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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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…


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.


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:

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

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