Have been out of town for the past couple of weeks (much like last year). Main difference is this year we're a couple of weeks later in the year. When I left there were just a couple of shoots appearing that were just a few inches long. Getting back I was greeted by this sight:
Amazing just how much growth you can get in such a short period of time. They were even picking fights with the poor tulips that are just trying to flower:
Unfortunately, despite all this growth there is still no sign of the Willamette. This is all I found where it should be:
Pretty sure this is just a tomato volunteer from the compost and as such has been discarded.
In previous years I have initially used tomato cages and then strung twine up to the window above. The hope was that they would provide some shade during the hotter summer months. The amount of shade actually provided was quite pitiful so I'm trying a different method this year for corralling them. The plan is to use four bamboo poles per plant and string up the twine around them in a helix fashion. I'm afraid I don't remember where I first saw this arrangement otherwise I would give a reference. Fortunately, we have a wooded trail near us that has a couple of stands of bamboo that are constantly being cut down as they try to invade everything else. From here I dragged out several lengths which were further cut in half:
One of the nice things about bamboo is that it is very easy to work with. The only real problem is convincing it not to split. To ease embedding in the ground I cut angles off the bottoms:
Come the zombie apocalypse I'm making bamboo spears! Once completed it was a matter of making holes in the raised bed with a crowbar and then stabbing downwards with these newly sharpened poles:
The idea with this arrangement is that harvesting will be a lot easier as I will hopefully have managed to grow up to 30 feet of hops with only 8 feet of bamboo pole. All being well I should be able to do the harvesting from the upper reaches of the plants with just a small set of steps. Next up is twine. This year it occurred to me to try and make measuring their heights a little easier by marking 5 foot lengths in the twine with knots:
This way I only need measure to the nearest knot to work out how tall they are. Next step is winding the twine around the poles in a helical fashion. Obviously this alone will not ensure it stays put so I decided to staple them in place each time they go around a pole:
I appreciate there's a chance putting staples in like this might result in splitting of the bamboo. No sign of that yet but I will be keeping an eye out for it. Worst case scenario, I'm sure splits can be dissuaded from spreading further with gaffa tape. Final step is just to gather hops and train them along the twine. Here's the Columbus:
And the Cascade:
As the twine is not even close to being arranged vertically (what the hops would prefer) there will be a need for pretty much daily supervision to make sure the bines are sticking to the twine. In previous years this hasn't been a problem at all as I still get a kick out of having plants grow several inches per day. During the peak growing period there is a noticeable difference in height between the morning and evening. I'm also hoping that my Willamette will make an appearance this year even though it wasn't looking very happy at the end of last year. There's always the possibility that it has been squeezed out by the other two plants though. As always, only time can tell. I don't really want to go poking around in the earth looking in case I do some damage to shoots that are just about to appear.