grow Hop

Grow (h)OP: Harvest Season

growHopIn the two months since my last Grow (h)OP post, my chinook plant has done incredibly well growth wise. Lateral bines continued to sprout from the main ones, and the hop cones kept popping up in bunches all around the top of my trellis. As harvest season neared however I realized I was going to his a harvest time crunch.

First of all, the hop cones were starting to dry out which meant I needed to pick them. The only problem being that about half of my hops were ready to pick, the other half were still a bit young and hadn’t developed as much lupulin as they should have. But I’m going to be out of town for the rest of the month and the last thing I wanted was to come back from my trip to find my entire hop plant dried out and overripe.

Secondly, the pests (spidermites, I believe) that devoured my saaz plant have seemed to return and it won’t be long before they do the same to my chinook plant. This puts a serious ticking clock on my plant, and combined with my first concern I decided it was best to just harvest everything now and hope for the best.

Hops Drying on ScreenWhen growing in pots in a contained space you likely will have limited volume of cones and when I went out this past sunday morning it only took about half an hour to get everything down from the tree. All in all I managed to get about half a pound of chinook from the plant (wet) which I’m totally happy with.

Now because I’m going away, I’m not able to brew with these fresh – which was kind of the whole point of growing hops at home. Its a huge bummer, but the timing is just something I can’t do anything about. As such, I decided to dry these hops – and I immediately brought them inside and laid them out on a cheap window screen I picked up from Amazon a few months previous. After about 48 hours they are starting to feel dry, and tonight I’m going to seal them up and put them away in storage.

Hops in SieveOverall I’m happy with my first season of hop-growing. I learned a lot throughout this process and there’s a number of things that I will be doing differently next year if I continue to grow. First of all, I will plant my crowns a lot later (as discussed in the previous post) and I’ll also consider some kind of cheap irrigation for those hot California days. I’ll also likely build a better pot for the plants – something along the lines of a deep¬†trough that can line the wall in the alleyway beside my apartment. This will give the roots more room to grow, but also allow my twine to be tide down in a more effective way that will help the lateral bines. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that while the main vines are important early on, its the lateral ones that really sprout the majority of cones – and you need to prepare for that right from the beginning with your trellis set up.

The one thing I never really got a handle on was pest control, and when the spidermites started to attack it was only a matter of time before they destroyed the entire plant. Its something I will have to consider next year as well – and hopefully I’ll find a solution that doesn’t poison me and my homebrew in the process.

Thanks for reading this blog series as I bring it to a close for 2014. It was a fun run and hopefully I’ll bring it back in the spring again.