Grow (h)Op: Saaz Has Seen Better Days, Chinook Pushing Through

growHopBad news: pests have become a serious problem in my patio garden. A few weeks ago an aphid infestation literally destroyed a dill plant in about 36 hours, and since then my Saaz plant has become overwhelmed by what I believe are spider mites. But before I get into that, I should back up for a moment.

My last post in this series was all about the excitement of getting full hop cones on the saaz plant, and that continued for several weeks. In fact, before my insect problem, I was actually able to harvest a number of saaz cones and dry them out by simply laying them out on a window screen. They were light and papery when harvested, but didn’t really seem to have much lupulin in the cones. Even after drying them out, the aromas just weren’t there, with (at best) the smell being more like tea than anything.

Harvest Saaz Cones

Harvest Saaz Cones

I’ve tried to find information on this but haven’t been able to track anything down. I assume the problem is one of two things – 1) Early harvest. These cones developed QUICKLY and perhaps suffered lower lupulin production because of it, and 2) Size of my planters. My planted are slightly smaller than I was advised on, so perhaps the lack of root space stunted the growth, and therefore production of lupulin. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but at this point there’s not much I can do.

Infected Leaves

Saaz plant has seen better days

At this point the saaz plant seems to be on its last legs. A few lateral shoots have sprung out and have started to develop buds that will turn to cones, so we’ll see if they produce better lupulin amounts. I’m not holding my breath though, as the mites have basically ravaged the plant, and I’m considering just cutting the plant down as a way to prevent the mites from moving on to my other plants.

Chinook - laterals

Chinook plant still doing well

The chinook plant is still doing fine, with a few good sized cones on the original bine and 4 or 5 lateral bines growing out on their own pieces of twine. I’ve moved this planter out into the alleyway beside my house, which has given it a bit more room to grow and allowed the additional shoots to really flurish. The pests haven’t been nearly as bad on this plant, and I’m hoping the chinook cones will prove to be a little bit more rewarding. At the moment there’s probably close to a dozen cones on the plant, but within a few weeks I expect that number to get exponentially bigger. This chinook has grown much closer to the traditional growth cycle for hops, so I’m really hoping that my lupulin problem is a saaz-only one.