Preparing for Spring: Hops Trellis Construction

Erica here and delighted to be back writing for the TJDG blog!

For those of you who have been keeping up with the blog since summer, you may remember our trip out to Red Brook Lumber in August, where Bob Howard generously gave us a tour of his shop and donated a number of Robinia pseudoacacia (Black Locust) logs for use in our (then) forthcoming hops trellis construction.  We’ve had the logs ready and waiting while we tackled other projects, and finally, the wait is over!

Growing hops in the garden has been a goal from the get-go, as it was an important, Jefferson-documented plant with a multitude of uses (keep a look out for a full plant profile!), and space was allocated for hops early on when Chelsea and I initially designed the garden.  If you take a look at the original design, you’ll see that initially, we intended the plants to be planted in a small bed on the western side of the greenhouse.  Our thought was to utilize the greenhouse as a climbing structure for the plants and to capitalize on the shade that the fast-growing bines could provide during the growing season.

Over the course of the inaugural growing season at the TJDG, we were constantly assessing, and when needed, adjusting the design.  These adjustments led to the decision to construct a freestanding trellis in one of the beds adjacent to the greenhouse that would have more structural presence, allow for easier maintenance of the plants, would still provide shade to the greenhouse, and would also create a wonderful entrance into the neighboring Arboretum.

As the growing season wound down this fall, I began work on the revised trellis design, researching precedents, hardware, and structure.  In the end, the final test of the design came through working with a digital model.  This was very helpful in assessing the visual and spatial impact that the trellis was going to have within the garden, to tweak post placement, height, and future bed construction.

Left: During the growing season, the bines will create a shaded tunnel-like space linking the garden to the Arboretum. Right: Twine will be strung annually from each hops mound, over the locust post + wire frame, and attach to a second wire strung along the ridge of the greenhouse.

The big red-letter day arrived this past Friday when we finally broke ground on the project!  We got some serious help in digging the post holes from the University Facilities and Grounds Crew.  We had marked post locations and they came in with an hydraulic auger, turning an arduous and rather daunting task (digging 3.5′ deep holes in rocky, clay soil) into a really interesting and speedy event.  In less than 30 minutes, we had two perfect post holes – amazing!

Excavation, measuring for depth, and clearing away excess soil.

The fun resumed on Saturday when Lily, Rachael, Chelsea, Emily, Lily C., Nancy, and I pulled out the shovels, tamping bars, and power tools and had a good, old-fashioned trellis raising!  Chelsea, Rachael and I began mounting the hardware into the posts…

…while Lily C. and Emily prepared the post holes.  We had gravel with varying aggregate sizes and a high “fines” content, so they worked to sift out the fines in order to capture the larger pieces. The holes were filled with 6″ of aggregate, that was then tamped down to increase stability and reduce shifting, and in went the posts!  After truing up the posts, we all helped with backfilling the holes and tamping down the displaced soil.

Sifting, tamping, tamping, and more tamping!

Rachael then began mounting the hardware onto the greenhouse for the secondary ridge wire…

…while Lily C., Emily, and Chelsea worked to prepare the wire and turnbuckle assemblies.

Lily C. and Emily assembling the wire and turnbuckle component.

Then it was time to put it all together!

Lily C. and me adjusting the turnbuckle tension on the main wire.

Chelsea and Rachael mounting the secondary wire on the ridge of the greenhouse...Trellis complete!

All in all, we had a fantastic morning and it’s wonderful to have the structure ready for the spring planting!  Thanks to everyone who helped out with the prep and construction!  As one of the garden designers, it really is quite incredible to see another aspect of the design constructed and to be able to contribute to the continuation of the garden.

Great job, all!

Chelsea and me celebrating the trellis completion with a "TJDG designers" picture.

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3 Responses to Preparing for Spring: Hops Trellis Construction

  1. Pingback: Class Dismissed! | Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

  2. Pingback: Garden Assessment: Season I | Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

  3. Pingback: Garden Journal: Week of April 21 | Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

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