Hop Garden: May-June Update …and other nonsense

After a somewhat long hiatus, I’d thought I would update with some new stuff. I wrote this a few weeks ago and I have some pics to follow this post soon. This post starts with a memorial day update…

Memorial Day – 2011

So last year’s Memorial Day weekend I made my first mead. It was one of the easiest things to make…compared to beer brewing. The mead has sat in secondary since last September and remains there to this very day. I haven’t tasted it in some time, but at last taste it seemed very “white wine-like”. It still had the flavor of the honey because I chose the no-boil method, but still overall very good. It’s very drying on the palate however. This mead was meant as a sweet mead, to try to retain some body. Even the yeast used was WLP Sweet Mead/ Wine yeast! The last sample pulled showed evidence how much wine and mead benefit from long conditioning. A long conditioning phase tends to mellow out any hot,boozy characteristics that is typical with 10% ABV. This trick also helps out with the high ABV brews as well. If you find your fermentation is controlled perfectly and you still have the hot, alcoholic thing going on, let it age! It will go away…eventually. 

The mead is very clear and can probably be bottled, it’s some thing that has been on the back burner for a while. What else is new!

  • Hop Garden Update 

The new plants are doing very well. The top-dressing of compost during the off months has REALLY paid off. I have been constantly weeding out the creeper grass and other random weeds regularly. I believe the soil PH problem is a thing of the past as I see no signs of a continued issue. I have had a small infestation of spider mites and leaf hoppers. The mites have rolled up some of the leaves with webs and I think they are chewing holes in the leaves as well. My oldest plant was ravaged almost completely! This saddens me as I don’t think it will yield any hops this year.

The new “cuttings” plant that I planted from a handful crown clipping from my oldest plants, has reached the top of the trellis! It is growing at a phenomenal rate! It will be budding hops cones VERY soon. These are Cascade clippings so they will be great in a pale ale dry hop situation.

The new Nugget plant is also in a close second place for vigorous growth. It has a few good bines climbing up the wire. starting to see some buds near the top also! Cant wait to try out some nice, fresh Nugget!

The newest is the Columbus/Tomahawk plant. I got it from the local homebrew supply shop and it looked really great with a good amount of new shoots already sticking out from the crown. The very same day I got it, I planted it that afternoon. After about 2 weeks with no new emerging shoots I became worried that it may have been a dud. Given the past history, I started to assume this was the case once again. So in my impatience  I dug them up, expecting to find  dead, rotted roots. What I found is that they were very much alive and seemed very healthy. I guess I have been so used to my past hops shooting up early in the season and showing some activity in some way. I chalked it up to a species trait of late booming, and considering that I planted them in mid April. As of today there are two strong-looking shoots that look very promising. Hopefully I can get some late season dank Columbus hops as a bonus but its a first year plant and I won’t hold my breath…much. Only time will tell.

  • Miracle Grow and Organic Pesticides

I have used Miracle Grow every ten days or so. It seems to help, as all of my garden plants are doing extremely well. Even my grape-vine is showing exceptional growth. I even had to add a second strand to the grape trellis! I see no reason NOT to use a feeding solution as it can make up for some nutrient deficiencies in the soil. But I still highly recommend top-dressing with composted materials in the off seasons. You WILL see a difference if you decide to use this method.

I have used an organic pesticide/fungicide because of the leafhoppers, spider mites , and downey mildew. I am keeping the mildew at bay for the most part but the spider mites were starting to be a pain. I have many leaves destroyed on my oldest plant from these pests. A few of the other plants have some holes in the leaves but nothing too terrible. Upon my inspections for pest I have seen some green leafhoppers but nothing out of the ordinary. Those are the bugs that try to hide from you when you get too close! Be careful, they like to drink the juice from the plants and a good infestation will destroy your plants.

The pesticide I am using is by Bayer. It has sulfur and pyrethrins as the active ingredients.  See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrethrin – The pyrethin is a great product and considered the safest pesticide and is biodegradable. It acts as an insecticide and in small diluted doses acts as a pest deterrent. So it immediately begins to work on the insects presently on the plant. The downside is that its starts to breakdown when exposed to oxygen and sunlight. So make sure that you apply it in the evening so that it may work at night at its most potent levels. I consider this the most effective ways of pest prevention and still maintain a somewhat “organic” solution to the pest problem. You should not wait until the pest populations are completely out of hand before acting. Pyrethrins will be less effective against a whole population all laying eggs on your plants as opposed to small population. Simple common sense. The trick is to use the pyrethrin often because it is pretty volatile and will go away quickly, therefore its effectiveness is certainly not long-term. This is a good thing from an organic standpoint, but it requires frequent reapplication. That’s the trade-off.  

The sulfur is a component in fertilizer and improves the use efficiency of other essential plant nutrients.Plant requirements for sulfur are equal to or exceed those for phosphorus and if look at “flowering” fertilizer you will see phosphorus as the primary component. In this case the sulfur compound acts as the main fungicide. It is one of the few things approved for organic use for fungicide. For many years now sulfur has been used by many farms, most often vegetable and fruit farms.

As I come close to harvesting this years crop of hops cones I will update with pictures. So look for something soon, those cascades already have hop buds! Cheers!

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