Brewing beer is a home project that many hobbyists enjoy. You can purchase beer ingredients from local or online stores, but you can also make beer with home-grown ingredients. Growing your own barley and hops is an unusual way to make your brew your own. Barley grows wherever grass will grow, and a hops vine will grow in full sunlight as long as it can get close to 120 days of growing time.
Loosen the soil with a hoe to a depth of 3 to 4 inches in the late fall to grow a winter crop. Barley likes to grow in freezing cold weather.
Plant about 20 barley seeds per foot and bury them in 1/2 inch of loose soil. Do not fertilize them, and give them just enough water to dampen the soil.
Allow the seeds to sprout, which they should do within 24 to 48 hours, and keep the growing area free of weeds. Most weeds will not grow in the cold, so there will not be much competition for the barley seeds.
Cut off the mature seed heads 40 to 50 days after planting. You will know the seed heads are mature when they have changed from green to a golden color and have a papery sound when you squeeze them.
Bundle the seed heads together and hang them upside-down to dry in a sheltered area. Tie a paper bag over the seed heads to keep bugs from getting into the seeds.
Shuck the barley by hitting against the inside of a paper bag or by rubbing the seed heads between your fingers. The barley is now ready for the malting process.
Bury hops tubers in a spot where they can get full sunlight for about four months. Hops cannot withstand cold temperatures, so plant them after all danger of frost has passed. Set them about 2 inches deep and 5 feet apart from each other.
Pound a stake into the ground next to each tuber and attach the end of a length of twine to the stake. Attach the other end of the twine to a roof or pole 6 to 10 feet high. The hops vine will grow straight up the twine. Alternatively, you can train your hops vine to grow along a fence.
Harvest hops when the blooms change from looking like burrs to more like papery cones. If you cut a mature cone open, the yellow pollen within will be a dark yellow as opposed to a very light, almost whitish yellow. Cut the cones from the vine with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors.
Dry the hops by laying them flat in a well-ventilated area until they lose most of their moisture. If you need to wait a few weeks before you can use them, package them in a plastic bag and freeze them.
About this Author
Based in Maryland, Heidi Braley, currently writes for local and online media outlets. Some of Braley's articles from the last 10 years are in the "Oley Newsletter," "Connections Magazine," GardenGuides and eHow.com. Braley's college life included Penn State University and Villanova University with her passions centered in nutrition and botany.