Ramble On

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May Check-in - Backyard Hops

For the last six weeks or so I have been very focused on all the activities involved with getting Hawksbill Hop Yards up and running - from working with David to select the site, get it cleared, build the trellis, etc., all the way through training the bines.  I'll have an update on Hawksbill Hop Yards next week, but for today I wanted to check back in on the three bines I have in the backyard in Alexandria.

These plants served as a pilot of sorts, combined with the experiences neighbor Dan and fellow "home gamers" Kevin and Bill have going on.  Learning from them inspired me to try growing hops myself - and eventually led me down the path of starting a small farm in the Shenandoah Valley.

I have two varieties here - a Willamette and two Goldings bines.  The Goldings have struggled in Alexandria, in part because I moved them and they needed to re-establish themselves.

The first series of three photos above is the Willamette.  This plant is thriving - it is growing out of a five-gallon pot, but it has sent a feeder root out into the garden.  Because of that, I can't move it, and because it is in a spot where there is a power line overhead, I can't put up much of a trellis for it.

Instead, I'm treating it as a decorative plant, and it is taking over our fence.  It's even climbing the Leyland Cypress.  It's determined to find a way to get the altitude it needs, and there are already little burrs on it everywhere.

The Willamette is a variety that used to be very popular, but that has faded in recent years with the advent of high-alpha varieties.  Meanwhile, the Goldings is a variety that I am more interested in using for my home brewing, and things are looking good for it now, in its second year of re-establishment.  There's another not in frame here, but it isn't doing quite as well, possibly because it gets less sun.

The Goldings has a trellis, and it can climb as high as 10 feet on the set-up I provided.  I expect a small harvest this year, and if I get that, I may brew a small "harvest" porter off of it using the fresh hops.  I'll need a pound of fresh hops off it for that - we'll see.

My next check-in on these bines will be around the equinox, which is when the plants will typically cease their vertical growth and start pushing out sideways branches, followed by flowering...even though the Willamette is not following that timeline!

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