Month: June 2017

A visit from my friendly hop farmer reveal that it’s not all doom and gloom with the hops. Yes, one or two of the stronger bines have withered away following the storm damage but the rest are doing well and growing almost too strongly – spreading out and in need of some controlling.

The barley has also taken off, suddenly producing a miniature sea of ears, waving majestically in the breeze. It’s a wonderful sight, and even though there are some unwanted plants coming up too the barley should hopefully be able to stand it’s ground with a little selective weeding. There are several weeds coming up that compete for the light around the barley, but one in particular is real problem – bindweed. It was the one that took the longest to remove from the soil and the few pieces that I inevitably missed are now coming up the barley, smothering it like a python and dragging it down toward the ground, sometimes with 2 or 3 neighbouring ears. I can just about keep on top of it, but for the few that are out of reach it’s a desperately sad scene, up there with the Attenborough documentaries in my eyes. I’m just grateful I got rid of the vast majority or we’d be in trouble about now…

Having realised that the tap on the water butt was open, it’s closure has resulted in the gradual collection of water whilst it looks like I have a solution to the yeast problem. The University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute have volunteered to help me collect usable samples from the allotment and with the two of their researchers I should be able to not just get a culture but also learn a lot more about it in the process. I’m still waiting on the results, so more on this in the next update…

Wow, what a difference 3 weeks make.

The good bit…

In mid-May I was still looking down at the slightly bare, dry ground wondering if anything was going to grow at all, yet getting back onto the allotment after a few days off in early June and I’m greeted by a sea of green. Damaged hopsLarge blades of barley wave in the breeze, hopefully building up the energy needed to shortly start putting out their main flag leaf – the one that will eventually produce an ear of barley and the all important grain.

It’s not just barley that’s making it green though. As I’m not spraying there’s a fair amount of natural competition for the light and 2 or 3 different weeds are starting to muscle in. I’m removing them as I can, but it’s not possible to get to all of them and I think I need to accept that some parts of my carefully prepared beds are destined to be homed to plants less useful to the final brew.

The bad bit…

Whilst the recent rain has been great for the barley, the wind has been a nightmare for the hops. As they’ve grown higher and higher, they’ve also got heavier. The intense rain and very strong winds whilst I was away have caused the strings to stretch, which in turn pushed the main stem of my biggest fuggles into the side of it’s protective cloche and to shear it off from of the plant. Barley growing wellIt’s not a total disaster, but it’s definitely bad and very sad to see the strongest part of the healthiest plant wither and die, whilst some of the others have suffered damaged leaves or stems.

With luck they’ll recover and produce as hoped, but it’s a timely reminder that there are elements of the project that I can’t control. I can weed around the barley and squirt aphids off the hops, but there is clearly going to be a fair bit of checking weather reports and crossing fingers over the next 3 months…

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