Ramble On

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Alexandria Hops

The Willamettes, vigorous already in the early spring.
Since I learned about the hops neighbor Dan was growing in his backyard near Hawksbill Cabin, I have been inspired to try growing some myself.  I was prepared to try this even before I began brewing beer - I figured somebody would take and use anything I was able to produce.  As it turned out, I ended up with some first year hops bines in the ground at the same time that I was gaining experience as a brewer.

My space for this venture is very constrained in the back yard - we have a postage stamp of a suburban space here in Alexandria, and the whole cleared space back there may be twice the size of the area Dan has under cultivation.  So I decided to keep my plants in pots, easily movable if I figured out a better arrangement for the situation - or in case I failed.

I had aspired to grow Cascade and Willamette hops, since I had seen that those varietals do well in the area.  I would plant two rhizomes in each post to ensure that I would have a survivor of each one.  When I went to order, however, I found that they were sold out of Cascade, and substituted UK Goldings.

The UK Goldings in their spacious new pot.
After discussing this further with Dan, I remembered that while his Willamettes do fine growing as plants, they aren't high yielders for some reason.  His hypothesis is that their location isn't great, since they are in the partial shade of a walnut tree, and because the soil around that tree may not be optimal due to the falling nuts every year.  My plant grew very well, too, but I did not see any cones in the first year (not that I was expecting much of a crop - the plants take a few years to mature).

The Goldings, on the other hand, performed better than I expected.  There were even cones on those plants come harvest time - about two dozen.  Not enough to do anything with, but still, product!

I bought a second pair of Goldings rhizomes, and I transplanted both of the existing plants into new, larger pots last week.  I found that there were roots that had escaped the plants and made their way into the flower beds - not entirely unexpected, because in my readings about hopyards I found that you plan at least a 4x4 hill for each plant.  I was fairly brutal in pruning these roots back for the transplanting, and hope I did not do any lasting damage.

I'll post a series on these hops over the course of the growing season, with a next post to describe the trellis system I am trying out for the Goldings this year.  That's all for now though!

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