Spring stopped by early in Binghamton, and then took a ten day vacation. Hops were happy, then the hops were cold. A few of the tallest and first shoots were damaged when covered for the last hard frost at the end of March. Some of the newly transplanted cuttings are doing decent. I moved thirty cuttings outside into five pots. I use eighteen gallon blue buckets that were previously readily available at Home Depot for $6 the last few years. This year, not there. I have fourteen pots – three are on their third year, six are on their second, and five new ones; each with twelve cuttings. I will be erecting a pole in my backyard shortly to run lines up to with the ability to lower and raise each bucket individually; each with four lines per bucket. For those keeping score, fourteen buckets, four lines, with three bines per line comes to 168 bines total. Awesome.
The summer is here and it is finally hot enough that we are getting vigorous growth. The 2nd year Cascades are almost done growing vertically with a bit to go still on the Willamette.
Saying that Brett has been in Ukraine for 2 weeks, he has to trim up the top of the plants when he gets back (tomorrow).
We are getting some good horizontal shoots growing and we hope to see some hop cones soon. The plants will begin to fill out more once we trim the tops.
Our first year cuttings are going strong in my backyard. They are also planted in 18 gallon buckets. There is enough space at the top of the bucket to top off with compost at the end of this fall.
The cuttings now have multiple bines from each plant; the first bines are not growing as fast as they were, and many of the secondary ones are taller than the initial ones. This year, I am not concerned with hop weight as much as I am about root growth, which sets us up for 2 things: a big harvest for next year, as well as being able to take many rhizome cuttings to start a larger hop garden.
This year, I decided I wanted to be a better hippy/hippie. And what way would be more environmental, than starting a garden? (With composing).
For those who don’t know, composting is the collective breaking down of organic matter, into something useful by other growing organics. In layman’s terms: food, plants, and veggies break down and rot into organic plant fertilizer. Seems simple enough, right? Well it is.
There are many well written guides to composting, so instead of writing an overall ‘How To’, I will provide links for those who already have, and do a write up on ‘How I’.
I am currently growing only hops; they are planted in 18 gallon plastic buckets, which have a nice head space I plan on filling with super rich compost this fall (Oct 2011). If this composter fills up, I will buy another.
The composer I am using is the Earth Machine (company website). They are available at the Broome County dump for $45 (and if you live in Binghamton, they are the same price at City Hall in the Treasury Office). If you live outside of our county, check to see if your County, City, or municipality does a discounted composter sale (they might be a different model than the Earth Machine). Here is why:
The city has to pay to pick up your garbage/waste. If you produce less waste, they have to pick up and dispose of less. Even if they are able to off set the costs via fees and taxes, the less they have to deal with, the better. So, if they are able to buy composters at a bulk discounted rate, they are able to save tax payer’s money by passing on the savings to the consumer/constituent. All and all, government ideas I can get behind, which I don’t say too often.
Here is how I did it:
1. I dug up the area that the composter would occupy. Mine is 30″ in diameter, so it is 30 by 30. I cleared out a square patch of yard at the back by my fence and by the yard sharing neighbor’s big garden; which with the fertilizer they use, no matter how stinky it gets, they cannot complain.
2. The composter comes in 2 parts.
This is the bottom with the door and base screws to secure to the ground and a top that has a taper to a venting lid – all of which is made in heat absorbing black plastic.
3. This is the top (upside down) – holding the waste pail that comes with the composter. This goes in your kitchen and is used to collect food scraps.
4. I covered the whole compost are with chicken wire; this will keep vermin out, and allow for earth worms to come up inside to composter to eat.
5. The composter is bolted down with 4 screw anchors that are angled into the ground. I have also since added a few bricks around the outside to help keep it in place.
6. Once everything is together, and the front door is on, you can start filling it up. I started with a layer of dirt, then all the food scraps from my kitchen and refrigerator. I then topped it all off with yard trimmings. It is tough to get started, as one usually does not have a stock pile of rotting food on hand, nor a bag of brown leaves from last fall. But once you get going, and start accumulating more kitchen waste, it will begin to even out.
7. Here it is, sitting in the sun, waiting for me to feed it more. I will keep you up to date as to how it progresses.
Transplanting & Clippings
This is the the first post about our brewery’s hop project, and most of this info will be converted to full tutorials in the future, but for right now, I will put it all in one post and sort it out later.
At the brewery, we currently have 3 second year plants growing strong; 2 Cascade and 1 Willamette (pic above). They should give us a bunch of hops to brew a few batches of beer with. This year I am stepping it up and putting as many cuttings into planters as possible. We have been using 18 gallon plastic buckets with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.
Today, I moved my 2 most solid cuttings out doors into the same kind of planters; these are in the backyard at my house.
For the last 2 and half weeks, these cuttings have been in peat moss planters under Compact florecent bulbs. They both have nice sized root masses, and were too tall to support in the smaller pots. The plan for this year is a horizontal grow, while I figure out what I want to do with the yard long term. Since they are in planters, I can move them at any time. I have a garage that I will soon be attaching eyelets along the side. Across the yard 20 feet or so, in constant direct sunlight, the hop buckets will be. In each bucket is a 3 foot long board, with an eyelet bolted through. The board is buried and so the top is about 20 inches above the soil. The hops will grow up the board and down a wire to the garage. Each plant will have 2 lines, with 3 vines per line (6 total). This will most likely happen next year with established crowns. This year, I expect just one vine per bucket.
In the mean time, I will be taking as many cuttings as possible from our brewery crown’s as well as transplanting the ones I currently have under lights. (pic below)
That is all I have to report for now. I will be doing a write up on the cutting/rooting process in the near future; I just need to take a few more pictures next week when I take more. In the mean time, I have some pictures in a gallery below.