Beer Goggles: All hopped up for gardening

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

For months, I've gazed out my kitchen window at a backyard that's evolved into a mud pit surrounded by ground cover plants and wished for warmer weather while considering and reconsidering the ways to better utilize the land.

This summer, I'm going full force into home gardening.

My plans started with the idea of growing my own hop plants. I brew my fair share of beer -- about 10 to 15 gallons a month on average -- and growing beer's bittering and aroma agent seems like a good, sound way to keep my ingredient costs down and reteach myself the greenthumb skills I learned while working spring and summer seasons at a mom-and-pop garden center in Cleveland through my high school years.

Eight hop rhizomes -- underground stems used for propagation -- are sitting in my fridge, just waiting to meet the earth and reach for the sky on strands of twine. I'll be growing four varieties: Cascade, Columbus, Galena and Willamette.

After securing the rhizomes and putting more thought to this project, I've decided to not only build four, 4-by-4-foot beds for the hops, but also two, 12-by-4-foot beds for vegetables and herbs. The plots of ground cover winding around the house and another back section of the yard will head to the curb and be replaced by mulch and a nice earth patio for summer-night bonfires.

I've studied the patterns of sun and shade on my backyard as the seasons have shifted, which led me to rework garden bed locations a few times, but I feel pretty confident with the current mapped out layout.

Lumber for the garden beds is piled high in my dining room, I bought my first power tools, I've read "Homegrown Hops: An Illustrated Manual" by David R. Beach from cover to cover twice and watched a few online video tutorials. Mulch and dirt will be delivered this weekend and a handful of my fraternity undergrad buddies are willing to put in some man power for the payment of a couple homebrews.

This is the weekend I've anxiously awaited for months, but it'll be just the beginning of what's hopefully a fertile summer.

I'm all hopped up for gardening.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

Facebook: Kyle McDonald, Record-Courier

Twitter: KyleMcDonald_RC

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