Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Watered and fertilized

Fertilized with the same amount of Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food today and manually water until water seen dripping out the bottom of the pots. Hottest temperatures of the year so far are forecasted for this week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Disappointing Discovery

The main bine on the Cascade plant is dieing. While checking the growth of the hop cones, I noticed a small section of the bine near the soil that was essentially withering and dieing. I don't know if the bine got pinched at that spot (I don't know how since its part of a straight section that never moved), was eaten by bugs (never noticed any) or just died for unknown reasons. Although the bine still appears healthy and alive, everything past that point will obviously soon be dead, including the developing hop cones that I had just recently discovered. Although there are lots of other bines on the plant, this was the first one out of the soil, the first one to reach the top of the trellis and the first one to develop hop cones.

I checked the other bines on both plants for dead sections like this and didn't see any, but noticed that some bines have brownish blotches that basically look like the bruised areas of a banana. Hopefully this isn't indicative of some sort of infection or disease.

Monday, June 22, 2009

First Hop Cones

Some of the first few burrs on the Cascade have developed into what looks like actual hop cones! I hadn't noticed them until a few days ago as they were hidden under the leaves. If you look at the closeup, you can even seen the lupulin, the fine yellow resinous powder which is responsible for the flavour and aroma characteristics. There's about half a dozen cones so far but a lot more burrs are still forming.

The Nugget doesn't have anything that resembles a cone yet, but there are a lot of sidearms and burrs still growing and developing as well. Its interesting that the sidearms on the Cascade plant have just one burr per arm whereas the sidearms on the Nugget appear to grow clusters of burrs.

The real challenge will be keeping these guys alive during the next few weeks. The forecasted highs for later this week is 103F and there's still no chance of rain. My Jalapeno plant is loving this weather but I don't think the hop plants are going to be too happy about it. I manually watered both pots on Saturday until I saw water running out of the holes on the bottom and set the drip irrigation to run for 30 mins every morning. This should provide adequate water, but I'm worried the heat and sun (even though its only morning sunlight) will damage the plants.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Approaching drought conditions

Its been hot and dry around here... REALLY hot and dry and with no end in sight. Houston is fast approaching official drought conditions if we don't get any rain within the next 10 days. Running the drip irrigation for 15 ~ 20 minutes a day kept the soil in the top of pots moist for a while, but now the moisture meter barely even registers when I probe various areas from top to bottom. So, I turned the drip irrigation on and let it run for two hours this afternoon to try and thoroughly soak the entire pot. Even though their in the shade during the afternoon, I really hope this heat isn't too much for them.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Adjusted twines; tiny hops beginning to form; temperature rising

Last week, I made some modifications to the trellis and added some cross bars. This week I realigned the hop twines on the Cascade plant to take advantage of the new design. As you can see, the twines from the left and right sides of the pot criss-cross and are loosely attached to the ends of crossbars. I'll add third and fourth cross bar as needed. I'll probably need to add a third crossbar to the nugget plant as that bine is about to reach the top again.

A few of the burrs on the Cascade are actually starting to resemble tiny little hops.

While the Nugget is starting to grow some pretty cool looking side arms.

The official forecast for the next 10 days is 98F with no chances of rain. The shaded thermometer in my backyard has been topping 100F, so keeping the plants out of the direct afternoon rays is definitely looking like it was a good idea.

Monday, June 8, 2009


While reviewing my previous posts today, I realized that I hadn't fertilized the plants since May 10th. Since both plants have been producing a lot of new growth lately, its probably time to feed them some extra nutrients. I added a quarter of a cap of Miracle-Gro Liquid All Purpose Plant Food (12-4-8) to a gallon of water and split that between the two pots. I came up with that precise amount to use after reviewing the limited directions on the bottle and essentially, guessing. Unfortunately, "some" and "as often as the plants needs it" seems to be the only information I've been able to find regarding the amount of fertilizer to use and how often to use it.

Finding new growth after being gone for a day

I went up to Austin on Saturday for our monthly Tour and Tasting Day at Independence Brewing and I love coming back to see all the new growth that has occurred while I'm gone, even if it was only for a day.

The longest bine on the Cascade that I broke the tip off has really starting develop a lot of burrs all along it. The growth rate of three bines growing up the twine on the left side of the pot has really taken off and they're only a foot from the top now. Some bines that I started on the third twine from the front of the pot have also done well and are about a third of the way up.

The growth rate of the main Nugget bine on the right-side has slowed and has not yet reached back up to the top since I last lowered the twine on Thursday. However, the plant has been busy growing lots of side shoots off the lower parts of the main bines and some have started climbing the other twines pretty quickly.

I've currently still got the drip irrigation set to turn on at 9:15am for 15mins every 24 hours. The temperature is starting to creep into the upper 90's during the day with no rain and little cloud cover in the forecast for this week. I may have to adjust that water again if the pots start drying out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Adjusted the watering schedule

On Tuesday, I had switched the drip irrigation back on and set it to run for 20 mins every 48 hours. Both plants received a watering yesterday at around noon but this morning the moisture level in the soil indicated that it was already pretty dry again. So, I went ahead and turned the drip irrigation on for 15 mins and then set it to run for 15 mins every 24 hours. I know, I'm fidgeting with the watering schedule a lot lately, but I'm trying to ensure the plants receive adequate water without causing an over-saturation of the soil again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My modifications to the adjustable trellis

Chris Colby from Brew Your Own Magazine came up with a great idea for an adjustable hop trellis when growing hops in pots (or in the ground, for that matter). As the bines grow up the twine, you simply let out more of the twine from the top of the pole and let the bines loop and droop down. This design has been working great so far, but I've felt uncomfortable with the bines just hanging down without any support, particularly when one of our severe summer storms come through with heavy rains and high winds. I've been thinking about how to modify the existing design to provide the additional support I'm looking for and this is what I came up with:
I simply added 32 inch cross bars with eyebolts on the ends to the main pole every 18 inches. I can now attach the loops of bines to the ends of the cross bars as I let out more twine from the top so they not just left hanging loose. I played around with different ways to hang and loop the bines and found that criss-crossing the twines from one side of the trellis to the other will provide the longest lengths of twine (over three feet for each diagonal cross) on which to climb. The twine is then also kept in a generally upward direction as you follow along its length which will make it easier to keep the new bines growing along it. I found it could be a little difficult to train the new bines to keep following along the twine that was drooping and hanging down since they always want to keep growing up and not down. This design should also helps to keep the most amount of leaves in the direct sunlight. And, the entire planters are still self-contained which will allow me to move them into the garage should another Ike head this way.

I've already come up with a few improvements and other ideas as I was putting these together, but I think I'll save them until next near. Perhaps I'll try a different design for each pot and see which works bets.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leaf Discolouration Improving

The photos below were taken on the dates indicated of the same leaves experiencing the odd mottled discolouration. If you compare the amount of yellow discolouration between the photos, you can see that their condition looks like it is improving.

I'm still not sure of the exact cause of it though. The leading candidate is over-watering, but I don't why that would only affect certain leaves.

A loss, but not necessarily a bad one

I mild tragedy struck the Cascade plant this morning. The longest bine had grown up past the top of the twine again and while lowering the hop twine to allow more growth, I accidentally broke the tip off. D'oh!!! Unfortunately, a hop bine will not continue to grow once the tip is damaged, so it's as long as its going to get (it reached about 11 feet). Although, it certainly could grow a side shoot near the top which would then carry on up the twin. It will also still grow side arms which will hopefully develop into hops. Fortunately, there are plenty more bines and this will probably help them to really take off since the plant won't be putting a lot of its energy into growing that main one anymore.

After the tragic event with the Cascade, I was a lot more careful while lowering the twine for the Nugget bine which had also reached the top. That's another 18 inches of growth for both plants since Saturday. I also added a third twine to the Nugget pot to accommodate the new growth.

Up until now, both plants have really only had one main bine that was doing the majority of fast climbing up the twine with the other bines growing much slower. The Nugget also hasn't had nearly as many side shoots develop as the Cascade. However, over the past few days, the other bines on both plants appear to be in a growth spurt and the Nugget has started developing quite a few side shoots off the main bines near the bottom.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drip irrigation turned back on

To get a better idea of how much I'm actually watering the plants, I decided to measure the amount of water that's released by the drip irrigation system. Each pot has two inline drippers so I put two of them in a juice jug that has fluid levels marked on it and ran the irrigation system for 20 mins. The total amount of water that was collect from both drippers was about 32 ounces. That means each dripper puts out about 48 ounces or a 1/3 of a gallon of water an hour.

The highs for the remainder of this week are in the low 90's, so its definitely going to be a hot week. I tured the drip irrigation system on for both plants for 15 mins on Sunday morning and now the soil in both pots is registering as being pretty dry (3 ~ 5) on the moisture meter. After my water test, I watered both plants using the irrigation system for 20 mins and then set it to run for 20 mins every 48 hours. This will supply each pot with a 1/4 of a gallon of water ever second day. I'll monitor the moisture level and see if this is an appropriate amount and adjust if necessary.

One additional thing I'll note for my own info is that I changed the batteries (two AA) in the drip irrigation control as they had apparently just died.