Thursday, May 31, 2012


We had some showers (along with some thunder and lightning) today that gave the garden a good soak, including the hops. This also means that the snails are out in force and there are always going to be some that fancy some hop salad for lunch:

Here are a couple of woodlice, which I have never heard of being a plant pest. They were probably just trying to avoid drowning, I think they actually prefer the damp though. I left them where they were. The snail on the left was a different matter. I just hope they can say "weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee":

It also seems my excitement about finding buds that I hope will lead to cones would have been even greater if I hadn't been like some teenager in a horror flick and just looked up. Found these closer to the top (had to do some clambering on the railings to take the photo):

Looking down resulted in finding these buds, which also look promising. Seems they are also popular with the ants:

Haven't seen any sign of aphids so perhaps ants are also hop heads. Hope they don't like lupulin too much though as I have no intention of sharing. Might have to look up some anti-ant measures, or just leave them something more appetising somewhere else in the garden. Maybe they'll give me some of whatever they make with hops in return. I'm hoping for beer although will settle for mead, which is probably more likely. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Darling Buds Of May

I just noticed today the first signs of the buds that will become the side shoots that the cones will grow on. Exciting times (for a novice hop grower anyway). Here are some on the Willamette:

They obviously have a very long way to go before (or if) I see cones but things seem to be heading in the right direction. The whole plant is becoming a challenge to measure (involves some clambering on the railings):

The Northern Brewer also has some, so I'm hopeful about it too:

I'm a little concerned about the really pale leaves at the top, but they do seem to be deepening in colour as times passes. It now looks like this now:

No evidence of any on the Goldings yet:

Early days yet as they only look like this:

I have also been finding more pests. These are what I assume are butterfly eggs on the undersides of the leaves of the Willamette:

Really don't want these guys hatching to become hungry, hungry caterpillars so I have been getting rid of them as soon as I find them. I have found at least one leaf that a caterpillar was in the process of wrapping around itself like a blanket. Fortunately I was able to unroll it and relocate (ie fling across the garden) the caterpillar inside. The leaf seems to be recovering fine. On the up side, I did find some of these little guys on the other side of the garden:

Ladybird (ladybug if you're American) larvae are apparently voracious little predators. If I continue to see things eating my hops I might have to transplant as many as I can over to help in the fight. Overall though, despite some damage from pests all three plants seem to be able to grow faster than the bugs can eat them. Also, I've been doing a lot more watering myself (only in the late afternoon or evening so there isn't any direct sunlight) of late as the temperatures have been in the high 80's low 90's F (approx. 30 degrees C) and we have had precious little rain. Fingers crossed hard we don't end up with a drought like last year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Charity Beer

I know I said at the start of this blog it wouldn't be about beer or brewing but I feel an exception coming on. I may be way behind the curve on this but I don't recall ever coming across a charity beer before. You pay a little extra for an excellent beer, which then goes to a good cause. There are so many wins here I think I may have lost count. Very appropriately for Memorial weekend the charity involved is Operation Homefront of Texas that supports currently serving or injured troops. There are five other breweries participating so even if you're not in Texas you can still benefit/contribute.


The beer itself is an IPA, thus my interest. According to St Arnolds tasting notes the hops they have used are Chinook and Cascade throughout (bittering, finishing and dry hopping). They have also aged it with Louisville Slugger bats made of maple wood. Orange peel and zest (the zesting done by volunteers apparently) were also added. Having tasted it (just right now as it happens), it's quite light for an IPA. Still has a wonderful hop aroma, which you might guess is appreciated on a blog like this. The orange and maple are only very subtle hints in the aroma that I would probably miss if I had a cold. Excellent example of an introductory IPA for those new to hops in their beer or have been shying away from them. Would also make excellent beer for drinking in the sun.

Here is a link to the Beer, Tx blog at the Chronicle with more details:

Weekend beercast: Saint Arnold helps military families with Homefront IPA | Beer, TX | a blog

Hope everyone has an excellent Memorial weekend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Northern Brewer that could (and stealth caterpillars)

So the Northern Brewer (despite earlier setback) has now recovered enough to need twine of its own. The rater of growth really picked up once it found some purchase on the tomato cage. I fully expect it to maintain this while climbing the twine.

This is what the whole plant looks like (for reference the tomato cage is about three feet high):

The Willamette is growing like there's no tomorrow. It's now just short of seven feet tall. You can also see how the colour of the leaves deepens as they age. Leaves at the top are of a much lighter shade than those lower down.

While inspecting it recently I found these caterpillars. They look so much like the stalk of the hops or a twig that I only saw the one in the middle when it lifted itself up (like in the photo below). I nearly missed the other one lower down completely. If it hadn't kept reaching for that leaf I probably would have. Greed was its downfall. I'm sure there's a lesson there for all of us :) Needless to say they were sent flying (once they'd had their picture taken for posterity).

The Goldings are still making an effort. The most promising growth is in the one shoot that has reached the cage. There are still only five shoots so I don't really want to thin them just yet. Will wait until more have started climbing the cage. Last one there will probably get the chop so more effort can be put into the others.

All told there's great progress with the Willamette and Northern Brewer but the Goldings are still not exactly stellar. They haven't given up completely though so I won't give up on them just yet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Caught red handed...

...before being hurled several thousand body lengths in a different direction. Didn't even make any effort to hide their vandalism. Behaviour like this isn't going to be tolerated in this neck of the woods.

This snail was found on the Goldings. Certainly explains the state of the lower leaves. Looks like it had just moved onto a nice fresh one too.

This caterpillar was on the Willamette walking around the edge of the leaf with a very casual don't-mind-me kind of saunter. Cheeky bugger. I hope these two will serve as an example to all the other bugs thinking about taking a nibble of these hops. It's not like there aren't other plants nearby that I'd be perfectly happy for them to eat. I guess they never eat the weeds though.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jack and the Hopstalk

The Willamette is now taller than I am and looks like it's going to keep going. I do worry that there's only one shoot but that me just be me getting protective. I suspect it would recover just fine if it was damaged at all. Growth can be measured daily at this point. Will have to think about what to do when it gets to the top of the twine.

The Northern Brewer has definitely recovered from it's earlier setback. There are definite signs of it winding its way up around the tomato cage. With any luck it will grow quickly enough now to get leaves out of reach of the voracious snails. Nothing like just outgrowing a pest.

I'm hoping that the second shoot that you might be able to see to the left will also shortly reach the support of the cage and start shooting up. This extra wait will be worth it if we end up with twice as much. One thing I have noted is that the leaves of this second shoot reaching for the cage are much lighter in colour than those of the shoot that has already reached it. Presumably more effort going into growth than chlorophyll production until it finds reliable support.

The Goldings have finally made it as far as the cage and even started winding their way around it. Might make a hop plant out of it yet.

There are several shoots here so there could potentially be much more in the way or production. Only time and the snails will tell.