Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Hop-in (Part One)
That day finally arrived last weekend where we starting putting the hops in the ground. I had 100 cascade and 20 Chinook rhizomes in the beer fridge for the week until we could get ready. My "real" profession kept taking my time and attention. In any case, it was time to plant!
I received a text message on Friday afternoon from my sister asking what we were doing on the weekend. I replied "Planting hops, drinking hoppy beer and playing in the mud. Wanna play?", to which the reply stated "we are on our way". I haven't been so excited in a while. My sister and her family live ~6 hours away so we don't get enough time together. Also, I was beginning to realize the significance of hand planting 120 rhizomes and was really looking forward to the volunteer labor.
On Friday evening I was a little paranoid about whether I had done adequate soil prep. Our soil is a clay loam, which is pretty good in the grand scheme of things. It does hold the water a bit and I really don't know whether there is significant hard-pan that might impede drainage and root growth. Rural King had a single point sub-soiler (aka ripper) that was only $150. I had been thinking about it earlier an have really been trying to keep the cost down, but considering that the hops will be there for a decade or two, the $150 started to seem minor in comparison to the investment in time and other materials. Thus, on the way home from work I picked up the sub-soiler in my mini cooper! That was fun, especially since their policy required an employee to help me load it. I asked the fellow if he had loaded many 3-point implements into mini coopers and he said something like, "well, no...not really, but you just never know what you might see".
In the evening I sub-soiled half the garden and it was really amazing. A sub-soiler doesn't really turn over or disturb the soil, but it runs about 2 full feet deep and lifts the surrounding soil slightly and leaves a 1-2 inch slice through the soil. I think it was a cost effective choice. Now, I should have done that prior to plowing, but I think it had the same effect.
To the right is a photo of the whole crew after a day a planting. It was, quite honestly, hard labor. We worked out a system where, after the rows were laid out, one of us would first dig the hole and make sure the soil was loose, a second would work in a shovel or two of composted manure and a third would come in behind and plant the rhizome. We managed to get 55 rhizomes in the ground on Saturday, and had fun doing so! The photos below shows part of our assembly line, include the rear guard, and the first plant being planted. It was a great time and we are so thankful to our volunteer crew that helped us get started. We tried to provide for the crew by purchasing the highest quality, hoppiest beer I could find and by cooking some excellent pizza with dough that had been rising for a full day and a half. We even ended part of the evening with some banjo/guitar/bass music on the front porch. The time was too short, but we had a great weekend. There are more photos to share and some reviews of the beers we drank while putting in the hop yard, but that will come later.