Welcome to the October update from a Year in the Life of our Hop Garden.
After the excitement of September and the harvest, October always feels a quiet month.
But not for the hops! The unseasonably warm weather means that at the start of the month they were continuing to grow, putting out fresh hop shoots and vibrant green leaves.
Although the autumn nights are getting a little longer and a little cooler, with the possibility of a little overnight frost, the hops didn't seem to be showing any inclination to hibernate yet. But the leaves are now turning a more autumnal shade.
Whilst Matthew is taking a well-deserved holiday this week, he will be ready to attack Hop Dressing with the Hoppers in mid-November. This is the traditional time of year to cut the hop plants right down to ground level. This encourages all the “goodness” or sugars, that are used to push the plant upwards, to go back down into the hop head to be stored over winter. Over winter, the rootstock is dormant below the ground surface and is revitalised for next spring.
This year’s harvest was all about quality over quantity, so what better time to enter the prestigious Institute of Brewing & Distilling’s 2022 British Hop competition? A panel of Senior and Master Brewers will judge the various hop categories, so Matthew will be eager to get his best hop samples sent off for judging.
Elsewhere, Matthew has been busy stripping and cleaning down the picking machine, kiln and packer before they are all mothballed for another year. Similarly, the tractor has been given the once over.
He's also been investigating some new poplar trees to plant as a wind break around the hop garden. With the Lombardy poplar, with its characteristic upright shape and branches that grow almost vertically, and the Black, White and Grey poplars, whose names come the colour of their bark, he will be looking at the best trees for the job.
In the meantime, Matthew has been busy catching up with all the chores around the wider hop garden estate. Thanks to Matthew and his handywork, a smart new post & rails fence has appeared to mark the boundary of the beer garden, separating it from the commercial crop growing in the adjacent field.
The sides of the Sunken Garden have been covered over to supress the weeds over winter, ready for planting next spring.
The hop kiln heater, which is used to heat the whole of the Hangar, has now been rehoused outside the Hangar. The warm air is now pumped into Hangar via the vent. Not only is there more room for events, it is also much quieter!
All in all, a very productive month!
If you want to get involved with the hop garden, read more about the Hogs Back Hoppers.