How to Grow Hops in Your Backyard
As long as humankind continue brewing ale, same humans continue to improve it. History has it that around 1150 Ad, Germans regularly began brewing with hops. Whether you brew your beer or if you are looking for something interesting to grow, growing hops has become more popular.
Hops are fast growing plants that are easy to grow. Even if you are not interested in growing hops for brewing, you may still want to grow hops in your garden. Planting, growing and harvesting processes of hops are just as easy as growing tomatoes – only far more versatile.
Hops are grown from rhizomes, short segments of roots that are harvested from older plants. Local home-brewing supply stores sometimes stock rhizomes or even offer potted 2-year old hop plants that can give you a head start. Depending on the variety, rhizomes cost $4 to $10 while potted ones cost $8 to $10.
Hops can be grown in a modest climate in the United States and other parts of the world. Some varieties are more heat-resistant with some being more resistant to molds, pests, and disease. Aphids sometimes attack hops, but control can be achieved by introducing ladybugs that dine on the aphids. Spraying the plants with mild anti-insecticidal soap solution can as well work.
Planting- Trellis System
After you have made a choice of your sunny spot to grow your hops, till the soil thoroughly and add soil conditioners or compost to facilitate good drainage. Remember that hops plants don’t like to get their roots too wet. You should plant your hops in early spring after the danger of frost has passed.
Hops can be planted in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked and the risk of frost pass. Hops are propagated from rhizomes that are normally available from march to may. Rhizomes can be obtained through a mail order or from a local store. It is important to space the hops plantings to allow for sufficient room for growth. Rows should be placed about 8 feet apart. Within each row, plants should be planted in hills spaced 2-3 feet apart. When establishing plants, rhizomes should be planted in two in a hill.
Hops have a large leaf are and a significant water requirement. The plant roots will not tolerate standing water – and thus a well-drained soil is necessary. During the initial process, frequent light watering is sufficient. Once the plants have established hops would require approximately 1.5 inch of water equivalent per week. Preference should be on a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose as opposed to a sprinkler system.
Knowing if hops are ready to be picked requires both the feel and smell. Ripe hops will be soft and slightly damp to touch. Harvesting hops will mostly be done by hand. You can cut the vines from their trellis when most of the cones are mature. When cutting vines, first cut the lower end of the vine three feet from the ground. This helps in preventing injury to the clown and the roots.
Drying and Storage
Once your hops are picked, it is important to dry them to prevent mold or mildew from accumulating. If you choose to heat your hops to dry, you have to ensure that the temperature doesn’t exceed 140-degree F. Another method of drying is letting them dry naturally in the sun. After they are dry, you need to store them properly and moisture air and heat will reduce the quality and freshness of the hops. Hops should be stored in a cool and dry place and preferably dark places.