Monday, September 5, 2016

Another busy summer

Just like last year, this summer has been super busy with other things. Both this blog and my hops have been badly neglected. The summer in general has been pretty brutal for the hops, which makes something of a contrast to last year when I was worried about the severity of the preceding winter.  Hopefully next year will be a little more even keeled. Anyway, here's this year's harvest:

The Cascade gave me no usable cones at all. Here's the closest it got (I didn't find any others):

I'm now wondering if I let too many of the bull shoots grow:

I did notice that the Columbus was much more productive on thinner shoots than the thicker ones. Next year I will be merciless with any that appear in spring time.

The rhizome I transplanted at the bottom of the garden in an effort to control the invading weeds from next door hasn't exactly flourished but nor has it disappeared:

I'm hopeful it will return next year with a vengeance and push back the invaders further.

One much cooler thing that came out of harvest day was that my better half did some cyanotypes, including one of some hops leaves with a hop cone cut in half:

If you look closely you can see where the lupulin from the cone as interacted with the paper.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Slug damage

It was suggested to my that the damage to the leaves seen previously may be due to slugs eating them. While searching for images of slug damage I found this:

Which in my eyes looks a lot like this:

Snail and slug damage would also explain why the newer leaves are nearly untouched and I have not caught any in the act. The past few weeks here have been very dry and less than ideal conditions for slugs. When things get wetter and more humid I will need to be vigilant. Hopefully in the meantime I can come up with a good slug countermeasure.

Friday, June 17, 2016


I thought that my watering solution was going to mean that I could go away for three weeks without worrying about my hops. I came back to find this:

What I hope is obvious from this pic is that the Columbus on the left has basically stopped growing at just over 10 feet. The Cascade on the other hand has continued, mostly growing straight up the bamboo poles. I also found that the Columbus has well developed cones:

The Cascade had still to produce any burrs. The earth in the raised bed was very dry. Apparently we had had no rain at all during three weeks away. My initial thought was that the drip line had not been programmed for long enough. Upon inspection of the timer I found that I had inadvertently set it to every other day rather than every day. Needless to say I have now returned it to the daily setting. The very same evening I made the change we had a torrential downpour so now I'm worrying if they'll drown. I have also picked the cones that are present and put them in a sealed bag in the freezer. They smell great and I'm hoping that picking them will inspire the plant to producing some more. Despite the apical meristem coming to a stop there are signs of new growth, so hopefully upward mobility can be restored.

Another potential problem I came home to is leaf damage:

This looks very much like the leaves have been eaten by bugs of some sort but I have been unable to catch any red handed. In this same photo there is also evidence of fresh growth that hasn't been eaten yet so I'm hopeful that both plants can recover.

Monday, May 2, 2016

First burrs and split bulls

Having installed the automatic watering system the weather promptly decides that it's time for some rain. Fortunately, this particular system has an easy rain delay feature. This all means that growth of the bines is continuing apace (see hop height graph). The first of the burrs (early stage flowers) are appearing (hoping for an increased yield on last year):

One aspect of training hop bines I have previously read about but not done much about is whether to prune bull shoots or not. It seems that commercial growers prefer to prune these as they can be more easily broken due to being hollow. Up to now I have let them grow as our back garden is pretty sheltered from high winds. Today I found a bull shoot that almost looks as if it pulled itself apart:

In this case I have cut it back to just above the nearest node. I will keep a close eye on the bull shoots that are left to see if more breakages happen and whether they are less productive than the non-bull shoots. Hopefully next year I will have a better idea of how to proceed with pruning.

Bottom of the garden hops are also progressing nicely:


Monday, April 25, 2016

Watering solution

I've never been a great one for remembering to water plants. Better to not have to. A really good way to do this is with an automatic watering system. In my case I'm using a drip line system that will provide water directly to the plants:

The watering is controlled by a timer on the hose:

Set to water the plants for 15 minutes everyday at 6am. With any luck, this will be the last time I have to worry about watering them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cascade trimming

Growth rates are definitely picking up. The Cascade has now got to being a little unruly and in need of some bine selection:

Time to cut back the bines that I'm not going to train up the helix:

Hopefully the Cascade will now concentrate it's growing efforts on these remaining bines. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Waving, not drowning

Another attempt at capturing hop growth (of the Columbus in this case) through timelapse. This video is made up of images taken every minute for the better part of a day:

There are two bines on the left of the video that start a dance around each other in an attempt to grow upwards. If you look very closely, there is a bine growing up the bamboo pole on the far right showing exactly how hops like to grow up things. It even appears to react to direct sunlight (they unfortunately do not get direct sunlight all day).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How the time flies

It's often said that hops grow so quickly you can almost watch them. For a while now I've been trying to get some time lapse footage of exactly this just to make it clear just how fast they are:

This particular example doesn't really show them growing in length but it does clearly show how they swing around looking for something to wind themselves around so they can grow upwards. If I weren't trying to get them to grow up mine twine in a helix pattern it most likely would have found it. Perhaps this is a sign that my helix is too squashed and I should try to make it more vertical next time. Might help with the training of the bines.

Monday, April 11, 2016

They grow up so quickly

Just a couple of weeks after appearing from their slumber it's time to start training the bines up their helical path via some new twine wrapped around bamboo poles, much like last year:

This also means it's time to select which I think are the strongest shoots and trim back the rest. The Columbus is again coming out the stronger of the two that are left (I've pretty much given up on seeing the Willamette again):

After some thinning out:

Thinning will come to the Cascade when it is ready:

The rhizome I transplanted at the bottom of the garden is also showing signs of life:

The hop shoot risotto wasn't attempted this year due to pretty underwhelming results last year. Even the raw shoots when picked directly from the plants don't really taste of anything. Perhaps different strains of hops are used in the parts of the world where hop shoot risotto is prepared.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Coming out of hibernation

Having been dormant since the autumn it's time to reawaken as the hops start to poke out of the ground again. Last year's harvest was a little disappointing compared to the year before. My current working theory is that the intervening winter was particularly harsh. This last winter didn't seem as bad although we did get some snow:

However, I took some precautions this time just to be on the safe side. This consisted mainly of raking leaves over the raised bed the hops are in to act as insulation and possibly keep some of the weeds down too:

Once all the snow had melted and the weather began to warm up I periodically checked under the leaves to see if there were any signs of life. About three weeks ago I found these Columbus shoots:

Time for this year's addition of compost, a lot of which consists of spent grain from brewing for the past year (I love the whole circle of life thing):

The Columbus very quickly found a way through the compost and is looking promising for another year of strong growth:

The Cascade has also made an appearance:

I don't have any expectations about seeing the Willamette this year. It seems that it has been very effectively pushed out of the raised bed by the Columbus and Cascade. The invasive nature of hops has given me the idea to use them for a bio-remediation experiment this year. The bottom of our garden has been overrun by wisteria and ivy from our neighbours' yards for years. We've done our best to pull it up but also being invasive, it just keeps coming back. Now that my hops have been in the ground for a couple of years they should be sturdy enough for me to take a some rhizome and plant it at the bottom of the garden in an attempt to out compete the invaders. A two inch section from the Columbus was transplanted with some of the compost. A couple of weeks later and they've made an appearance:

With any luck they will spread and prevent other things from taking up that space and I might even end up with more hops. Win-win in my book. I'll be keeping an eye on them but won't be cultivating them in the same way I do with those in the raised bed. I really do want them to run wild.