My hop garden is progressing. But not as I had expected. Take a look at the two bines in the picture below. While they look very different, they have one thing in common. They're both 2nd year plants, grown from rhizomes planted in spring '16. The Centennial on the left is dwarfed by the Chinook on the right. What's the difference? Well, I've come to realize that it's nutrition. The Chinook had several advantages over its less fortunate neighbor.
|Two 2nd year plants: Centennial (left) and Chinook (right)|
The first advantage occurred last fall. I harvested the Centennial first and cut down the bine before plucking off the hops. Shortly after, I read an article which recommended that the hop bine should not be cut down. Instead, the hops should be carefully plucked off, and the bine should be left intact, allowing the leaves to send energy down to the roots. It suggested that the bine be cut down only after the leaves turned brown. So that's what I did for the Chinook. I lowered the bine (without cutting it), removed the hops, and raised it back up again.
The second advantage occurred in the spring. The Chinook was originally planted in small pot, so I transplanted it to a larger container. During the transition, I added fresh potting soil—which likely had more nutrients than the 2nd year soil which surrounded the Centennial.
I first noticed something was awry last month. The Centennial's growth was stunted, it hadn't added any height in a month, and the leaves were pale green. A few weeks ago, I finally added some plant food granules, and that seemed to help. The leaves turned bright green, and the plant started growing again.
Anyway, this lesson may be obvious to most, but I learned it on my own. First and foremost, I will not cut down the bines immediately after harvest. I'll give the plant some time to regenerate its energy before cutting it down for the winter. Second, I'll be more liberal with my use of fertilizer in the spring and summer.
Other than that, things are looking good. The picture below is my 3rd year Willamette, which is now my 2nd largest plant. Three of my 1st year plants have surpassed the growth of my poor nutrient deprived 2nd year Chinook. I expect a month from now, my larger plants will have burrs (hop flowers). Stay tuned!
|3rd Year Willamette|
|The Not So Professional Hop Estate|