether they are less productive than the non-bull shoots. Hopefully next year I will have a better idea of how to proceed with pruning.

Bottom of the garden hops are also progressing nicely:


Monday, April 25, 2016

Watering solution

I've never been a great one for remembering to water plants. Better to not have to. A really good way to do this is with an automatic watering system. In my case I'm using a drip line system that will provide water directly to the plants:

The watering is controlled by a timer on the hose:

Set to water the plants for 15 minutes everyday at 6am. With any luck, this will be the last time I have to worry about watering them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cascade trimming

Growth rates are definitely picking up. The Cascade has now got to being a little unruly and in need of some bine selection:

Time to cut back the bines that I'm not going to train up the helix:

Hopefully the Cascade will now concentrate it's growing efforts on these remaining bines.