Sunday, April 22, 2012

Northern Brewer re-grip

First off, I want to draw your attention to the small chart I've added on the right hand side at the top with the height of the hops last time I checked. Should give you some idea of how they're doing in comparison to each other as we go.

So the storms of the last few days have not meant that my hops have drowned, or been blown away or even hit by lightning. This isn't a daytime soap after all. I haven't had to do much watering though. The Northern Brewer has recovered enough to start winding its way around the tomato cage again, which is nice. There is also another shoot that looks like it too will soon be doing the same. You can also see the damage done to the older leaves by the snails:

The Goldings haven't grown much in height but seem to be concentrating on bushiness. There are now three main shoots with two of those having secondary shoots coming out of them. Again you can easily see snail damage on the lower leaves. I'm hoping they start growing up and out of their reach soon:

The Willamette goes from strength to strength. It's now happily making its way up the twine:

Here you can see the whole thing:

Just hope this keeps up and that there is enough room for them to keep growing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hang 'em high

The Willamette goes from strength to strength. It is now winding its way around the twine I have specially tied onto the tomato cage for it:

Here you can see what the whole plant looks like at the moment within the tomato cage:

And here you can see the challenge I have set it. Everything I have read, seen and heard about hops tells me that they should easily overcome this challenge. It just remains to be seen how much this armpit of a climate we have here in Houston affects them, that and the shorter mid-summer days.

There is also progress in terms of recovery from the other two. The prematurely decapitated Northern Brewer has been busily sending out secondary shoots:

The Goldings are looking the healthiest they've looked in a while. There are now three primary shoots in total, although only one of them still has its apical meristem. However there is a good amount of growth coming from the secondary shoots from the main stem:

I just hope that the storms predicted for tonight and the next couple of days don't either destroy them or drown them.

Update - this is what the radar picture looks like at the moment:

More is predicted for tomorrow too. The raised beds seemed to drain quickly enough last time we had a lot of rain. Fingers crossed same happens this time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heads will roll

Due to some spectacular gardening incompetence on my part I have managed to decapitate the Northern Brewer. The more observant will have noticed soaker hoses amongst the raised beds I'm using. Unfortunately they are just for show at the moment as they are all tangled around the garden and to be honest I don't know which goes where. The other day while trying to untangle things I pulled on the wrong one which pulled one across the cage of the Northern Brewer and very efficiently separated the stem in the ground from the part that had begun winding its way up. Like this:

As you may be able to see there is a soaker hose to the right of the main stem which was previously to the left. I've unwound what was left and stuck it in the ground in a vain attempt to get it to root. I hasn't shrivelled up completely yet but I'm not going to be holding my breath. I think I'm also going to stick to watering using the hose.

I guess, whether I wanted to or not, I will find out about relative timings for hop growth and harvest. Many sources I have read suggest cutting growth back at a certain date so that cones will appear later in the year  (and presumably at the same time) which may be better for harvesting in large operations. This is not a large operation. I have also been thinking that sooner rather than later would be better here given how nasty the summer is here in Houston.

You can also see in this pic the next escalation of my war against the snails. I have placed a broken egg shell around each plant. This is the next suggestion after beer traps. Those snails had better hope I don't have to resort to copper rings. This is what the Goldings look like now with their egg shell:

Despite having been folded over the leaves above the break have not completely died yet so there may still be intact xylem and phloem connections. Just to be extra gentle I have taken to watering them with the mist setting on the hose rather than shower:

Even the dog doesn't get this kind of pampering, but then there isn't even the remotest possibility of him helping me make beer.

The Willamette also got eggshell, lets hope it works better than the beer trap (waste of perfectly good beer anyway):

While it is still managing to grow upwards another pest seems to have taken up residence:

Not entirely sure what this is. I saw some very small black bugs but also saw a ladybird at the same time so it's possible they have already been taken care of (they are pretty voracious). There isn't any evidence that they have spread to any other leaves so I have my fingers crossed. Why does so much of this seem to involve hoping for the best?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Disaster (and some hyperbole) strike!

As if the Golding wasn't doing badly enough this happens:

Not sure how this happened. Doesn't look like wilting as the leaves look fine. Perhaps it was an adventurous snail that didn't know its own weight or just munched on the main stem to bring the main tip back down to somewhere it could reach. My recent addition of a beer trap has not snared any snails yet:

There were a couple of woodlice, but no snails unfortunately. May have to escalate my organic battle against them. Although, if they leave the other two alone I might just reckon that two out of three ain't bad (to paraphrase Meatloaf). The leaves above the break haven't dried out just yet but I don't fancy their chances. However, I did find this new growth:

Maybe the plant will put more effort into growing its two other shoots to rescue it. In any case this will further set the Goldings back in comparison to the two others. The timing involved may or may not be good if I am going to get something to harvest this year. Given what Houston summers are like I have a feeling that harvesting sooner rather than later will be better.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Poor Little Goldings

The Goldings were the first up but seem to be suffering for it. Growth has been much slower than the other two. There is also more leaf damage due to something eating it. Both of the others have a leaf or two at their base with some damage but higher up are fine.

This is what the Goldings looks like now. It's clearly making an effort but a lot of the leaves have been munched on. To my eye this looks like snails eating them. One of them even pooped on the highest leaf open:

Can't say I don't show you anything nice here at Hopstarter. I had hoped that leaving some of the weeds around it would give the snails enough to eat that they wouldn't be tempted by the hops. With any luck it too will grow itself out of harms way once it reaches the cage around it. Fingers crossed that snails can't climb up several feet of bine.

As I have said before I want to keep this operation as organic as possible as I hope some of it will end up in beer so I'm not going to be covering them in toxic chemicals. I found reference to some organic suggestions on the Home Brew Talk forums. Beer trap seems like the obvious place to start :) Will update later on how that goes. If that doesn't work spreading some egg shells (or just fine gravel) around them sounds easy enough, I only have three plants after all. It should also be possible to arrange some kind of copper barrier around them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Northern Brewer gets a grip

So the Northern Brewer has reached the cage around it and is getting on with winding its way up:

Here's hoping it's as keen as the Willamette. The rain the last few days has meant I haven't even felt the need to do any watering, which is nice too. Low maintenance hops seem like the best kind to me.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Twist and shout.......really fast

The Willamette has started winding itself around the cage and it's in a hurry:

For reference, this is what it looked like just two days ago:

Talking to people at Defalcos the other day it sounds as if others have also had the most success with Willamette here in Houston. Just hope it continues. The other two are making progress too though. The Northern Brewer has almost made it to the cage:

There's some signs of damage to a couple of the lower leaves. Hopefully whatever decided to give it a try didn't think it was that tasty. Will have to keep an eye out for pests, didn't see any on the leaves when I took the pic.

The Goldings are being the slowest:

There's evidence of something chowing down on the leaves here too. Again, there's no sign of any pests. While at Defalcos they gave me some info on growing hops which included notes on diseases and pests. I've seen no sign of either hop aphids (we do have normal aphids on other plants though) or spider mites. The second shoot you can see here has also not shown much sign of growth. Perhaps they'll catch up.