If you’ve not seen them before, the sheer size of a hop plant might surprise you. They’re woodland and hedgerow plants that climb and scramble to get a share of the light.
Back in February I decided to really go for it and do full on hop poles. Turns out poles several metres tall aren’t cheap so we went for bamboo – a tenner each for seven long metre poles, I bought ten ( the delivery company offered to leave with the neighbours if I was out! ).
I wanted to drill and bolt the poles to make some sort of gigantic A frame, unfortunately the bamboo was having none of it – the stuff just splits at the slightest whiff of a drill. So we went with plan B – a bit of drainpipe in the ground, a shed load of mooring rope and some really odd looks from fellow allotmenteers.
I’ve got four hops at moment – Manitoba I grew from seed two years ago and it’s well established, Mathon whitebine is one of the oldest surviving varieties, it’s a bit in shock after being moved from the garden. Bramling cross has also been moved and Hersbruker was a present from my darling.
There was six weeks of teasing about sailing masts and how the hops would never reach the top; but once Manitoba had reached 3m, people switched to asking how the hell I’d get them down again ( I had a cunning plan for that) – and when I’d be handing out samples of beer.
Hops pretty much look after themselves – the young bines need a little coaxing to find the ropes but their roots spread wide and deep so the plants don’t often need watering. I gave them mulch manure in May and that was about it.
By August even I was surprised at the size of them and wondering just how much more weight the rigging would take. The answer was not a lot –
Never mind – the plants weren’t damaged so tying the damaged pole up just to keep it off the ground was fine – there were only a few weeks to go and at least I didn’t need binoculars to check their progress any more.
Harvest day – forced by the weather forecast more than anything else – can’t harvest hops in wet weather ‘cos they’d rot – I had to get the hops in this weekend.
The ropes have been almost completely covered by the bines – seriously tough stems ( and incidentally effing sharp too). As the main pole was trashed I just cut through the ropes top and bottom. For the second pole I lifted the whole thing out of the socket and laid it down so I could untangle the bines and keep the rope.
Half the job done, there’s a way to go before we’re in beer territory. The hops need drying before I can separate the cones I don’t think the allotment shed is suitable – the workshop is dryer, warmer and closer to home. But how exactly does a non driver transport 15 kilos of hop?
The drinks are on me!