Native to Northern Europe, hops have been cultivated for hundreds of years for use as a bitter flavoring and preservative added to beer. Today, most hops produced in the United States are grown in the cool, moist regions of the Pacific Northwest. These pretty vines produce large, lobed leaves and masses of cone-like flowers, which mature into the sticky, aromatic fruit used to flavor beer. Perennial hop roots produce annual vines, which grow to a length of 25 feet. With some planning to accommodate their growth habits and meet their cultural requirements, hops can be successfully grown in home gardens across the United States.
Select a sheltered location with full sun to grow your hops. Lay out an 8 by 8 foot grid on your planting area and mark each intersection with a small rock. Dig a 2 foot wide by 2 foot deep hole at each rock with a shovel. Add one part organic compost and one part coarse sand to one part native soil. Add the recommended amount of a balanced granular fertilizer to the amended soil.
Mound the amended soil over each planting hole to make a small hill. Drive a 6 foot wooden stake securely into the center of each hill.
Plant two to four fresh hop runners into each hill in early May. Space the cuttings evenly and make sure that the buds are pointing upward. Cover each bud with ¼ to 1 inch of fine soil.
Cut two, 10 inch lengths of bailing wire and fold them in half to make pins. Tie one end of a string to each pin and then tie the other end about chest height on the pole. Press the pins into the soil, spaced on opposite sides of the hill. Repeat this process for each hill. Tie another string around each pole at chest height, connecting a row of poles, so the vines will be able to grow in between.
Water each hill until the soil is saturated at planting time and then water your hops deeply once a week.
Choose the strongest two to six vines from each hill when the plants are about 2 feet high, and then remove the rest with the pruning shears. Train the vines up the vertical strings. Remove lateral branches and foliage carefully, on the bottom 4 feet of each vine, once they have reached the horizontal strings.