Hop Growing is rewarding, but requires some attention. Follow these simple steps and you should have fantastic first year growth.
1. For best results start your rhizome in a 1 gallon container. Use a good quality, well draining potting soil. In particular a soil higher in perlite will drain better and offer less chance of rot. Keeping in mind that better drainage means less water retention. In other words, when the plant does start growing rapidly it will have less "reserve" of something to drink. A Good Watering Rule of thumb is: ( Water with 1/3 or 33% of container size). 1 gallon size container = 1 quart or 32 oz of Water
2. Wait. Once you water you will probably not need to water for a week or so. Maybe more. Take note of how heavy the soil container is when watered it. Be careful not to over water initially. 3. Keep moist, but not drenched.. I know we keep bringing it up, but more people kill their rhizome by rotting than anything. In other words it gets "drowned" by too much water. Too much water displaces the Oxygen in the soil, preventing the plant/rhizome from breathing)
4. Fertilize and Cultivate your hops. Hop Cultivation involves maintaining the soil above the plant as well. Scratch the soil with your fingers, a small rake or hoe. Don't go too deep. 1/4" to 1/2" is plenty. Just get the weeds away from the crown (plant), and help keep the soil open to water and air. Cultivation is important for all plants.
Hop Fertilizer Recommendations
One of the most frequently asked question regarding hop production is: What fertilizer to use? In general, hops are strong plants and a successful harvest is much more dependent on genetics and growing conditions rather than what type of fertilizer is used.
We have found the following fertilizers to be the best combination of efficacy and cost: 13-2-13, 15-5-15, and 20-10-20. Try to avoid fertilizers that are high in Phosphorous (middle number) relative to the other elements. This prevents stretchy, soft growth.
Culturally, the best way to apply liquid fertilizer is at a low rate (such as 100ppm Nitrogen) with every irrigation. However, this is not practical for most people who will often feed with a higher rate (200-300ppm Nitrogen) followed by two or three clear water irrigations.
For those wanting to top-dress a granular or slow-release fertilizer: follow the directions on the bag for tomato growing and that is generally a ball-park rate that works well for hops too.
is best to put something the hop bine will climb. The plant does not do
well if there is nothing to climb. Train by coiling the bines
clockwise. Counter clockwise will not work. Contrary to popular belief
the coiling is a product of growth and NOT the movement of the sun.
When the potted plant starts to wilt or if the soil container feels "light" it may be time to up pot or go to the ground. When
you are watering your plant every 2 days to maintain moisture you
should transplant into the ground.
Some other things to consider.
handle your rhizomes taking care to not break any of the eyes. If you
do, don't worry, it happens. A new one will grow back.
Plant in Spring time (March to mid-June depending on local climate).
When deciding a location to plant your hop rhizome, keep in mind they are a vigorous plant. Hops will climb 20+ feet high.
The soil should be examined. A deep sandy loam is most desirable. Poorly draining, soils low in ph or saline soils should be avoided.
Absorption of water and nutrients through the roots. Vital for plant growth.
Transpiration (process of water is evaporated through leaves) helps plant take in minerals from soil and sustain other life functions. Water is essential.
Photosynthesis (make sure the plant has plenty of light!)
If you've decided you need mulch, find a good quality. Don't to your local superstore and buy the cheapest stuff they have, it's not worth it. Buy something made in your state or a reputable brand.
If using mulch or sand you'll want a big enough hole to allow back fill. In the end, the rhizome should be planted vertically 1" - 1.5" inches below the surface.
Be sure when planting, the eyes of the rhizome are pointing UP. Very important! This will ensure they will break the soil.
Hops will mature and be ready for harvest in mid-August to September. If these are first_year hops, expect a small harvest. They use most of their energy developing their root system which makes it difficult for the cones to reach their peak yield. Expect a full harvest in second year hop gardens. Do not pick cones too early because they will be deprived of the full potential for brewing. A ripe, mature cone will be springy, dry and sticky to the touch, have a strong hop odor and a visible thick yellow substance known as lupulin. A cone that has not quite reached maturity will feel moist and stay compressed when squeezed. There will also be no visible yellow powder. When a cone has passed this test, cut it vertically and inspect the inside. It should be full of a yellow sticky substance. Now is the time to harvest.
Harvest can be done two different ways; picking by hand or cutting down the vines. Be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves during harvest. Hops have hooked hairs that may cause a skin rash.
When harvesting by cutting down the vines, wait until most of the cones are ripe and cut the vines two to three feet from the ground. This prevents injury to the roots and crown. Then the cones are hand picked off the vines. Dispose of the vine by burning or using for a craft project. After brewing, do not mulch the cones or leave around dogs. There have been reported cases of dogs having a toxic reaction after from ingesting hops. Death may result. Cones can be picked by hand from the vine as they mature. Since cones mature at different rates, this will require multiple harvests.
Drying Your Hops
After harvest, hops must be dried. Use a food dehydrator, oven, window screen or home-made dryer. Remember, good airflow is very important and the temperature of the dryer must not exceed 140 degrees F. If using a window screen, spread hops out evenly and place screen off the ground in an enclosed area free of wind, light and bugs. The hop cones must be turned daily. This process should take two to three days. When the hops are dried completely and properly, they will be springy to the touch and the yellow lupulin will fall off easily. Check the central stem. It should break not bend. It is very important that the hops are thoroughly dry before storage because they can become moldy, wilted, or even rancid and cannot be used for brewing.
Storage and Keeping Your Hops Fresh
To store hops, place them into a plastic freezer bag or a food saver bag. Once sealed and labeled store in the freezer. Never thaw then refreeze hops as it can compromise their quality and freshness.