Sunday, August 4, 2013

Urban Hop Farming

Crazy climbers
Not only do I enjoy drinking craft beer, I brew my own. Now, I absolutely consider myself to be a novice homebrewer. "Homebrewing for Dummies" was written with me in mind. Let's just say my beers aren't going to win any contests--not yet. Still, there's nothing like the personal satisfaction of uncapping a bottle of your own homebrew and savoring the fruits of your labor in a pint glass. Ahhhhh.

My brewing operation is fairly rudimentary. The whole set-up takes up about 24 vertical sq. feet of space in my back hallway (about the area of a hockey goal). I was planning to move my little brewery into the boy's old bedroom once he moved out, but apparently the empty space has been earmarked as the new "guest room" by my wife. There's a gallon of new paint waiting to be applied to the walls, so that's about all she wrote for my man cave aspirations. Sigh.

In any case, I started growing my own hops to go into my own beer about three years ago. Hops are crazy climbing plants. They are "bines" not vines, which means they send out twisty shoots that grow around and up objects in a helix. Vines typically have little clingy anchors and suckers that attach the plants to whatever they are growing on. Hop plants are perennials. They wither up every winter, but the rhizomes (a twisted knot of roots) stay safely underground and come roaring back to life every summer.

I have three varieties of hop plants growing in my yard: Cascade, Centennial and Zeus. The Cascade and Centennial hops are my favorites and I love brewing fresh hop IPA's with them. I use the Zeus more for general purpose brewing. They provide an herbal, spicy quality that I like. 
Saved from mite infestation!

When you grow hops, you have to provide something for them to climb on. I string wire up to the eaves of my house and across my patio. It makes an attractive partial patio cover for my deck in the summer. That's a photo of the Cascades up there. They are the hardiest plants in my garden. Seemingly pest resistant and early to flower, I'm expecting a bumper crop from them this year. I can't wait!

My Zeus plants had a rough start this season. I had no idea what was wrong with them. Black spots appeared on the leaves and the plants began to turn brown and die. Some of my 420 loving friends knew what was wrong right away. Mites. Hops are close relatives of Cannabis and they are apparently susceptible to many of the same pests and maladies.

My friends suggested spraying the plants with an eco-friendly concoction of water, dish soap and orange oil. It worked! The plants have come back to life and healthy new tendrils are sprouting all over them again. Yeah!

I am far from being a horticulturist. If I have to do much more than water a plant down with the hose, it's probably not going to survive. Gratefully, other than my aforementioned mite problems this year, I've found that hops are very easy to grow. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it. Imagine how excited you'll be about adding your own freshly harvested hops to your homebrew!

If you grow your own hops and have any tricks and tips you'd like to share, I'd be more than happy to hear from you. Post a comment of drop me a line at wolf@beerguypdx.com

No comments:

Post a Comment