Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Fool!

I meant to write a post on Fools Day, because it was Conscious Gardening's 3rd birthday...but I drank too much beer celebrating, and the weekend was a lot of gardening and more beer drinking. But I've been thinking about it a lot. Fools Day has become the beginning of the calendar for me as I like to challenge myself and start something new without the pressure of success...purely for the fun, fool and life of it. So, this years project is truly foolish...I've learned...more on that in a minute.

During the sunlight hours I've been spending most of my time doing the gardening chores...the stuff that's not really fun, but that makes a difference in presentation...pruning, raking, edging...I do all edging by hand, repainting, fixing stuff, transplanting...the list goes on. It's amazing how the garden is always in transformation, a living, breathing work of natural art...that I get to mess with.

But in the evenings I've been geeking out on YouTube watching countless home and professional videos about growing your own hops. Spouse of my life, is a beer enthusiast and home brewer. I, his devoted assistant am more of a cheerleader and micro-manager..."make this beer, make that one...I want to have a bitter beer that I can add my sage to, or brighten with some coriander" goes the weekend conversation, over many a beer and laughter, it's one of the reasons we work so well together.

Anyway, typical me, before doing the research, I'd already jumped in with both feet and ordered hops from the Austin Home Brew Store. Now, after countless hours of reading and watching I realize that I've bought the absolute wrong kind...meaning, any kind at all because hop growing in Texas is...well...foolish. Hops grow in cool, damp conditions...with up to a 30ft bine (that's what they call the vine) needing both full sun and an enormous vertical structure. I am no less in love with the idea of growing them mind you...just hyper aware of my probable doom.

Here's what came in the brown bag:

I think I picked this one because it sounded Alaskan, a temporary home for me, familiar...and totally wrong for here...doi.

And here are my two dead sticks soaking in some water and Alaska Fish Emulsion to try to bring them to life, and pump 'em full of good stuff before burying them...where they will most likely die a sad horrible baked death in our black land prairie mud. I was only able to find a few brave souls that have tried to grow hops here and they did it in 20 gallon pots, watering twice daily. I'm gonna take a more foolish approach, bury'em high on a mound (like they do up north) but with about 6 inches of mulch. I'll water them in the pre-dawn hours, but that's it. I've been fantasizing about wild success and building new elaborate arbor/pergolas on raised walkways like Mr. Miyagi's garden in Karate Kid to support my massive beautiful hop buds...once again, his garden is in a prime hop growing environment, ah...dream on. The only pre-existing structure that could hold the weight of the bines, should they actually grow, is my poor, sad, unused chicken coop, which doesn't get full sun but dappled, and I'm thinking of July and August and hoping that I'm right about protecting my northern roots from our hotter than hell crazy summer sun...we'll see. What's the fun of being a gardener if you don't take chances, right? Even if I get one hop bud, I'm celebrating! Join me on my foolish quest, I'll be planting tomorrow and staring at the ground, beer in hand for the weeks that follow. I feel like a kid who plants corn believing in a popcorn tree! What crazy risks have you taken in your garden lately? Happy Gardening!


Otis said...

I too live in your hood and am growing some hops this year, although I'm growing some Cascades as it's my favorite, and since you can't measure the alpha acid content you're only going to want to use the hops at the end of the boil or for dry hopping.

Couple things to note:
1. Growing hops in Texas is possible, but you supposedly the mid-summer afternoon sun is a bit too much. So you might want to find a place with morning and evening sun, but a little rest from the most intense afternoon heat.
2. They needs lots of water.

A quick search of the Googles for "grow hops austin" or "grow hops texas" can yield some interesting results, particularly in some of the homebrewing forums.

I'm planting mine on the sunny-side of my house with twine going up to the eaves. Hopefully it'll help keep some rooms a bit cooler too.

Oh, and to keep the roots cooler and to prevent weeks from choking things out I think I'm going to plant some squashes around the base once they seem safely tall enough.

Best of luck in your garden!

ConsciousGardener said...

I hope you are right! Have you grown them before? I have a friend who grows Cascade in Oklahoma and she's sending me some rhizomes so I'll give them a go as well. Good luck, and we should grab a pint sometime soon, neighbor :)

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