Real Men Sow

Using Hops on the Veg Beds for the First Time

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We finally have veg beds in the garden, and they’re covered in lovely organic matter, ready for 2018. After a year out from clearing, digging and not growing anything particularly meaningful, this feels like a big breakthrough.

As for the organic matter, it may look like weak horse poo spread over the top of the soil, but on closer inspection, this soil improver is something I’ve not used before.

(Here is a list of stuff I have used to improve the soil before, and a specific post on seaweed which is ace – seaweed, not the post. Although I do quite like the post, especially the line about freeing oodles of weed from my fishing gear. Ah the memories. Whilst I’m at it, here’s the Real Men Sow Guide to Making Compost too, which is possible the best soil improver I’ve used.).

Hoppy New Year
Anyway, back to the current improver of the moment. Happy New Year has turned to Hoppy New Year here in Somerset (thanks to the Propagator via Twitter for the pun!), as I’m trying spent hops from the local Quantocks Brewery.

Hops can be tricky to get hold off if there are no breweries nearby, but if you do happen to have one locally, the chances are they will be throwing bags out. These can be had for free so are also a cost effective source of soil improver.

By the way, as well as giving me some free hops, the Quantock Brewery offer some very tasty beers. I’d recommend Sunraker and Will’s Neck. Check them out here.

Using Hops – Lessons Learnt So Far
A few things to note that I’ve learnt from using hops so far. Make sure you put a sheet down in the car as the juices can easily run out and make the car smell like… well… a brewery. Not great if you happen to be stopped by the police one day.

Spreading the hops was quite a nostalgic experience. The smell reminded me of cleaning drip trays and changing barrels in the local yacht club I worked in whilst I was at university. I normally did this on a Saturday morning with a massive hangover so it wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience, but a fond memory now that I don’t tend to go on big student benders and ruin the next day.

Beer is Nicer Than Urine
In fact, the smell was rather enjoyable this time. The hops were sweet, and actually made me fancy a nice pint rather than want to throw up. There are some bonuses to being a responsible 36 year old rather than a student!.

I’d venture that the smell is also nicer and more gentle than the stench of urine that filled my old garden the year I covered beds in horse manure, so worth bearing in mind if you live in a built up area.

The hops reminded me of seaweed in structure, but came out of the bag looking like pale, unrotted manure. They broke up without much effort though, and were easy to rake across my beds. You don’t use hops in any different ways to other manures and soil improvers: just spread across evenly and leave on top or dig in, depending on your preferred methods.

Now we wait to see how my plants grow. The soil itself is pretty good – light and crumbly, with a fair few earthworms present so I’m hopeful that the hops will simply serve to pep things up in time for Spring.

Off for a pint of Sunraker. See you next time.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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