Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hop growing - you're doing it wrong.

This is not the first time I've caught our cat trying to hatch my Columbus hops, just the first time I got a picture of it:

Think I might have to have a word with him about how plants grow. Some more discouragement may be necessary. Fortunately, it seems that the plants are quite resilient and have bounced back from their cat-pressing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ger off my laaand!

Seems that someone or something has decided to start digging up my hop bed:

Not impressed! Not sure what's responsible at this point. I'm hoping it's squirrels at this point but difficult to tell. If it's cats then it becomes a lot ickier. That's the Willamette you can see there which seems to have escaped unharmed.

On a brighter note the Columbus has produced yet another shoot:

You can just see the new shoot at the top of the photo.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Maybe not such a good excuse after all

So it seems that the Columbus has not been the only rhizome investing in other shoots. The Galena recently had three more shoots appear above ground:

They're just about visible here, honest. The first shoot is leafing out nicely so I'm hoping for some acceleration in growth now. 

The Columbus is also is also leafing out:

Two out of the four shoots have open leaves now with the other two close behind.

The Willamette on the other hand is sticking to its eggs in one basket strategy:

This is consistent with what I saw last year in Houston. It was some time until I saw a second shoot appear from that Willamette. It did end up being the tallest of the hops I had there, though perhaps not the most productive in terms of cones. It did produce the largest cone of the bunch (pictured in the photo I'm using for my background).

The Cascade seems to be pursuing the same strategy but is lagging behind a little:

Leaves are clearly not as open as the Willamette but I'm hoping it ends up being just as successful as the Willamette was last year.

Overall, it's looking very promising right now, particularly when you consider that they have been in the ground for less than two weeks.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Late, but with a good excuse.

So the Columbus may have been the last of the four rhizomes to appear above the soil. Seems that the reason for this was mostly likely because it was growing three shoots simultanteously:

The third shoot to the right is still looking a little pale. With any luck they will all continue to grow and produce healthy growth. It remains to be seen which strategy (one shoot at a time versus three) will be more productive.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What a difference a day makes.

The shoot from the Cascade rhizome was looking a little pale yesterday, presumably because it had only just poked its head above the soil. Here is the same shoot 24 hours later:

As you can see it has a lot more colour and is generally looking healthier.

On another bright note, here is the first sign of the Columbus rhizome:

Just like the Cascade, it's looking a little pale. I'm sure this will perk up now it's seen the light.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

And we're off

Almost exactly a week after having prepared my raised bed and planted my newly arrived rhizomes, the very first shoots are visible. Here's the Willamette:

Willamette was always my star pupil in Houston. Here's hoping it continues to do the same here. This is the Cascade:

Looking a little anaemic, so has probably only just poked its head above ground in the last day or so. Here's the Galena:

Looking pretty healthy. So far no sign of the Columbus but it's early days yet.

All of this means that I'm going to have to get on with plans for my hop arbour. There's plenty of detritus from the rest of the garden that may well prove useful.

Friday, April 12, 2013

New season, new state, new hops.

A lot has happened since my last post. I'm no longer in Houston but have moved to the DC area. This unfortunately meant leaving behind all the work I did last year. I'm hoping that this loss will be compensated by more favourable growing conditions further North, particularly with the longer summer days. I have no idea whether the hops I left behind will be retained by the new tenants. While we were away the landlord's gardeners had ripped out all of the plants in the raised beds in the garden. The only exceptions to this were some asparagus and my hops. I very much like the idea of the next people there being pleasantly surprised by hops appearing this year, the asparagus was well established too.

On to this year. Our new garden does not have any raised beds so I have just had to make one. Why bother you may well ask. If there is one consistent thing I have read about the requirements for hops it is that they do not like being water logged. Rhizomes will rot if they spend a lot of time sitting in water. Drainage becomes the most important thing as they are really not very fussy otherwise.

I thought I'd use my first post this year to detail how I've made this raised bed (laugh a minute on this blog). First off I used timber that you should be able to get at any hardware store or garden centre. For this I bought 5 x 8ft lengths. The two long sides each have two on top of each other and the fifth length was cut into four 2 feet lengths which are stacked two high at the ends.

The whole thing is stabilised by having the corners overlapping, holes drilled through both planks and then nailing the them together. Ordinarily I would have chosen to use an iron bar of some sort for this but I don't have any way of cutting one. So I spontaneously invented the bamboo nail, by cutting single sections of some bamboo we had lying around the garden:

I don't really know if I've invented this but googling "bamboo nails" isn't very helpful and returns results for nail salons. Patent pending I think I'll call this for now. Each corner had three holes drilled and a nail driven through and into the soil, which should help to keep the whole bed in place:

With the frame in place the next step is to try and discourage anything from growing up through it from underneath. To this end I covered the ground with cardboard:

As I mentioned before, drainage is very much a concern. To help with that I added a layer of gravel:

Now we're ready for the earth itself. I reckon the volume of this bed so far is ~8 cubic feet (8x2x0.5) so I bought 5 bags of earth, each 1.5 cubic feet, giving me 7.5 cubic feet. This actually slightly over filled the bed:

You may or may not be able to tell from this pic but the earth is somewhat piled up. I suspect this will settle down with watering, rain, etc.. The cost of all these materials came to ~$50.

Next step is to plant the rhizomes, which arrived the same day as their bed was made (being able plan things around shipping estimates is great). This year I bought my rhizomes from Austin Home Brew, which is where I get all my homebrewing ingredients and kit. This year I got Willamette (particularly given how well they did in Houston), Cascade, Galena and Columbus rhizomes. I've updated the hop height graph at top right. It will probably be a couple of weeks before there is anything to report there though. Here's a pic of the Willamette being planted:

All of these rhizomes looked promising, as judged by the fact they all have at least one new shoot coming out from the main root. You can see two in the pic above. The rhizome is placed in a hole a couple of inches deep, covered and then the whole bed given a good soak:

We even got a good amount of rain last night to help. It remains to be seen how well the rhizomes have survived the journey through the post. Last year I bought them directly from DeFalcos in Houston and planted them as soon as I got home. Fingers crossed they all survived.

The ultimate goal, other than producing some hops to add to my beer, is to have them grow over some garden furniture to provide some shade. At the moment I'm thinking of a sturdy porch swing but it will be several weeks before a final decision needs to be made.

This has ended up being something of a marathon post. I suspect future posts will be a lot shorter and sweeter.