Last Spring I planted a couple of Chinook hops rhizomes in my backyard. I bought them on ebay from a guy down south, planted them, watered them and occasionally gave them various fertilisers which I’d bought at the local hardware store. I’ve enjoyed watching the bines grow and sprout hop flowers which are now developing a nice aroma and could be ready for picking. The flowers in the photo attached are actually my chinook hop flowers. It’s a rewarding experience.
How to grow hops? I’m no expert at growing hops, so here are some tips from the web and some answers to common questions:
Hops Growing involves considering crop rotation, soil, position, frost tolerance, feeding, companion plants, spacing, sowing and planting, harvesting and trouble shooting.
- Buy your rhizomes in August or September.
- Plant the rhizomes once the ground has warmed after winter. Nurture your growing plants with frequent light watering, don’t drench the rhizomes or they could rot.
- Support the hops bines as they grow.
- Harvest your homegrown hops when they are ready (March / April).
- Dry your hops immediately if you plan to save them for later.
- Store your dried homegrown hops as you would (or should) store any other hops.
Can anyone grow hops? If you like to garden, you can grow hops.
Are hops hard to grow? Hops can be difficult to grow for profit on a small scale.
How much hops do you get from one plant? A first year plant may produce no more than a couple of hundred grams hops, but by the third year some varieties will yield up to a kilo per plant. That’s as much as many homebrewers use in a single season.
Should I get male or female hops? Hop cones are from female plants. The hop plant is dioecious (male and female flowers are on separate plants). The female flowers are borne in clusters on lateral branches.
When are hops planted? Rhizomes can be planted as soon as the soil is workable, but it’s best to plant after the final frost.
Do hops die in winter? Hops plant leaves can fall off and the vine dies back. This is especially important where freezes are sustained and the winter is long. With proper preparation, growing hops in winter are hardy to minus -20 C and will regrow in spring.
Are hops annuals or perennials? Hops are perennial deciduous plants that die back to the ground each winter and grow again the following spring. This twining bine grows up to about 6m each summer. Hop vines are long-lived, producing a harvest for years in the same location.
Can hops grow year round? Only hydroponically. A hydroponic set up will give you year-round hops growth and harvests, anywhere from two to five times a year.
What type of soil is best for growing hops? Hops will grow in a variety of soils, but do best in well drained, deep, sandy loam soils with a pH around 6.5 (slightly acidic). Growers should avoid siting hop yards in heavy, poorly drained soil.
Do hops grow in shade? Hops need full sunlight, though some shade helps in hot environments. Hops are an essential ingredient in beer, but they are also a terrific shade vine for gardeners. Growing hops is easy. They need well-worked soil in a sunny spot (with six to eight hours of sun). The rhizomes merely have to be planted with the growth tips facing up.
Can you grow hops indoors? No, except for hydroponic systems, hops should not be grown inside. Their roots need too much room to spread out, and a container is just not large enough to support the growth. These are not small plants when they grow. A lot of people are not familiar with what hops look like in a field, but most people know what grape vines look like.
Can you grow hops hydroponically? Growing hops hydroponically is one way growers are changing traditional hop production. Hydroponics offers many benefits to help satiate the thirsty beer market. Whether they’re grown in a greenhouse or using indoor lighting, hops can now be grown perpetually.
Can hops be grown in pots? Growing hops in containers can be a challenge, but — if you understand a few key elements of container gardening — you can grow healthy plants that will yield a bountiful harvest of cones. It is a great way to propagate rhizomes, as first year rhizome growth often exceeds that of in-ground hops.
Can you grow hops from cuttings? Most hops growers grow from rhizome cuttings. Harvest rhizomes for hops plant propagation in late spring and plant immediately. Cut about 15 cm of rhizome with a sharp, sterile knife and plant 5 to 10 cm below the soil surface. Rhizomes should have sent out roots by this time and begin to produce tiny shoots. Keep the plants moist but not soggy and weed free.
How deep do hop roots grow? The roots may penetrate the soil to a depth of 4m or more.
How far apart should hops be planted? Hops can be planted in rows of hills about 2.5 m apart with two rhizomes per hill and hills set about 1 m apart. If you plan to grow more than one variety of hops, plant the mixed varieties at least 1.5 to 2 m apart.
How do you take care of hops? Fertilize liberally before planting. Plant your hops in a mound and aerate the ground by turning it over several times to aid drainage, enhance growth and prevent disease. Place the rhizomes about 10 cm deep. Place the root side of the rhizome down.
Do hops spread? As the hops plant grows each year as does its roots or rhizomes. Each year the growers of hops will dig down to the roots and split the rhizomes to prevent the base of the hops plant from spreading to far.
Are hops invasive? Hops are one of the most amazing plants you’ll ever grow, but they require substantial and timely physical maintenance to produce the best hop cones and prevent invasive expansion.
How can I support hop bines? You can use a trellis, strings, rope, or any support you’d give to a vine. You can even grow hops along a sturdy fence. Full sun (at least 6-8 hours daily) is required for plant health and cone production. Choose a spot with good drainage. Start training new hop growth to the trellis when it’s about half a metre long.
Do birds eat hops? Hungry or curious wildlife may attempt to eat the plant. Over time wildlife typically will leave the bines alone, but those first samplings may damage or destroy the plant. Birds are commonly the biggest threat to the hop flowers.
Do hops smell when growing? Smell is important in this capacity, as well as the look and feel of the plants. Hops will smell most pungent when ready for harvest, and they should appear light in color and feel dry to the touch when ready. Once harvested, hops should be dried before being incorporated into beer.
How to check hop cones for ripeness?
- Give the cone a light squeeze. If the cone stays compressed, it’s not ripe enough. When they feel light and dry—and spring back after a squeeze—they’re ready to be harvested.
- Pick a cone, roll it in your hands and smell it. If it has a pungent smell between cut grass and onion, it’s time to harvest.
- Roll the hop next to your ear. If it makes a cricket sound, this also means they’re ready to harvest. If the lupulin turns orange and smells rancid, you’ve overshot your window.
- The hop should be springy, dry and papery on the tips, and sticky to the touch.
- Look for lupulin, the visible, thick yellow substance on the outside of the cone.
Can animals eat hops? Consuming hops in any way, other than in beer, can give you an upset stomach and a raging headache, but your pets are at a far higher risk as hops are often toxic to animals.