Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Birds!

Things have been taking shape since last we spoke. Plans for how the hops will provide shade have progressed. I have changed my mind as to which way I will be trying to train them. To start off with I have added a couple of ornamental shepherd's hooks:

As you can probably see we've taken advantage of them to hang some others things from them, hanging baskets and bird feeders. The plan is that I will tie some twine from the top of the tomato cages to the top of the hooks from where they will be stretched across to the garden boundary:

All being well I will put up another couple of hooks on the right in the picture above and the hops will provide shade in between, hopefully enough for the newly purchased hammock you can see in the background of the first pic. This will also give the hops more direct sunlight than if they had been trained over in the other direction.

One problem that, had I been smarter, I should have anticipated has come from the birds of the title of this post. Hindsight is truly a beautiful thing. It is now obvious that the birds that came for the feeder would have used the tomato cages as a resting point. It took me a little while to realise why the apical meristems of all three hops had been removed. Here's the Willamette:

Hopefully you can see the missing point. An identical fate has befallen the Cascade and Columbus hops. As it happens, over the Memorial Day weekend, I decided to take the camera out with me to the garden with some homebrewed cider thinking I might get some pics of the birds visiting the feeder if I sat still for long enough (a lot easier to do with good cider it should be pointed out). As it happens I caught one of the buggers doing exactly what was most likely responsible for decapitating the Willamette:

Hopefully you can see that as it stands on one of the cross pieces it weighs it down to exactly where the apical meristem of that plant should be. This is, according to my less than expert bird identification, only a house finch. Imagine if something like this blue jay had landed on it:

Needless to say, I very quickly spotted the hole in my plan and have (hopefully) sorted this particular problem:

I have now cable-tied all of the corners that looked as if they might not hold under the weight of a bird visiting our feeder. On the silver lining side, this has prompted the Willamette to produce secondary meristems sooner than the one I had last year did (there are some secondary buds in there, honest):

The other down side to having a bird feeder right beside the plants is the occasional bird shit (I'm told it's a wonderful fertiliser though). I'm hoping that this will be balanced out by some of the birds eating some of the potential hop insect pests I might encounter. The empty seed shells will at least act as a good mulch to keep the weeds down although I will have to be on the lookout for sunflower sprouts eventually.

There will, no doubt, be some delay as all three recover from their untimely decapitation.With any luck they will come back stronger as a result and may even provide more shade now that they have more shoots. I could also point out that hop farmers are in the habit of cutting things back at some point in the spring so as to encourage bushiness and thus harvest (it's also about synchronising the harvest).

Just to sign off and for the sake of being gratuitous about my bird pics, here's one of a cardinal communing with my hops:

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Have now installed some tomato cages, in the same way I did last year in Houston. This will give me a week or so breathing space in terms of building a larger arbour for them to grow over. Here's one of the cats illustrating why the cages are also useful for their own protection:

I don't know yet if the maple tree on the right is going to interfere with the Columbus. I suspect it will be just fine with some hops growing up and over it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

And then there were three....

Disaster (a.k.a. the dog) strikes! Let him out yesterday morning and found this when I went back out to let him in:

The Galena has been entirely destroyed:

I have replanted the rhizome but I don't have high hopes. It wasn't doing nearly as well as the others but I'm still sad to see it go. Now, I didn't see the dog do this so it's always possible he was set up by some particularly industrious squirrels. I also haven't entirely ruled out the cats as I didn't seem them together during this time either (they are nearly identical litter mates) and they are generally very shady characters.

Not something I wanted after having been away for over a week. On the bright side, the others have been very busy growing. The Willamette and Cascade are growing into and around each other:

I have separated them for now but that will not last very long. The Columbus is also doing pretty well:

I will need to come up with an arbour solution soon, the heights I have measured for them are more like lengths right now. I'm thinking that tomato cages like I used last year will give me a little breathing room. They will also protect them from excavating animals to some extent.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We have lift off

We've had a fair bit of rain and drizzle recently. Hasn't been great for doing things outdoors but it has been great for the hops. They are all looking very healthy right now. Here's the Willamette:


The Cascade:

The Galena, which is still very close to the ground:

And the Columbus:

I've even been inspired to start measuring their height, as you should be able to see in the top right hand corner.

Something else that became obvious to me this afternoon is that now that the other trees nearby are starting to leaf out my hops are going to be getting less direct sunlight, particularly in the afternoon:

This may look lovely and picturesque but I can't help but think about my hops getting less light. I'll just have to content myself with what they'll get in the morning.