February may have been the driest on record for 30 years but this was nothing compared to what March has thrown at the Hop Garden!
Stringing started at the beginning of March in the snow. It may have looked pretty, but the weight of the snow on the strings meant work came to a grinding halt….
A short break in the weather meant Matthew was able to get all the rows of Farnham White Bine under his belt, before the gales arrived and caused havoc with the schedule.
Then the rain arrived! It was wet, miserable and cold. Poor Matthew got many a soaking in the torrential downpours while he started to string the Fuggles from the top of the hill, the furthest point from any cover.
At least the hop garden enjoyed all this excess moisture, after the stress the hops endured during the heat of last summer’s exceptional dry spell.
April looks to be a little kinder. The hop garden is awakening under the lovely spring sunshine and the soil is warming up. The longer daylight hours are tempting more hop shoots to poke their heads above the ground and literally reach for the sky!
Matthew is now motoring!
Nearly half of the Fuggles alleys have been strung with the coconut coir....
...so just over a third of the total garden has the intricate pattern of strings and Matthew hopes to have the whole job wrapped up by the end of the month.
But all the moisture has meant an abundance of slugs in the garden this year. They have taken rather a shine to the new shoots and their munching has caused some damage to the plants.
Luckily hop plants are robust and the first early shoot will not provide a good harvest, so no harm done.
Under the sunny skies, nature is getting on with what she does best...
... and the hops are putting on a spurt of speed....
It will only be a couple of weeks before the first shoots or Poor Man’s Asparagus need to be cut back. So a busy month ahead for Matthew.
With May comes the next big challenge of “twiddling” the hops. Matthew and his team of volunteers, the Hogs Back Hoppers, will be “encouraging” the hops to grow in the right direction by training the best eight shoots up the strings.
If you would like some outdoor exercise with like-minded individuals, then why not find out more about becoming a Hogs Back Hopper?
Let’s hope the sun continues to shine until stringing is complete!