Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Full steam ahead

It was 2 weeks ago today that I got my rhizomes from Defalcos and planted them. All three have since produced shoots. We have had several days in a row of bright sunshine with temperatures in the mid 80's (high 20's C). It has been mercifully (at least for me anyway) less humid than normal for Houston so the soil has dried out a little faster than normal. I have made a point of watering with the garden hose in the afternoon or evening once there is no direct sunshine on the plants (I'm sure a bit of pampering won't do them any harm). Here's the progress so far:

Willamette has easily grown the most of the three despite appearing after the Goldings. As you can see I'm going to have to start training the first bine around the cage soon.

Goldings have been a little slower but there is definitely a second shoot already visible, if you look carefully to the left of the main shoot. Not anywhere close to needing the cage yet.

Northern Brewer despite making a late start is making good progress. I've managed to find a third tomato cage so all of them will have some sturdy help, at least to start with.

As you can probably see I'm not bothering with the smaller weeds. Larger ones I'm just tearing out as and when they appear.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

And Northern Brewer makes three

Found this hiding underneath one of the soaker hoses:

Now that all three have produced shoots it will be interesting to see which does the best in terms of growth and/or cone production. Fingers crossed for the weather being nice to them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Willamette takes the lead

Seems like everything survived the storm and there's even something of a bonus. Having not seen the Willamette at all up to now I found this when I checked this morning:

What I want now is some sign of life from the Northern Brewer. Just have to keep my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

He shoots, he scores......hopefully

I found what look like the first shoots yesterday coming up from the Goldings. If you look closely in the centre of this pic below you might be able to see it. As you can see the weeds have not exactly given up either so I haven't completely ruled out that this is just a weed I haven't seen before. Don't want to do too much weeding at this point in case I disturb the hops. Time will tell I guess.

My main concern this morning is this:

I just hope they don't get washed away (and us along with them). Inches of rain promised for most. Just hoping the soil doesn't stay water-logged for too long. At least the storm appears to be bringing cooler air with it. High of 73F (23C) predicted for today (cool by Houston standards).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Under starters orders....

I was inspired to start brewing my own beer last year while applying for a job at St Arnolds. I have a background in microbiology so figured brewing ought to be easy. I've really enjoyed the brewing and the beer. It really is pretty easy to produce a beer that you are happy to drink. There are lots of resources online to help you that are written by people that know a lot more than I do, so I'm not going to attempt to do that here other than to say you should go and visit your local brew shop (Defalcos in my case). 

I have started my own yeast storage system (I am a microbiologist after all, more on that at a later date maybe) so the next step seemed to be growing my own hops. I am particularly partial to IPAs. Houston represents its own set of problems for growing things, in particular the humidity seems to promote rot and fungus in the worst way possible. That's where this blog comes in. Having done a quick search the only other documented attempt from Houston I found was Hops In Pots which has inspired me to document my own attempts with hops (thanks Steve). I'm hoping that others will benefit from my successes and failures. As a scientist I know all too well the value of negative results! :)

Firstly, the bed needed a LOT of weeding. I am going to have to keep an eye out for these trying to return and compete with the hops. I want to avoid using any kind of chemicals as the plan is for this to go into my beer eventually. 

Again, I'm not going to repeat what you can easily find elsewhere. My procedure for planting is just like Steves except that I have a raised bed that I'm using.  

There are a couple of cages left over from growing something else that I have left in place hoping they will help with bine growth. I planted three rhizomes (l-r): Willamette which is billed as being a stronger variety of Fuggles, Goldings (an American variety of English Kent Goldings) and Northern Brewer. The first two are planted in the middle of the cages. 

This photo shows the balcony that I'm hoping they will climb towards. When there is sufficient growth the plan is to hang some twine. Hopefully this isn't wishful thinking. I should also point out that this corner faces south east, so it should get plenty of sun but mainly in the morning when it isn't too hot.

Obviously, the big contrast between my setup here and Steve's is that his are in pots and mine are in a raised bed. My hope is that this will give the roots plenty of room to grow but runs a greater risk of rot setting in if there isn't sufficient drainage, which would be avoided with pots. Only time will tell I guess.