Welcome to May’s update from A Year in the Life of our Hop Garden.
Matthew’s focus throughout May has been firmly on finishing the stringing.
It’s not a job that he can entrust to anyone else so the meticulous work has continued, come rain or shine. But the momentous moment of finishing the final string has arrived.
Almost 100 miles of coconut coir is firmly in place and it’s not a moment too soon to concentrate on twiddling.
The hops are rather rampant at present. Some have already latched onto the strings and are over 6ft tall. They will use any support, including the thistles!
These “rank” hop shoots need to be cut down as they “hog” all the goodness and are already putting out the laterals (or side shoots) on which the hop cones will eventually grow. But it is much too early to produce a good harvest.
Enter the Hoppers, who have been absolute stalwarts, in twiddling the hops. They have been working tirelessly, although there has been time to enjoy a well-deserved pint as well.
Some of the Hogs Back team have been swapping their normal jobs for a stint of twiddling, including Rupert, who never misses the opportunity to lend a helping hand, Miles, Rob and Ben. Super Saturdays are proving a hit, with volunteers clutching secateurs and gloves, happy to give up a few hours to help out.
Arriving bright and early for a 9am start, it’s a quick introduction with Matthew, before the all-important bio-security “foot bath” with its mild disinfectant.
Then it is straight off to the hop garden for a practical demonstration.
Working as a team, last Saturday the volunteers soon got to work, “leapfrogging” each other as they worked down an alley, hop plant by hop plant.
We’re delighted that some of the second-year diploma students from RHS Wisley came along to lend a helping hand. The students rotate across 10 different gardening teams as part of their 2-year diploma so their horticultural experience was certainly a great help!
Matthew is proud to continue his connection with RHS through their shared love of horticulture. A little known fact - Matthew provided the hop plants and advice on hop growing to the RHS team, when they were creating one of the displays at the fabulous new RHS Hilltop - the UK’s first dedicated horticultural scientific centre of excellence at Wisley, which is devoted to protecting the future of plants, people and the planet.
The hops are all growing with vigour, but none more so than the Farnham White Bine. Some of these hops were left on the bine last year, so the hop plants naturally concentrate their energy back into the roots. The edges of the hop garden are left uncut, which the local wildlife are enjoying.
The team, having completed half a dozen rows during the morning, were soon ready for a well-deserved pint and pizza!
Matthew is targeting 10th June to complete all the twiddling, so if you are at a loose end and want to help, sign up to the Hoppers.
It was lovely to be able to welcome back Rev. Claire Holt of St Paul’s Church in Tongham to conduct the Hop Blessing on Ascension Day. Read more about the great gathering.
It’s not long until 21st June, when the saying goes that the hops should reach the top of the strings attached to the high wires. So watch this space!