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How to Grow Hops - A Beer Brewer's Guide to a Fabulous Hop Crop

February 01, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 140

For those who love to brew their own beer at home, growing your own hops at home may be your next thing you want to try. Not only is it fun, but it is easy and rewarding.

Where to Plant Your Hop Rhizomes

You'll want to plant your hop rhizomes in an area that has a southern exposure, full sun and good soil drainage. Lots of water and nutrients will be needed to maximize the production of your plants. Make sure the plants are separated by four or five feet and this is especially important to provide adequate space for different varieties so their root systems do not cross. You'll need a pole or trellis for the plants to climb because the vines can grow up to twenty-five feet in length. Plant them during early April and for best results periodic fertilizing will get them going faster. Water the plants every three or four days when it doesn't rain.

The Pruning and Growing Process

As soon as you have several vines sprouting up and developing, choose from the most healthy vines and cut down the remaining. You may find this hard to do because they look so beautiful, however, if you do not do this, you will end up with plenty of attractive foliage without any hops! As soon as the vines grow to six inches or more, they will need a pole, fence or something else to grow on. Use twine as well to help hold up the plants. Around mid June, the plants will likely be developing rapidly; even as much as a few inches each day! Continue to water them often, particularly whenever there's a dry time. Any additional vines growing from the root crown will need trimmed off so the plants' vigor enters into one single vine. Doing this will increase your chance of obtaining a harvest the initial year. After the plant's vines reach 10 ft in length, cut off any leaves below three feet. Also trim off any leaves that may look to have mildew or rot.

Harvesting and Storing Your Hops

When August arrives, small cones will appear on the top portion of the plant, and they will continue to grow larger. The first year, these hop cones will be 1 inch or smaller. By the end of August and into September feel the hop cones every couple of days to see if they are ready for harvest. When they change from a soft green like feel, to a dryer paper like feel, as well as the color changing to a hint of yellow, they will be ready to pick. If the tips start to turn brown pick them as soon as possible. Pick the hops directly off the vine or cut the vine down and pick them, whatever suits you best. Once picked, dry them out on a screen, such as a window screen. Do not let them sit in the bucket or they will spoil. I prefer to dry them on screens in my attic space for two to three days. The hops will feel considerably lighter and crisp when they are completely dry.

As soon as your hops are dry you'll want to make sure they are packaged so they keep their bitterness. For the best results keep them cold and remove as much oxygen from the packaging as possible. Vacuum sealers are great for this but zip lock bags can be used for short-term storage.

A Healthy Hop Crop for Years to Come

Some care will need to be taken to ensure your crop continues to yield hops for many years. Fertilize in the fall and use mulch to protect the roots over the winter. If you have not already cut off the old vine do so now, and if any new shoots have appeared you can let them grow. Once a good frost hits that will kill these shoots off. Your hops plant will go dormant during the winter time. In the Spring cultivate around the root crowns and cut away new rhizome growth. Hop plants must be contained to the original root crowns. New rhizome growth will form which will be a long slender root that contains tiny nodules which develop into new vines. Dig them up and start a new plant in a new location, discard them or better yet, give them to a friend.

During the second year new growth will appear sooner, usually in early April. This will be tough to do, but trim off the vines that begin to grow in early May. This will strengthen the plants and allow more of a crop. As the end of May approaches you should have a few nice runners coming along. Let the two best looking vines grow and produce during the 2nd year and trim the rest away. When the 3rd year rolls around, you can let 3 or 4 vines grow from each crown.

Mark Garber is owner and operator of Lancaster Homebrew in Lancaster, PA. His store carries a full line of beer and wine making equipment and supplies. Mark holds various classes and demonstrations that teach people how to homebrew. He has recently opened an on-line store at His blogs and class schedules can be found at

Source: EzineArticles
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