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Community Brew: Vegetative Stage

Community Brew: Vegetative Stage

As the person who writes these blogs, you might think I’m some gardening guru – a seed savant imparting wisdom from years of experience growing hops. While I do have a relatively solid base of knowledge with regards to gardening generally, this is my first year working with hops. And let me tell you, my experience so far has already had its ups and downs.

After transferring my hop plant from the brewery to my garden, I was eager to get it in the ground and watch it grow. Having heard tales of hop plants growing 12 inches in a  single day, I had plans to string them up and across the seating area of my patio. This was driven by a dreamy image of a late August afternoon, enjoying a cold beer under a canopy of lush hops, their piney aromas embracing my every sip.

The inaugural weeks of my hop project were characterized by a sad, spluttering start, with my hopes of that lush patio canopy dwindling every day. The growth had virtually stopped and the once vibrant green plant was fading to a rather sick and ghastly looking off-brown.

With some help and advice from our community, I made a few alterations and a Lazarus-esque miracle occurred. I now have a couple of promising bines, growing more each day. I’ve come to understand that the first year of a hop plant can be hit or miss, and that it really takes about 3 years for them to reach their full potential. While my goal of a patio canopy won’t become a reality this year, I still use it as motivation to learn more about growing backyard hops. And as I grow alongside this hop project, learning from our community of beer lovers and experienced gardeners who are eager to share their knowledge, I am reminded that all good things come with patience and time.

 

Tips for Vegetative Stage:

TRAINING

  • In order to support the growth of your hop plant, you will want to “train” it to grow effectively
  • To train your hop plant, wrap bines clockwise around string or a pole (or other supporting structure) after they have reached a foot or two in length
  • This gives your plant something to grab hold of while they grow and climb

TRIMMING

  • While the growth of your new hop plant can be exciting, bines can grow rapidly and quickly get out of control
  • Trim weaker, ground level shoots, leaving selected stronger shoots to receive all the strength of the root
  • Trimming should occur every two to three weeks
  • Neglected trimming will result in struggling with tangled vines, and will lead to more difficulty once harvest time comes

PESTS AND DISEASE MANAGEMENT

  • Be on the lookout for potato leafhoppers, two-spotted spider mites, and Japanese beetles
  • Many insects, like spiders and ladybugs, are your best defense against the pests above, as they are predators of other harmful insects
  • Prevention is the most effective form of disease management: proper pruning to ensure proper spacing is vital
    • As side shoots develop, the plant may remain damp if not properly spaced, which results in a breeding ground for fungal infections, like downy mildew or powdery mildew

 

Written by Jonathon Barraball 

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