The Nugget hops are the last to harvest. They have always been a couple weeks behind the Cascade and Magnum harvests. I currently only have 3 hop plants, one of each variety – Cascade (aroma hop), Magnum (bittering hop) and Nugget (bittering hop). Harvesting by hand takes me between 1 to 2 hours per plant – with 3 to 5 bines per rope. By using my pulley system to lower the bines, makes it easy to pick at a comfortable standing height.
The Nugget hop cones are small this year for some reason. My guess is the heavy rains this spring and early summer leached the soil. I had top dressed the soil with compost but it was mostly washed away. I will do a better job next year amending the soil and preventing washout of compost and kelp. When I originally prepared the soil, it was fill. I dug down about a foot and a couple feet in diameter and mixed in compost, leaves, grass and black dirt with the sandy fill. I think the hop crowns or root stock have exhausted most of those nutrients.
These bines are 13 feet tall and produce about half a pound of dried hops. Optimally you would want 18 to 20 feet for maximum production per plant, but I don’t have that luxury on this south side of the garage. Perhaps my next house I can build a double decker garage or better yet, set aside some land just for hops and rig them 20 feet high! We’ll see.
The ladder in the picture is for cutting lateral branches that cross from the one rope to the lowering rope and wrap around it. I didn’t need it for the Nugget or the Magnum hop bines, the rope seemed to slide through without much resistance. The Cascade bines needed to have the wrapped around lateral branches cut from the lowering rope. The ladder came in handy for holding beers and cigars while I was picking hop cones though.
Time to harvest the Magnum hops. I would have done it last weekend but I went fishing instead – fishing takes priority. Anyway I had today off work and it was a perfect day, mid seventies and sunny – the first day of fall. This bine (actually 3 bines on one rope) took me about an hour. About half the time it took to harvest the Cascade hops. The Magnum hop cones are bigger than the Cascade and not as many cones. Much easier picking and not as much foliage to search through.
The bees are busy this time of year so I smoked a cigar to help keep them away. I would have smoked a cigar anyway but just letting you know it helps keep the bees away while you’re harvesting.
If you are unfamiliar with my setup, I have pulleys mounted underneath my garage overhang and I have enough slack to lower the bines for picking hops at ground level.
When I am done harvesting, I raise the bines back up for the leaves to gather energy for next year’s growth – they are perennials, come back each year . Once they die off, I cut them off just above ground level and pull the dead bines off the ropes. I leave the ropes up over the winter to save time and effort of restringing them the next season. I am using nylon rope so there is no rotting. I have used the same rope for 5 years now and it shows no wear.
Picked close to 2 pounds of wet hop cones. They should come out to 6 to 8 ounces when dried. I have them in my basement on a screen held up by 2 chair backs under a ceiling fan to dry out. It takes 2 to 4 days to dry usually. I then tightly pack them into ziplock freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal them and put them in the freezer. Unless I have a friend that wants to use them right away.
The Cascade hop cones are just shy of being ready to pick but I have the time and a break from 95 degree temps and high humidity. Cloud cover and temps in the low 80s make it an opportune time to pick hops this Sunday September 8th 2013. I am just getting around to writing about it (another time thing).
Another strange growing season. Heavy rains in the spring and temps all over the place. August and early September have been hot and dry. I water every other day (when it doesn’t rain) so I don’t have to worry about drought. The heavy rains early leached a lot of the organic nutrients out of the soil and I will have to put on a thick layer of compost to make up for it – probly some kelp also for minerals.
Anyway, I ended up with a kilo of wet hops – 2.2 pounds from my one Cascade hop plant. It took about 2 hours to pick by myself (about a cigar and a half and 4 beers – IPA of course).
This year I am making my wife happy and drying the hops in the basement under the ceiling fan and air conditioning (low humidity). Past years I dried them in our living room under that ceiling fan. Since school is in and the youngest also has a job, the basement is an option now. It used to be a gaming room with an Xbox, some retro game systems and a couple of computers for gaming. Getting closer to an empty nest!