Hops - Not just for Beer

June 12, 2015


Mill Spring Farm Store now has hop plants available in 1 gallon pots.  Come see this excellent plant and find out more about growing them in this area.



The following info comes from The Brewing Techniques website post

Hops in the Backyard: 
From Planting to Harvest and the Hazards in Between

By Stephanie Montell   Photos by Ulrich Gampert 
Republished from BrewingTechniques' May/June 1994.


Hop plants may look strange and unfamiliar, but they produce the favorite flower in a beer brewer's yard. The female flower of the hop vine Humulus lupulus provides beer its characteristic bitterness, flavor, and aroma.


Growers have also exploited its natural preservative qualities for years.


The hop is a hardy, perennial plant that is easily grown at home, provided sufficient sun and climbing space are available. The hop produces annual vines from a permanent root stock known as the crown. Vines can grow 25 ft high in a single season but will die to the crown each fall. The crown also produces the underground stem or rhizome. The root-like rhizomes sprout numerous buds, which are the key to propagation.


Actually the hop is not a vine, but a bine. Vines climb with tendrils off the stems. Bines grow by the stem itself actually climbing, wrapping itself around the trellis or string.



Basic Requirements: Plenty of space. Since healthy hop plants can grow up to 1 ft in a day, space is definitely an element to consider before planting a hop yard.


Site selection. The ideal hop yard must have direct sunlight, easy access to water, and plenty of room for vertical growth. Space along fences, garages, or property lines hold potential as hop yards. Hop vines also need a strong support system to grow successfully; tall poles and strong twine are commonly used to support the growing vines. Growers should avoid sites with electrical wires nearby because of potential problems caused by sprawling vines.


Soil. The soil must be loamy and well drained with a pH of 6.5-8.0. Because hops use large quantities of water and nutrients, the soil needs fertilizers rich in potassium, phosphates, and nitrogen. Home growers can use manure compost and commercial fertilizer for this purpose.


Climate. Wherever the hops are planted, a minimum of 120 frost-free days are needed for hop vines to produce flowers. When the stems break soil, you must support vines off the ground to prevent disease and ensure proper growth. The vines keep growing until mid-July, when most hops are either in full bloom or past bloom, depending on the variety and location. Healthy vines can produce 1-21/2 pounds of dried flowers per plant.


Planting: Once the site has been established and the soil fertilized, planting can begin. In Northern latitudes, hops can be affected by freezing temperatures. To avoid loss of rhizomes to rot, plant after the threat of frost has passed. Vines will break the soil when temperatures have risen to the point at which most spring flowers start to appear. The actual onset of growth will vary from grower to grower depending on local spring temperatures. Growers need not worry if vines in Central California break before those in Montana: emergence varies with climate.



Planting begins with rhizomes. If your planting preparations are delayed, the rhizomes must be refrigerated in a plastic bag to prevent them from drying. Ideally, you should plant rhizomes in early spring, but no later than May; late planting limits the plant's growth potential. In colder climates, you can start rhizomes in pots and transplant them into the ground by June. When you are ready, plant the rhizomes vertically with the buds pointing upward or horizontally about 2 in. below the soil surface. Spacing between rhizomes varies. You can plant mixed varieties, but plant them at least 5 ft apart; identical varieties can be planted as close as 3 ft apart.


Care and Feeding: Like any young plant, too much water may cause more harm than good. During their first year, young hops have a minimal root system and require frequent short waterings. Mulching the soil surface with organic matter is a great method for conserving moisture and helps control weeds. After the first season the plant is established, and less-frequent deep watering such as drip irrigation works well. Don't expect much growth or many flowers during the first year because the plant is establishing its root system. Instead, look forward to the second year when hops are full grown and produce healthy crops of fragrant flowers.


When the hop vines are about 1 ft long, select two or three strong vines and wrap them clockwise around a support system. The support system can be a trellis, tall pole, or strong twine. Hops mainly grow vertically, but lateral sidearms extend off the main vine. The main concern is to support the vines and prevent the sidearms from tangling. Tangled vines become an especially great concern when mixed varieties are planted in the same yard.



In newly planted hop yards, the growth that appears is a cause for celebration. Growers have a tendency of letting every shoot grow and climb. Although this is understandable, leave only selected shoots and trim the weaker ones at ground level. This may be painful for the first-time gardener, but it forces the strength of the root into the hardier shoots. The selected shoots will take care of themselves once they've been trained, or wrapped.

The early growth of a hop yard is amazing to watch; if you are not attentive, however, a jungle of vines is sure to develop. Severe trimming, like two to three shoots per vine, is an essential task that must be done every few weeks. Neglected trimming sessions can cause you to have a difficult harvest if you are struggling with tangled vines.

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