Hops are an interesting herb, and growing them at home is a fascinating project. Growing hops begins by planting rhizomes, which are root cuttings from mature plants. Hops will be mostly ornamental the first year, will die back in winter and will get serious the second year when the vines can grow several inches a day and up to 25 feet in a single season. Hops are thirsty sun lovers, so plant them where they get plenty of direct sunlight and easy access to water.
Purchase hop rhizomes from a home brewer’s supply or a greenhouse, and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to plant them. Hops should be planted in early spring, as soon as frost danger has passed. They require a growing period of 120 days before the weather turns cold in autumn, so if you haven’t planted them by May, it might be too late.
Dig a hole for each hop, about 1 foot deep and 1 foot across. Hops need rich soil, so fill the hole two-thirds full with rotted manure or compost, or a mixture of both, and then finish filling it to the top with good quality commercial potting soil. Rhizomes should be planted at least 3 feet apart, and 5 feet is even better.
Provide support for the vines, which will grow very quickly. Plant the hops near a tall fence or a garage wall, or install tall poles for the vines to climb on, supported with heavy twine. Hops should have at least 15 feet to climb upward, and 20 feet is even better. Don’t plant the hops too close to power poles, electrical lines, or anything else that could be harmed by the vines.
Push the hop rhizome about 2 inches into the soil with the buds facing up. Tamp the soil down lightly and water the rhizome lightly.
Water the hops lightly each day through the first growing season. Keep the soil evenly moist but don’t soak it. The second year the hops will need more water. Plan to water them deeply every day, but don’t let the water pool, because although hops require a large amount of water, soggy soil can cause mildew to develop.
Train the hop vines to grow up the support as soon as they’re about 3 feet long. Choose three or four healthy vines per rhizome, prune the remaining vines, and repeat this as needed throughout the season. This may seem heartless, but the result will be healthier plants and more hops.
Things You Will Need
- Hop rhizomes
- Long poles, twine, or other supports for growing vines
- Manure and/or compost
- Commercial potting soil
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