Thursday, April 21, 2011

Garden: Hopping into Spring

Been a while since I posted a non-beer post. It's a nice day so I went out and took some photos of the Spring garden prep.

The hops are all coming up and doing ok so far, given the worst Spring on record. These are the 2nd year Tettenangers and they're doing the best of the lot. I repotted all the hops into 18 gallon tubs last fall. Got them at Fred Meyer for about $4 each, drilled some drainage holes, put some fresh potting soil in, and repotted the plants. Hopefully this will solve some of the watering and root-binding issues I had last year. Hops like space.

Nevertheless the plant has developed a soft yellowing in the leaves. Don't think it's a disease, maybe just a slight nitrogen deficiency? I'd applied some 9-4-7 organic fertilizer a month or two back but it didn't seem enough. So I've decided that, where the hops are concerned, I'm relaxing my generally organic principles. Last year the hops were sickly and prone to insect problems. This year I'm hitting them with some 20-20-20 Miracle Grow every few weeks. Hopefully that heavier fertilization will make them more robust, so that I have fewer fungal and insect problems over all. Still not going to be spraying DDT around or anything...

The Tettenangers and Cascades get the most sun, but the Centennial and Chinook are coming up as well. This time of year they still get a fair amount of shade though. Stupid tilt of the Earth and my neighbor's roofline. Also, as you can see I gave all the hops a layer of organic compost a couple weeks back. This should keep the weeds down and seep in some more nutrients.

There is a school of thought, particularly among commercial growers, that you should trim back the early hop shoots and allow later shoots to grow as the weather improves. My suspicion is that in areas that get less sun and cooler seasons, the hops need all the help they can get. So I'm not trimming mine back. Just going to watch them and see if any mildews are attacking and treat accordingly. If this Spring and Summer are going to be as cool as they say, seems to me the more time the plant has to grow leaves the better. Now that these are 3rd and 2nd year plants I will be trimming back to just six shoots per plant though, three on each line. I'll be pickling the trimmed shoots in a few weeks. Also: my over-wintered parsley and chives are both very happy.

The garden is in a holding pattern of sorts right now. My winter kales have all bolted and been picked. You can see the last Collards have bolted and so are going into a Portuguese Linguica stew tonight. You can see the bed in the back is covered with compost. Tomatoes will go there. Probably in June... sigh. The last of the over-wintered leeks are in their pot, and I planted a row of shallots in another long row-pot. Planted some fresh sage in the little black pot, since last year's didn't make it through winter. In the same pot is the sad, sad remains of the sorrel. Something, I don't know what, ate it down to the roots. Mowed down like a lawnmower. Squirrels? My dog? An army of slugs? It's a mystery. But there are signs that it's not dead yet, so I'll see if I can get it to grow back. The mint in those two pots, had died back for Winter but it's coming back with a vengeance. Mojito time!

Cold Frames

Last Fall I found some sliding glass doors and decided to turn them into cold frames. Well, it's been 6 months, how did they do?

Overall they did best in the late Fall and later this Spring. In Dec-Feb I really got little noticeable growth of anything in them. I think this is partly due to the location, they get shaded most of Winter there. Also, it's our Maritime Northwest Winter. What little sun we get doesn't have much umph behind it. Still, in the worst Spring on record my little winter lettuces and mustard greens are doing great, and the garlic is loving it. Planted a row of shallots in there, and some green onions. Just sowed another round of lettuces, mizuna, and mustard greens in there too.

The other frame has been replanted for Spring. In the back I sowed a row of Sugar Snap Peas. In front of them are some Ruby Orach Spinach. Both of these did fantastically last year. In the front I put in some Purple Mustard Greens. These did great last Spring. Also sowed some lettuce around, will harvest when small before the Spinach and Greens get huge. The glass has protected these guys from some hail storms recently. So that's nice.

But how well do they trap the heat? I was wondering that, so I took my infra-red laser thermometer out and tested the soil surface. It was 58 degrees outside around noon.

In the shade of the bed.

In the sunny part of the bed.

Not too shabby! And this is with the beds propped open about 4" for airflow. May move the frame off the pea-bed and onto the tomato bed until the 'maters get fully established. Rather than the flimsy plastic cloche I cobbled together last year.


Planted two varieties for this year's experiment in growing potatoes in odd things. Warba, a high yield all-rounder and Rose Finn, an early season red fingerling. Hope to get two rounds of the Finns, will plant the next round in a couple weeks. As you can see I'm trying something new this year: tires. Just stack and fill as the plants grow!

Good thing the forest roads around eat my low-profile tires... Wait, no. Well at least I have several dead tires around for this project.


Anonymous said...

Be careful with the tire idea - those things leach all kinds of nasty stuff into the soil.

Hannah Banana said...

Hey man! I was hanging out with a friend the other day who brews beer and you popped into my head. How are you and meryl doing down in Miami. Tried to facebook you but couldn't figure it out, but it took me to this blog. Let me know how you are doing sometime. I have the same contact info.
Hannah (tochni)

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