Thursday, April 15, 2010

Grow your own Beer!

Hops are easy to grow here in the Willamette Valley and the Portland area. All you need is lots of sun and some support. Here are the basics:

Sun and lots of it. As much as you can offer. If you want a little shady sitting area over your hammock this summer but you don't want something high maintenence like roses or heavy and obnoxious like wisteria, consider hops. They grow fast after their first year and they're easy.

Support: You will need something for the vines to cling to-just one thing to consider. If you're actually going to harvest your hops you'll want a more "professional" setup so that you can access the hops without having to dig through a mess of vines. However, if you just want to grow them for their beauty and ease, you can run them up almost anything as long as they get plenty of sun. An archway that leads to the backyard or another section of your garden, a free standing (tall) hunk of anything-maybe you want an excuse to cover up that ugly "garden art" that your friend welded you for your birthday. An old tree with a thick trunk, a trellis against a sunny wall, an old grape arbor than isn't in use.

Food and Water: Once established (the second year), hops will require a lot of fertilizer. Make sure you spread some rich compost (aged cow manure works) or a good quality bagged compost at the base of the plant in the spring and when you plant it. Add some liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. Water as you would any new planting-keep it moist by watering about twice a week once established. It will drink more in the summer.

Pests and Disease: Aphids can be a problem-squirt them vigorously with the hose. Sick some ladybugs on them. Buy the ladybugs and keep them refrigerated until you're ready to use them-they're more likey to stay in place when they're cold instead of flying over to your neighbor's yard at once. Powdery mildew can be a problem-once the plant is established strip the first two feet of leaves at the base so that the mildew will have less of a chance to travel up the vine.

Drink up!

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