Soil Makeover – Hop Garden Preparation

Holy Moly its been awhile!  Please forgive me but its been a wild few months…we officially have three kiddos under 5 yrs old!

Updates are over due….

I made the executive decision to skip the 6-row grain plantings/seedings this winter.  There were two factors that played into this decision:

  1. Rain Rain & more Rain.  This winter was extremely wet and after last years rainy season destroyed my hopes and dreams of harvesting grain, I never was able to pull the trigger to seed this winter.
  2. Warm Weather.  In south Louisiana we barely got below freezing this year.  I only had 6 days/nights where temps got below 31° on the farm.  Which is crazy considering last year was the year of perpetual freezing rain.   If you remember from my previous post temperatures must consistently be in the low 40’s for barely seed to germinate.

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So this brings us to the beginnings of Hops Season or at least Hop preparation season.  I expect the hops to begin sprouting sometime within the next month, so we must prepare our soils.  True hop gardeners rarely refer to soil as simply dirt.  You must understand the difference between the stuff you dig up in your backyard versus the ‘gold’ that consist of compost, manure, organic matter, and beneficial microbes that are actively at work underground….feeding your hopes and hops.

  • Texture
  • Structure
  • Drainage

Soil Texture:  refers  to the percentage of moss, sand, silt, and clay within the ‘dirt’.  Ideally, you want to have an equal amount of each.  When these are proportionate, the soil is noted to be loamy.  Great texture allows root spread, retained moisture, and air to exist between particles.

Soil Structure: is how moss, sand, silt, and clay fit together in this matrix.  Good structure is evident when the soil holds together when squeezed but breaks down when disturbed.  Blending and trial-n-error is the fun part!

Soil Drainage: is in my option the most important aspect to hop growth, especially in a place like Louisiana, where hops aren’t supposed to grow here.  Hold to much water and you risk drowning your friends….Hold to little and the summer heat will burn them to the ground.  Having positive flow along the hop trellis as well as away from the hop trellis is key, as is hosting the proper soil structure for retaining moisture.  BTW moisture is retained in the organics, moss, and “dirt”.  They all play a part in retaining, flowing, and keeping your hops alive. A symbiotic relationship at its finest!!!

Manure: as mentioned previously my chickens mulch bed will be used as fertilizer.  It’s one of the main reasons I even deal with those pests, lol. Within the next couple weeks I’ll rake out the chicken coup/ run to use the byproduct as my hop focused fertilizer. Nitrogen Nitrogen Nitrogen is your hops best friend!

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Understanding your soil is a gardeners best friend. Regardless of your current soil texture, structure, or tilth, you can change what you already have.   “Soil Makeover.”

Side Note: I’m working on my second sour beer. This one is a classic base Amber with Brett and Lacto introduced after initial fermentation.

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Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon.
Cheers!

East Happyland Round

A Hop Garden’s Journey 2015

Slight depression and a lack of blog writing followed the demise of the ‘Louisiana Barley Project’ …but fear not, I have returned. All the rain that cursed my almost fully developed barely actually proved to be ideal for the dozen or so hop plants who were just beginning their 2015 journey. This is their story.
The old hop trellis which was destroyed during an early winter storm, this past fall, has been replaced. Since I was replacing the trellis I went ahead and upgraded the entire hop garden. This is the 3rd or 4th year growing these hops…some were replaced after year one but have managed to return to active duty each spring since. Not saying they all produce but growth has continued. After all hops don’t grow here, 30°44’ ; 91°14’, in south Louisiana or so I’m told.

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The old Redwood tree post have been replaced with pressure treated 20’-4”x4” post buried 4’ into the ground… spaced roughly 35 linear feet. Angled 4’ support post were concreted into the ground and act as the anchoring system for the hop garden. The assumed weight of a mature hope plan is 30lbs +/- 12 hops = 300-360lbs. but keep in mind that weight is not factoring in wind and storm forces. These forces were not considered previously which is why I am assuming the previous trellis failed after a couple years. I am using an anti-stretch Paracord 750 as my main support with 300lb test nylon string running downward to allow for plant material growth.

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The irrigation system comprises of a 35 gallon water tank with a 1 gallon per hour emitter located at each plants base. The tank sits 5’ in the air providing enough head pressure to release the water over a 24hr time period. It is assumed 75-80% of total annual hop water use occurs after mid-June with the greatest daily thirst amounts late July-early August. The majority of the roots are in the top 4’ of the soil…especially considering the native clay soils surrounding this Louisiana garden. Hops usually extract 50-60% of their water from the top 2’, but can extract water from 8’ or below depending on soil characteristics. Per Evans, R. 2003 Hop Management in water short periods hops overall use of water is around 30inches/year, depending on season. Lucky for these hops we are at 24” of water in just the last couple months.

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By the way – I’ve got 6 Cascade plants and 6 or 7 Centennial. Historically, for me, Centennial produces way better than Cascade but then again I’ve got some friends in Baton Rouge who can’t pick all the Cascades they growth every year. Each person’s garden is different, soil is different, water plan is different, but we all love beer 🙂

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http://hops.msu.edu/    If you’re in a research mood this link is a wealth of hop growing information; however sadly, it’s for northerners who don’t understand what we southern homebrewer’s have to do to grow fresh ingredients. But then again we can farm produce all year long….
Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon.
Cheers!

East Happyland Round

“Drowned to Death,” the Louisiana Barley Story.

Problems with the 2015 winter barley 6-Row Project have resulted in the worst case scenario for my malting production plans….. but luckily it won’t affect your beer consuming needs. Rain, Rain, Rain, and more Rain right at harvesting time.

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I never expected the barley to germinate when I planted it last October in 75° weather, but it did. I never expected the barley to tiller just before winter hit, but it did. I never thought the barley would survive the hail, sleet, frozen rain, followed with 80° weather the next day (typical Louisiana), and the ever changing weather patterns, but it did. There’s no way the barley will head much less provide full and healthy seeds, but it did. When the barley began turning that beautiful golden color I knew harvest was near. The starch in each barley kernel is key, as it’s turned to sugar in the brewing process. I could almost taste the sugars exuding out as I mashed-in that lager I’ve been dreaming about. The first fully grown, brewed, and consumed Louisiana beer in a really really long time (if ever). In three weeks I’ll harvest, stack, and allow it to dry under the protection of our barn.

And then it began to rain March 27th, 2015. It rained all day every day for the next week. On April 11th I went and checked on the barley and it still had a hint of green amongst the golden color….It wasn’t ready to be picked.   I set up tailgate tents over the +/- 100 s.f. bed of 6-Row; after-all, I’m smarter than nature. If it’s going to rain I’ll protect the barely and allow it to dry towards that beautiful golden color.

It continued to rain & rain & rain.

April 18th, 2015 I revisited the plot and the tailgate tents were 50 yards out into the cow pasture. The barley? Dead on arrival, Deceased, Germinated, Fallen over sitting in water, Life was called April 18th 1:14pm. So close…to close. Heartbroken…

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There’s a reason they said, “It couldn’t be done here.” I guess there’s always next year….

Now on to the hop yard!

Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon.
Cheers!

East Happyland Round

Hot Hop Fertilizer ( Nitrogen Poo) … how chickens help me Brew!

We’ve previously discussed the benefits of chicken fertilizer and its high yielding quantities of Nitrogen. We’ve also discussed the Nitrogen requirements of hop plants and how much Nitrogen hops’ extract from the soil by area foot (please see previous post below). Today we break down the chicken coop project into a step by step guide to how I’m managing my chickens, the hop hot poo, and its benefit to brewing beer. This will probably be the last post on the topic of chickens since their only connection to brewing beer “from scratch”… pun intended…. is organic fertilizer. Here’s a pic of my completed coop project.  Step by step to follow below…

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Proper housing is the key to happy, healthy birds, but building a chicken coop to the proper specifications was not as simple as it might seem. An adequate chicken coop design must:

  • Be predator-proof, not just from the sides, but from above and below as well.
  • Be secure from nasty rodents, field rats, which will be attracted to the feed and droppings. Rodents are burrowing creatures, so you need to block them from slipping into the coop from below.
  • Be breezy enough to prevent respiratory diseases, to which chickens are especially prone, but not so drafty during winter that they freeze their tushes off.
  • Be easy to clean so bugs and bacteria don’t fester.
  • Provide “roosting poles” for chickens to roost on (2″ wide)
  • Encourage egg-laying with a nest box for every four chickens. Nest boxes should be raised off the ground at least a few inches, but lower than the lowest roosting pole. They should also be dark and “out of the way” to cater to the hen’s instinct to lay her eggs in a safe, place.
  • Be roomy: at least 4 square feet per bird if birds are able to roam freely during the day, and at least 10 square feet per bird if they are permanently confined.
  • Accommodate a feeder and waterer, which should hang 6-8″ off the ground.
  • Include a removable “droppings tray” under roosting poles for capture and easy disposal of droppings. (Or should I say for easy access to your Hop fertilizer?)
  • Similar to the coop, the sides of the attached chicken run, if you have one, should be buried 6″ into the soil to keep predators and rodents from digging their way in. Once again, we recommend chicken wire fencing or half-inch hardware cloth. It’s also our strong recommendation that you secure the top of the run with aviary netting or deer netting. This will keep wild birds (which can carry communicable diseases) out and provide further defense against sly predators

In followings the basic guidelines listed above I planned on housing 6 chickens, each require 4 square feet of coop space, resulting in a 5’x5’ coop.

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Since the coop had 5’ walls I went ahead and separated the nesting boxes each foot, resulting in 5 nesting boxes for 6 chickens. This exceeds the requirements of 1 box for every 4 chickens. It might come back and bite me in the ass…I’m unsure if it will affect laying… I don’t know much about chickens. Attribute it to the game….

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The far side of the coop has an access door large enough to stick your head and arms into for raking and basic maintenance. The yellow wood at the bottom is actually a drawer that slides the floor out for easier collection of the Hot Hop Fertilizer.

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This ice chest (old mash tun) is the water distribution system for the chickens. Three chicken nipples are attached to the pvc. To my surprise the chickens learned to use them within 5 minutes of being in their new coop.

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My feeding system is nothing more than 3” pvc pipe with 90° bend followed with a 45° counter bend. The bends allow the feed to be located under the coop and away from rainfall. High and Dry.

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To date I’ve gotten 7 eggs and way more chicken poo than I could even imagine!!! Hops are going to love me!!!

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Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon.
Cheers!

East Happyland Round

Louisiana Barley gets Head

A number of staging systems have evolved for describing the development of cereal crops such as barley. The information below has been extracted, compiled, and narrowed to apply guidance and a simplified understanding of my small 85s.f. Louisiana barley plot & process …of Home grown- Homemade 6-Row winter Barley. Special thanks to the University of Minnesota Barley Research Center. And they said it could be done here….

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Growth and development
The growth cycle of barley has the following divisions: germination, seedling establishment and leaf production, tillering, stem elongation, pollination, and kernel development and maturity.

Germination
Based on the University of Minnesota research the minimum temperature for germination of barley is 34 degrees to 36 degrees F; however, I planted my winter barely in 70° daytime weather and noticed germination take place at around 45° F nights in late November. During this time the seed takes up moisture, the primary root (radicle) emerges. The radicle grows downward, providing anchorage and absorbing water and nutrients, and eventually develops lateral branches. Other roots formed at the level of the seed make up the seminal root system. These roots become highly branched and remain active throughout the winter growing season.

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Seedling establishment and leaf production
Once the seedling has emerged, the coleoptile ceases elongating and the first true leaf appears. Then leaves appeared about every 3 to 5 days and continued growing until the tillering stage at which time the plants went dormant for the winter.

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Tillering
When the seedling has about three leaves, tillers usually begin to emerge. Ability of barley plants to tiller is an important method of adapting to changing environmental conditions. When environmental conditions are favorable or if the plant density is reduced, compensation is possible by producing more tillers. According to University of Minnesota Barley Research deep seeding and high seeding rates usually decrease the number of tillers formed per plant. There may be more tillers formed when early season temperatures are low, when the plant population is low, or when the soil nitrogen level is high (I believe levels of high nitrogren was the case in my garden). Some tillers initiate roots, contributing to the nodal root system.

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Stem elongation
Until jointing, the growing point is below the soil surface where it is protected somewhat from frost, hail, or other damage; giving the plant time to establish itself. One month after seed planting there was plant emergence, the upper internodes of the stem begins to elongate, moving the growing point above the soil surface. Towards the end of February the head also began to grow, although it is still too small to readily detect through the surrounding leaf sheaths. Next step is the “boot” stage, the head should become prominent within the flag leaf sheath.

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Whats to come in Louisiana’s Spring? From March 4th, 2015… moving forward…

Pollination flowering
Pollination usually takes place in barley just before or during head emergence from the boot. Pollination begins in the central portion of the head and proceeds toward the tip and base. Since pollen formation is sensitive to stress, water deficits and high temperatures at this time will decrease the number of kernels that form and may reduce yields. These yield reductions can be diminished by planting early so that pollination and early grain filling is completed before late season stresses occur.

Kernel development and maturity
Once head emergence and pollination have occurred, kernels begin to develop. The length of the barley kernel is established first, followed by its width. This helps explain why thin barley developed under stress conditions is usually as long as normal grain, but is narrower. The first period of kernel development, designated the “watery ripe” and “milk” stages, lasts about 10 days. Although the kernels do not gain much weight during this phase, it is extremely important because it determines the number of cells that will subsequently be used for storing starch. Kernels crushed in this stage initially yield a watery substance which later becomes milky. Kernels that are storing starch and growing rapidly are characterized by a white semi-solid consistency termed “soft dough.” This period usually lasts about 10 days following the milk stage. Finally, as the kernel approaches maturity and begins losing water rapidly, its consistency becomes more solid, termed “hard dough.” This is when the kernel also loses its green color.
When kernel moisture has decreased to about 30 to 40 percent, it has reached physiological maturity and will not accumulate additional dry matter. The final yield potential has been established at this time. An easily identified field indicator of physiological maturity is 100 percent loss of green color from the glumes and peduncle. Although the moisture content of the grain is still too high for direct combining, it can be swathed and windrowed. When kernel moisture has decreased to 13 to 14 percent, the barley kernel is ready for combining and threshing.

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Leaf area establishment and duration
Since photosynthesis provides energy for growth and dry matter for yield, it is important that leaf area be established rapidly and protected throughout the growing season. Early in the plant’s growth, the leaf blades are the major photosynthetic organs. The rate of leaf area establishment depends on temperature, but can be increased by high nitrogen fertilization and seeding rates. The duration of leaf function is also important for maximum grain yield. The maximum leaf area is usually reached about heading, then declines during grain growth when the demand is great for photosynthesis. As the lower leaves die, the upper leaf blades, leaf sheaths, and heads become very important as photosynthetic sources for grain filling. For maximum yields, the last two leaf blades and sheaths, as well as the head and awns, are particularly important. Barley also has a limited capacity to mobilize substances that were produced and stored earlier in the growing season if conditions reduce the capacity of the plants to produce current photosynthate.

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Summary
This is a homebrewing adventure which has required research, a moderate green thumb, and lots of patience.  My excitement and enthusiasm of seeing the beginnings of a barley head cannot be understood by many. Here is my 3/1/15 picture of awesomeness!!!

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I am realistic …..Even “IF” the barley does seed and provide grain the odds are against me in properly kilning/malting to any sort of appropriate standard. It took me 3 years to successfully produce hop cones in the tropical forest we call south Louisiana (well below the 35 Latitude). Relocating hop plants yearly to find the sweet spot of early sun and afternoon shade and the trial and error of different breeds. I do not kid myself into thinking the grain project will work year one. Am I hopeful, YES, but mostly realistic. This is a marathon. Hops Don’t grow here……..Barley Doesn’t grow here….. for many reasons.
But I’m stubborn and determined to brew the only homegrown, homebrewed, homemade Louisiana Ale in recent history.

Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon.
Cheers!

East Happyland Round

In Progress…Hops, Barley, & “Hop Fertilizer” in Louisiana

Quick ‘Brewing Your Own Beer’ Update 2/23/15 Jackson, Louisiana

Hop Garden:  Trellis re-construction began on 2/20/15.  The fall/winter storms knocked over my hop trellis and I’ve been dragging my feet on replacing it.  However my Centennial Hops began sprouting this past weekend so its go time… Poles have been concreted in place.

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Barley Garden:  Barley is still growing strong, except for a dead irrigation battery for few weeks, and I haven’t had any issues this winter.   I have noticed a slight yellowing to some of the growth plot. If anyone can provide some insight as to what the cause might be please speak up….thanks!  Although it could be the lack of irrigation the last few weeks.

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Update 3/2/15:  The yellowing was due to the faulty irrigation system and after only two days of irrigation the winter barley began heading. Its an exciting day to be a beer enthusiast, beer farmer, and homebrewer!!!

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Chicken Coop/ Hop Fertilizer:  The coop has been moving forward although rather slowly as Mardi Gras took all my attention for a couple weeks.  The coop is sized to house 15 hens although I’m thinking I’ll limit starting this chicken endeavor to 5 hens.

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My apologizes for such a quick and dirty post but I realized I hadn’t spoken to you all for awhile… Felt a project update was due.  Happy Gardening, Brewing, and Beer Consuming. I’ll see you soon. Cheers!

Winter Work – Barley, Hops, & …Chickens?

Winter Work

Cold Days.  Gardening and Brewing beer take up the majority of my “free” time… most of the year.  However there are a few months every year between Dec. and Mardi Gras where I always find myself taking on a new PROJECT’s.   During this time of year I enjoy two fingers of straight single barrel whiskey (brewing slows) and the only things growing in my garden are lettuce, onions, celery, garlic and now barley 😉 (which take care of themselves).   Hops are dormant, the grass is brown, and I find myself exploring new terrain.  In fact I actually began brewing beer this time of year over 4 years ago because I didn’t have anything to focus on while my garden was hibernating.

Quick update on Barley projects.  The Barley has reached an Advanced tillering stage and seems to be holding steady for the winter. As soon as Jointing begins you’ll be the first to know.

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Chickens

Raising chickens is my 2015 winter project.  How in the world do chickens fit into a Blog about homebrewing, hops, and barley? The Poo is the answer…

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Chicken manure is chock full of nutrients that will benefit your gardening plot. Topping the list is a healthy dose of nitrogen. While this is great news for a gardener dealing with nitrogen deficient soil, this also makes this manure very “hop hot.”  Hops, especially spring growth, desire nitrogen!  According to Dr. Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension Agronomis;

A hop crop can require a substantial amount of nitrogen to meet growth requirements.  A high yielding hop yard can remove between 100 to 150 lb of N per acre from the soil. Higher yielding plants will obviously require more N per acre to promote plant growth and development.  In order to calculate N intake — taje the cone yield per plant and multiply by 0.03 (3%).
Nitrogen should be applied about 30 to 45 day after emergence or mid May to mid June. The primary N uptake period for hops occurs during the vegetative stage (May through early to mid July). It is important to not apply N after flowering as this can lead to unwanted vegetative growth. Split applications of N are recommended on lighter textured (i.e. sandy) soils where leaching is an issue.
Chicken coop design has begun.  The coop will have a removable base platform for easy access to the magical chicken poo hot hop grower.  As soon as construction begins I’ll provide some pictures and incite to this newest  addition to my brewing adventures.  Until then research research research on extracting nitrogen will continue.
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Composting

Chicken manure is a superstar for composting. It can be added to an existing compost bin, but does just fine combined with carbon-based matter such as fallen leaves or dry grass clipping and left in a pile or corralled in chicken wire bins. Left unattended, the compost will be ready for use as fertilizer in 6-12 months. Turned occasionally, waiting time is reduced to just 4-6 months.

Manure “Tea”

Fill a burlap sack with manure and weigh it down with a couple of bricks or a large rock. Place the sack in a large plastic trash can and fill the can with water. This can be a little messy, but reduces your wait time to just 3-4 weeks and yields a nutrient-packed brine than can be used to treat garden soil or water individual plants.

Off-Season Tilling

If your garden plot will be left dormant in cooler months, fresh manure can be spread over the soil at a ratio of approximately 50 pounds per 100 square feet once the fall harvest is complete. Till the plot to turn the manure into the soil. The soil will be ready to be tilled again in the spring, already packed with nutrients provided by your own backyard flock. Allow 3-4 months for the soil to temper before planting.

– See more at:  http://www.hgtvgardens.com/chickens/backyard-chickens-the-straight-poop-on-using-chicken-manure-as-fertilizer#sthash.EvAypnBK.dpuf

Did I mention I’ll also get meat and eggs out of this deal? Cheers to that!!! See ya soon!

Barley (6-Row)… Does it even grow here?

Louisiana Barley Project: 75s.f. 8oz. 6-row…“dream big start small,” Chris Stalder.

Barley comes in two varieties, two-row and six-row. Referring to the number of rows of grain on the barley head. Six-row is smaller grained, less starchy and more enzymatic than two-row. Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine suggest six-row is commonly used in making American style high-adjunct beers because it can easily convert un-malted starches in ingredients as corn and rice.
I was unable to find anyone locally who has grown malting grains for beer production in the southern areas of Louisiana. Farmers use it for cover crops or for cattle grazing but none (I’ve found) grow for production. I visited with several co-ops and seed posts from St. Francisville, Louisiana to Morgan City to New Orleans, La with little luck. So…..Based on internet research, I came to the conclusion that I’d have better luck growing 6-row rather than 2-row. This assumption was made because 6-Row is currently growing more places around the country than 2-row; seemingly a more hearty variety. And the fact it is grown by a few farmers in South Carolina for small scale malting production…gave me a little hope.

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I decided to purchase GBA-7220 Regular Barley (6-row) from Bountiful Gardens. http://www.bountifulgardens.org/  Side note: I’ve purchased mushroom plugs and vegetable seeds from them before and always enjoyed their helpfulness and knowledge to organic farming.
I ended up raking in/planting 8 oz of seed in a 75 sq ft raised landscape bed on October 18, 2014 at 76°F.

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Currently my garden is being irrigated by a 20’ rotating spray rotor which runs for 40 minutes (@4am) once a day until plants become established. Once established it’ll be cut back to every other day or every three days. After 6-8 weeks the irrigation rotor will be valved off and drip irrigation will commence for the remainder of the growing season. I hope the barley will grow 5-6 inches before the heart of winter hits and establish a root system worthy of survival until February.

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Louisiana Hop Project — 30°44’ 91°14’

Introduction and Project Background
(Humulus lupulus) is an herbaceous plant with a perennial crown and annual climbing bines. Hop crowns can survive for 25 years or more; however, the fast growing bines die back to the ground each winter. Bines can reach a height of 15 to 30 feet in a single growing season. Hops are valued for their female cones, which contain the resins and essential oils used to provide the distinctive flavor and aroma to beer.

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Interest in hop growth peaked during a conversation with Ron Dunham (botanist) who’s been growing hops in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana; with great success. The discussion happened over beers at the Covington Brewery in Covington, Louisiana. And so began my Louisiana Hop Project…
After a few pokes by Wayne Odom, Ron finally posted a hops maintenance schedule for Southern Louisiana. Paraphrased below…
“Cascade has produced leaps and bounds over several varieties attempted. Hops must grow vertically. You will only have moderate success growing on a fence or horizontally. East sun is best; west sun will burn your hops later in the summer because of the heat. PROTECT FROM WEST SUN!
First Year: Fertilize well. 13-13-13, 3 applications Starting in March
Second Year: Fertilize with 8-8-8 every other month starting March 1st and with super phosphate at recommended vegetable rates. Always mulch well. Decompose your spent beer grains.
Third Year: Start trimming back shoots as they sprout. You want to leave at 10 to 12. This will allow maximum energy for flower production. Then trim back about every third or fourth side shoot up to 6’. Fertilize 8-8-8 March 1st and then lightly every month. On March 1, May 1, July 1, and Aug 1 add super phosphate (Super Bloom) at recommended rate for vegetables. Result is that you will have a great haul of hops to fresh your brews. Good luck.
Winterizing Hop Plants: As you can see your plants are beginning to die back. For now leave them alone. The next few frosts and light freezes will cause them to completely die back and go dormant and once all of the leaves and bines are crispy brown be sure to cut them back. Cut to a few inches above the grade and cover them with mulch about 4 to 5 inches deep. Then in the spring when we start getting warmer days pull back the leaves to expose the new vegetation. Keep mulch handy in case we get late frost.
As with any pilot project (side project) of this nature, prospective growers would be wise to proceed cautiously by starting small. Larger plantings should not be attempted until the crop has been evaluated over several seasons and the product has been “test-driven”.

Location Location Location
Select a fertile, well-drained, sunny site (facing eastern morning sun) with access to water for drip irrigation. Hops require plenty of water during the growing season, but it is critical to avoid wetting the plants themselves due to some potentially devastating disease problems here in southern Louisiana. Protect the crop from westward sun and from bearing the heat of the Louisiana summer afternoon. While winds in the spring to early summer provide good air circulation and thus allow plant foliage to dry, winds later in the summer can damage the ripening cones. Therefore it is important to situate the plantings with the prevailing winds to your advantage. If necessary, wind breaks can aid in preventing excessive cone injury. Fields should be well-prepared the year prior to planting the crop by improving the soil and controlling weeds. This is also the time to set up your trellis system.
Trellis
My trellis system consists of three 20’ red oak poles (6-8” diameter trees) that were harvested from the woods near my house. Each secured 2’ into the ground with 15’ spacings. An overhead wire is pulled taunt between each pole with twine secured vertically in providing the overhead trellis system. Setting up the trellis was quite time consuming and should be accomplished prior to planting. The poles can be installed with a hand or motorize auger. It is critical to place the poles deep enough to avoid trellis collapse under the weight of the hops and winds late in growing season.

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Cultivar
Based on the research by Ron Dunham and his evaluating yield, disease resistance, and other characteristics of several hop cultivars along with internet research for hop growth in 30° latitude (Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial) are the hops I chose for the ‘side project’. Plantings – 4 Chinook, 4 Cascade, and 4 Centennial rhizomes in late March 2013.
Garden
For 2013, one 35 linear foot x 4 foot wide row was designated for hop growth and evaluation. Garden was weed free and well-tilled 2’ deep. Three cubic yards of garden soil and one cubic yard of manure was then tilled into the existing soil. Hops rhizomes were planted in hills and proper drainage was provided along the perimeter since hops can be susceptible to root rots.
Management
Fertilization of crop schedule (referenced above) for first year production. Spring maintenance consisted of grooming out the less vigorous shoots and training the selected bines to grow up the twine. Summer activities included scouting the yard for pests and diseases, pruning out unwanted new shoots, weeding, and irrigation. I had no problems but…Be aware and knowledgeable of downy mildew and powdery mildew along with mycosphaerella leaf spots which have a history of causing damage in all hops growing regions of the U.S.
Harvest

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It normally takes 2 to 3 years for hops to come into full production. Hops harvest season began in July/August. Harvest when they are most aromatic and the cones are just beginning to feel dry. Hops will fade in color from a bright green to a paler green as they mature. Expectations for the first year should be 1/6 to 1/4lb per plant.

2013 –First year harvest should be hand-harvested by removing individual cones as they mature and NOT cutting bines at base of plant to allow proper root growth. I obtained 3/4lb of Centennial and 1/4lb of Cascade my first season. The chinook plants grew extremely well but did not produce cones in the 2013 growing season. One cascade rhizome never sprouted.

2014— All chinook plants died the winter of 2013.  4 Centennial plants returned and 4 Cascade plants returned.  An additional 4 Centennial plants were planted in addition to existing plants.  1lb= 5 gallon buck of Centennial hops were picked August 2014.  The Cascades did not produce.

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Inventory of Soils

Inventory Inventory Inventory before any work will save you a TON of money and back breaking labor.    Of course I learned this the hard way… Today its all about soils.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil data and classification should be everyone first step in the research and analysis of soils, in regards to farming.  The NRCS provides historical Soil surveys, geography, classifications, characteristics, maps, and reports for every State, County, or Parish within the United States of America.  Its a wealth of information and a great starting point in understanding your land and the soil below your feet.  Yes you can take a coring sample of the top 24″ and submit it for lab work to identify your soil specifics…. but to truly identify and relate to your soils  is to understand  how they became what they are today.

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/surveylist/soils/survey/state/?stateId=LA

The East HappyLand garden is located on Lo–Loring silt loam.  Which is a gently sloping, moderately well drained soil mainly located on uplands.  Typically, the surface layer is brown silt loam about 6 inches thick.  The next layer to a depth of about 10″ is yellowish brown silt loam.  The subsoil to a depth of about 23″ is dark yellowish brown silt loam.  Below this, to a depth of about 51″ is a fragipan.  The substatum to a depth of about 60″ is yellowish brown, mottled silt loam.  Water and air move through this soil at a moderate rate above the fragipan and at a slow rate within. Water table expected 2-3 below surface.

LA Soils

Last year around this time we mixed together a Topsoil Compost for  future East HappyLand gardening needs.  We combined 10 cubic yards of the brown to yellowish brown silt loam (top 18″ of our existing soils), 2 cubic yards of cow manure, 2 bales of rotten hay, and 1 c.y. of leaves.  This stock pile of  Topsoil Compost has been mixed or flipped over with our front end loader 4 or 5 times this year and will be utilized in the  8″ raised landscape beds this season.

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