Saturday, July 3, 2010
Slowly but surely (we hope)
I can tell you that I am already looking forward to not having to build the trellis system again next year. The idea of only having to string and train the hops is appealing, though we will probably be dumb enough to expand and do the same thing over again.
It is interesting how different some of the plants are in terms of their growth. I can't tell, though, if it is from slight differences in the soil, quicker stringing and mulching, or plant genetics. Some are really taking off and several have hit the top wire on the trellis. We decided to go with a 15' foot trellis instead of 18', based on the advice of other growers. Seems to be ok. When I am on a ladder rigging the last pole of a row I am certainly glad for being 3 feet closer to the ground.
I actually have an idea I am going to try on the next row. When it is time to harvest we have a choice of getting the pickers close to the hops (ladders, lifts, etc) or getting the hops close to the pickers. Commercial yards do this by cutting the bines and twine along the top and they load up the full length of the bine for picking in the mechanical picker. An advantage to picking without cutting the bine at harvest time is that the plant spends more time storing energy for the next season. I have also read that you can phase your harvest to get a greater yield at prime "ripeness" because all of the cones are not at their peak at the same time. It is also possible to get a second, smaller harvest before season is gone. My idea is to attach the top cable via a pulley system that will allow me to drop the whole top cable to pick a row, then hoist it back up. The down side is that pulley that can handle the cable strength (~800 lb) are about $8 each, so it adds $24 per 100' row. I will try one and see how it does.