No need to have a gym membership when you are taking on a project of this sort. We have all gotten a great workout these last few weeks (some pretty nice tan lines too) while finishing land prep prior to planting. We went a little past our target date, and had to plant in succession as rows were completed, but as of April 16, 600 linear feet of rows have been tilled, weeded, amended, raised, planted, and mulched. It’s really looking pretty good out here, especially given the state of things just 2 months ago.
Several hop bines began breaking ground less than a week after our initial planting. Since then, close to 100% of the plants are showing at least some growth, with a few close to the length ready for training with twine.
For those interested, here are some of the specifics that went into planting:
- Seven varieties with % total in parenthesis: Cascade (60%), Zeus (20%), Chinook (7%), Nugget (3%), Galena (3%), Brewer’s Gold (3%), Newport (3%).
- 180 total plants (most planted with a single rhizomes, some with two).
- Rhizomes came from Oregon, Western NC, and a few from plants I’ve been growing in Carrboro, NC.
- Spacing between plants was 3-foot 4 inches with a 5-foot buffer between varieties.
- Spacing between rows was 10 feet.
Up next: completing trellis construction.
We had left the largest of the cedars where they fell in the woods back in January. So heavy they were difficult to move, it was now time to cut them into more manageable 4-foot pieces to give us the peripheral anchors needed to support the trellis system. Without the auger from last week to help finish off the anchor holes, we took to digging each one manually. Digging an angled post hole by hand is no easy task. We were aiming for about 45 degrees, but some were a bit closer to 30. Oh well, nothing 50 pounds of concrete can help heal! Each hole received a massive chunk of cedar followed by a bag of concrete to keep it from even thinking of moving. This filled the 3-foot holes to about half full, with the remainder to be filled with gravel and, of course, the ever abundant red clay.
With only two weeks to go before we want to have all our rhizomes in the ground it was time to begin building the rows. The rows will connect each 40-foot span (3 per row) between trellis posts. Previous workdays have addressed removing most of the weeds and visible rocks so the first step was to use a rototiller to loosen up a 3-foot wide section of earth. After removing even more rock and debris brought to the surface from the tiller, we spread cow and horse manure and applied lime, then tilled that under and built a raised bed using a combination of native soil from the surrounding paths (top few inches) and a topsoil mix (soil, sand, compost). It’s been a rather slow-going process, but with a perennial crop its the only time we’ll be able to work the soil this thoroughly. We’re hoping the extra care taken now will pay off down the road (as is the case with much of what we are getting involved with at this juncture of the project).
So how are we going to safely and effectively string cable on a trellis system that stands 14 feet? Can’t say we have the answer yet, but it is being built. Thanks to Justin’s dad, we are well on our way to having a 7.5-foot tall (by about 40-inches wide and 7 feet long) scaffold to work on. We completed the first section on Easter Sunday and will finish the remainder this weekend. The wooden scaffold should serve us well come harvest time too. Thanks, dad!
To recap: Three things that I learned from this past weekend on the farm (and off):
- The rototiller is an awesome piece of machinery. I just wish those blades could cut through rock.
- A 120-foot long row is no joke to prepare. Definitely underestimated that one.
- The sales associates at Lowes are super helpful and friendly. Sure, maybe its their job to target the aimlessly wandering, but I still appreciated the assistance.
A couple more pics from the weekend: