Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Year Growing Hops

I planted a single rhizome of Chinook hops this spring. The soil in the backyard of our rented duplex is about 3" deep of straight hard, dry dirt, and compact rock for feet under it, so the hops are, at this point, in a 20 gallon Rubbermaid plastic storage bin. Planted it in brand new Nitrogen rich soil, veggie boost compost and such from Lane Forest Products. The shoots came up and I trained them onto coconut twine headed up to the peak of the roof and a screw in the wall along the south wall in the back yard. They get great sun. One bine took off like a rocket ship, and the other three have stopped around the 3' mark. I began watering well in June as the heat kicked up and the rain stopped. After a while the plant stopped growing, the leaves were a pale yellowish green, and the bines were a magenta hue. Having never grown hops, nor seen them, I didn't realize that these were all signs of Nitrogen deficiency, that is until I got the book The Homebrewer's Garden. After figuring out I need Nitrogen in the soil, I went back to Lane Forest and got the manure mix. I worked some of it into the top layer of soil, piled more on top and gave it a good watering. I also placed about 5" of manure into a 2.5 gallon bucket and let it "ferment" for a few days in the sun. I have been feeding the soil with this for a few days now, and the hops look great.

The bines are a nice green color, though there are some red streaks going through the big one. The leaves are a deep green again. There are even signs of new growth as new lateral growth beginning. So far I have about 17-22 hop cones, and it looks like I might have more on the way, but I’m not sure since, again, this is my first year so I have no clue what I am looking at. A buddy at Valley Vintner & Brewer, my local homebrew shop said that with the growth of the hops, I should be adding phosphorus as well, so I will be getting my hands on some wood ash soon. I will of course update more as I go.

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