Thursday, April 24, 2014

Onwards and upwards

Growth over the last couple of weeks has been prodigious with the Columbus and Cascade getting towards the top of their respective tomato cages:

Hopefully the three Columbus shoots and one Cascade shoots that are getting close can be seen. This means that it's time to instigate my twine-based plan for further upward growth. Unfortunately, some bodging will be necessary as there are no obvious points from which to hang twine. My intention is to string them up to the window just above them, thus creating some shade underneath (if we get enough growth):

What I hope is visible here is a small piece of bamboo that has been inserted into one of the holes of the brick forming the window sill. There is a similar hole on the other side. I drilled small holes in each of the bamboo pieces so that I could string some twine between them. They are kept in place by keeping the twine between them under tension through knot tying. The idea is that lines of twine can then be attached to the twine between the two pieces of bamboo. There is one attached in the photo above. Adding a total of nine lines (3 for each plant) looks like this from below:

And like this from the side:

And this is the full frontal:

I'm hoping that with enough growth, particularly from the Columbus, that there will be enough shade created so we can move the glass table (you can see in the side view) underneath to take advantage during the summer. Only time will tell how much growth happens. Certainly, putting up this arrangement has happened just in time for the Columbus:

My only real concern now is stopping them from growing up the string of lights. There will have to be some hyper-vigilance given how quickly they are growing right now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What a difference a year makes

I was looking at the pics from last year of my hops sprouting and noticed that this year's growth is much more vigorous. This might seem like stating the obvious as they've had a full years growth to establish themselves, even if they were abused a bit in the meantime. I like to see it as confirmation that they are establishing themselves and will only become more productive in years to come. Anyway, here's a side by side comparison for all three. The Columbus:

This year's is on the bottom and I hope it's obvious that the stems are much thicker and there are more of them. They are also more purple in terms of the colour. It seems that these shoots are something of a delicacy on their own. I might have to try this as I'm almost certain that I will be pruning back some of the Columbus. The recommended number of shoots after pruning seems to be 3-4 bines per string and 2-3 strings per plant. This will still leave me with some that need pruning and can become a culinary experiment too. The Cascade has also gotten more vigorous:


And the Willamette:


Even the Willamette is looking a lot healthier in comparison with last year. This is the plant I was most worried about, given that its growth and cones production was a lot less than the other two. There is a distinct possibility that in the conditions I have here that this will continue to be the case. Hopefully it will be more productive this year than last and eventually get to a stage where it provides a good harvest. Having said that, I will be perfectly happy if the Columbus gives me even more cones than it did last year.

Friday, April 11, 2014

What a difference a day makes

I wanted to quickly demonstrate just how quickly hops can grow when they put their minds to it. Here are three pics of the Columbus on three consecutive days. 

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:


As you can see, I am going to have to keep on top of them right now to make sure I can start to train them up the corners of the tomato cage and then onto some twine above that.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

You turn your back for a couple of weeks....

Have been off in Oregan and Washington tasting beer and wine for the last couple of weeks. There was some walking through rainforests and along beaches, so it was healthy too. Came back to find my hops have definitely decided it's spring. Just like last year, the Columbus is way out in front:

There are at least a dozen shoots with leaves growing out of them. The other two may not be this prolific but they've definitely started. Here's the Cascade:

Not as many shoots or leaves yet but a very promising start. The Willamette is on a similar footing:

Too early to say if this means the Willamette will be as healthy and productive as the Cascade. If you remember last year during harvest, the Willamette gave me a grand total of three cones versus 2oz from the Cascade. I will be very happy if these two give me increased yield.

The other thing I will have to consider is whether to prune. Standard hop growing advice is to prune back all but the most vigorous bines so that growth is concentrated in them. It's too early to start worrying about that just yet. I might well do something along these lines for the Columbus, but the Cascade and Willamette seem as if they could perhaps do with another year of unrestricted growth. Will decide on this when there's more in the way of growth. Bring on spring!