How to Grow Hops in Pennsylvania
A fast-growing climber, hops is a perennial vine capable of growing up to 1 foot in a single day. Hops thrive when planted in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. The vine prefers well-drained, sunny soil with a pH between 6.5 and 8.0. If you are a Pennsylvania gardener, you live within USDA hardiness zones 4 through 7, making your landscape a perfect haven for hops just as long as you have the space to accommodate their 30 foot sprawl.
Prepare a plot for hops planting. Hops are sensitive to frost, so it is important to wait until the spring thaw before planting. In Pennsylvania, spring planting can begin as early as mid-April in the Philadelphia area or as late as early June in locations near Ridgway.
Loosen up the soil in the plot to a 12-inch depth using a garden fork. Soil pH varies throughout Pennsylvania, so perform a soil pH test afterward. If the pH is below 6.5, you must raise it using lime or lower a pH above 8.0 using peat moss. Mix the required amendment evenly into the soil following the instructions on the packaging label.
Dig holes in the soil to accommodate the hops rhizomes. The rhizomes require horizontal planting in the soil, so gauge the width of the holes accordingly. The depth of the holes should be approximately 2 inches. Space each of the holes 5 feet apart. Lay one hops rhizome horizontally in each hole.
Fill the holes with the original soil, burying the rhizomes. Pat the soil down over the holes using your hands to remove trapped air that can rob the rhizomes of moisture. Water the rhizomes deeply with a soaker hose to a depth of 1 inch.
Provide your hops with at least 1 inch of water every week. Pennsylvania averages 40 inches of rain per year, which is not quite enough to sustain hops. Therefore, supplemental watering is necessary to maintain the health of the hops rhizomes for the first two growing seasons. Once established, your hops will only require supplemental watering during droughts.
Hammer in a trellis approximately 3 inches behind the hops plants when they reach at height of 12 inches. The trellis will offer support to the growing vines and keep them from crawling along the ground and strangling surrounding plant life.
- A 3-inch layer of bark mulch can improve drainage around your hops and keep the rhizomes warm in the case of an unexpected temperature drop.
- Avoid over watering your hops. Always check the moisture content of the soil before watering by pressing your fingers into the soil. If the soil feels damp at a depth of 1 inch, do not add more water. Check the soil again in a few days.
- Garden fork
- Soil test
- Lime or peat moss
- Soaker hose