Hops 2017/ New Trellis

Oh my god Myrtle! He’s posting about his bloody hops again. hop-bin-frame-pic

Yes, sorry, it’s what I do.  It’s that time of year and after last years trellis didn’t work out so well, I decided some changes were in order.   To start, I found a new source of wood near my workplace so I was swimming in 8ft lengths of wood.  I also managed to get some nut and bolt hardware leftover from a server that was delivered to my workplace.

It was easy enough to drill some holes and I cut the ends of the uprights to lock together.  First one went and lined up fine.  Second one was almost in place when the knothole near the bolted parts gave way and I had to give up for the evening.

Second try- decided to start from scratch again with a fresh set of wood and using the same bolts.

The iron rings were pulled off a couple pallets and seem to work pretty good as a dry pulley system for the crossbar to be raised with.  The lockdown bolts and nuts worked great and the beams were straight as could be.

The holes that were dug last year apparently were good for collecting water.  Right now the water table is extremely high in my yard (good for the hops).  Had to bail out the holes and then stood the uprights and packed around the base with dirt.  They go into the ground about 4 feet.  The crossbar was drilled with multiple holes and I’ve used parachute cord as the climbing wires for the hops.  I’m hoping they won’t be too slippery but if they are, I can lower the crossbar and be able to change them out with little effort.

The wires were strung and then the whole bar was hoisted up to the top and secured by tying the ropes off to the base of the upright.  These are about half the thickness of previous years and with the dry pulley and a couple guide ropes on the side, we should have better results this year with growth and ability to control the bugs.  Stay tuned for results.

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for green vines of hops!

Happy 4th of July,

As I sit here contemplating my next beer, my eyes veer over to the trellis where my hops reside.  This year I tried something a little different. Instead of going straight up 20 to 25 feet, I tried to see what the effects would be if we went horizontal.  Check this out.

That video is about a month old,  and here’s where we stand now:

Return of the Triffids.  Upward was pretty fast, horizontal, not so much.

Return of the Triffids. Upward was pretty fast, horizontal, not so much.

As you can see the plants are happy to go straight up and have had several creepers attempt to keep going.  They even wrap around each other for additional stability in their upward mobility.  Each one had to be redirected and “learned” onto the wire, where they still had an inclination to go up or sideways to another string instead of initially following the wire they were set on.

Working across the wire

Working across the wire

There was much more attention to detail on my part because for several days I would have to go out and check where each of the vines was going.  In some cases, unwrapping and re-directing them onto the proper wire or direction.

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Errant creepers needing “guidance”

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Hop on a wire

In another week I’m going to start trimming all the leaves off the plants from the ground up to about a 2ft height.  As in years past the vines will “bolt” which is the side runners which come off the vines.  This may cause the wires to become a mesh but we’ll see what happens.

Hop Trimming

Here’s the trimming of lower leaves on last years batch. This deters caterpillars from climbing the vines and also causes the upper parts of the vine to “bolt” meaning to send out side runners.

Along with trimming comes the day to day maintenance of keeping the hops as close to organic as possible.  No pesticides, no artificial fertilizers and lots of water.  Lack of water and nitrogen can cause leaves to turn yellow or brownish.  Because these are the lower leaves, it’s not such a big deal but a slurry of chicken manure and water, left for 24 hrs and then stirred can be poured onto the roots to help eliminate these problems.

Low nitrogen or not enough water can cause leaves to yellow.

Low nitrogen or not enough water can cause leaves to yellow.

a slurry of chicken manure and water stirred up and let sit for 24 hrs can be poured on the roots to help eliminate this problem

a slurry of chicken manure and water stirred up and let sit for 24 hrs can be poured on the roots to help eliminate this problem

Why bother?  Well a couple of reasons.  First, it’s less effort to suspend wires across then up in the air.   In years past the 20 ft poles have crashed down after a storm and damaged the hops.  It’s also been a battle to get them back up when the ground has the consistency of cooked oatmeal.  Lots of ropes and guide lines to get them back into place.

Second, i am now able to closely inspect the hops at the top of the vine as well as the bottom.  I can now spray a pepper sauce mixed with water on the leaves to deter bugs.

I’m also hoping that seperating the individual runners to harvest the hops will be easier.  That remains to be seen.

So as you enjoy your 4th, think about the effort put into just the hops that make your beer possible.

Worst year for hops EVER!

So I have to say that this year was not stellar by any means.  It was a combination of things that caused problems.  First, my time was stretched to other projects and I probably didn’t give the hops enough attention.  We started out well enough, the weather was damp at first followed by long days of sun right up until about a week or so before Pennsic Wars.  Then this happened:

HopCrash  Yup, a big wind came along and boom, down she falls.

We were not pleased, mostly because it was still raining and the ground had the consistency of oatmeal after it’s sat a couple hours in the bowl.  We did manage to get it back up again:

HopCrash2  As you can see, the damage was done.  Everytime hops hit the ground they “bruise”.  Not in the true sense but they register that strike and get a brown rot started.

brownhops This can hurt your crop because the brown ones can give your beer a weedy taste.  You want to avoid these at all costs.

Earlier in the season we had trimmed the base of the hops.  This does two things:

  1. First it causes the plant to “bolt” which is to throw out side runners which encourage more higher growth.
  2. It deters caterpillar and cutworm from climbing the vines.  They tend to think there’s no food above so they turn around and come back down.

HopCrash3  This was done back on June 21,2013/ Wasn’t quite finished yet but you get the idea.  Apparently it wasn’t enough because pretty soon we started seeing this:

318071_10150934405091702_1111088601_n Caterpillars and Cutworms were having a field day.  I try not to use pesticides on my hops because I don’t want to ingest them but also my hops are worth more if I can qualify them as Organic.  Although I probably should have sprayed more hot pepper sauce on the plants to deter the little buggers.

After Pennsic the weather turned.  We got lots of rain and less sun than I would have liked.  The hop trellis fell down again due to thunderstorms yesterday and I decided that instead of attempting another trellis erection, we’d instead just cut the vines and collect the hops.  The 2 bushes of hops in the backyard behind this trellis were in fine shape so I left them alone.  I’ll pick those this weekend.  Regardless we still got some hops although not the quantity I would have liked:

This was 2012301849_10150292692801702_4488134_n  myhopsThis is 2013

 

Last year we got the equivelant of 7 gallons of fresh hops.  This year, I’ve picked 3 gallons with a possible other 2 gallon from the other two bushes which are still intact.  Total loss probably about 2 gallons from last year and this years crop average hop size is the size of a quarter where last years hops were the size of  a thumb.  The bigger they are, the more of the bittering agent is in them and the more concentrated flavoring you’ll see:

301449_10150292711346702_3913770_n Check out those Luplin Glands!

Cross-section drawing of a hop cone

Cross-section drawing of a hop cone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before next year starts, I plan to update the rigging to 2012 standards and heap a lot of the chicken manure on the hop bed in anticipation of next years crop.