Alright! So you wanna grow some hops for your beer brewing? Maybe even sell some to your local brew shop? Well, don’t go thinking you can get rich off of one harvest of hops. Many people already have a lot of skin in the game. You can, perhaps, get your local brew shop to buy them and sell them for you, but it would be a good idea to check ahead of time to see how much competition you have at that particular shop. Most likely, If you don’t have at least 5 acres devoted solely to the purpose of growing, drying and packaging your hops to ensure you have a foothold in the local market, you’re not going to make a lot of money doing it, but it is still worth it to grow them if you want to live the homestead lifestyle and be 100% sustainable. Also, it’s great to grow them and throw them in your brew and make your specific brew that much more unique.
So what do we first need to know before growing hops? First of all, you need to know that I am not a botanist. I have hop plants and they grow quite nicely. I am what you call a novice, but I am what you call a master when it comes to all things chlorophyll. I have been working with and around plants and vegetables since I was about 10 years old. I love it. It is one of my many passions. The next thing you need to know is that hops are a perennial, which means you plant them once and they will come back every single year just like a tulip or a daffodil. If you don’t know what either of those are you’ll have to look them up. Unlike the tulip and daffodil though, the hop grows from what is called a rhizome, otherwise know as a root, or mass of roots. The root, or rhizome, of a hop plant stores energy in the form of starch in the fall when the plant hibernates, and then releases that energy in the spring creating fast growing vines and fast growing root systems. In this particular blog post I’m going to walk you through the simple in’s and outs of how hop plants grow. Fertilizing and harvesting and fall care we will tackle in another blog. The last thing you will need to consider before planting hops is that they will need a lot of vertical room to climb and they will need a climbing medium to climb on.
What is a climbing medium you ask? It is a thing that the plant can twirl itself around and spread itself out the way it was designed to do. If you leave it to itself with no twine or anything it will crawl on the ground and not get the proper amount of sunlight. This plant was meant to climb on other sturdier plants or rock walls. So, to give it what it has evolved to need, you must give it something to climb on.
There are about a million different climbing mediums. Everything from aircraft cable to wood trellis to aluminum castings to bike rims welded together. I have found that the most success myself and other people have had is with good old fashioned fiber binding twine. The kind they used to use to wrap up a Christmas tree.
They really don’t like anything else.
As far as planting them is concerned, you will want, at the very least, 10 inches of soil for the roots to reach downwards. And you will want a lot of room around the plant for the roots to reach outwards. Hops want to spread their root system so you’ll want to give them at least a 18 inch radius per hop rhizome when you plant.
To purchase a hop rhizome you can order them from a variety of places online. In my experience one place isn’t better than the other. Just use your best discretion. It should also be noted that you should research into what kind of hop plant you want to buy for a specific hop taste. Different hop varieties have different tastes and a good beer connoisseur can tell the difference. If you just want to get your hands dirty and grow some hops, go with cascades. Hops have very little delineation of physical appearance between varieties so one plant isn’t going to look very different from the other unless you’ve been growing them for a while.
The final thing we have to discuss is when and how deep to plant your rhizome. It would be a smart thing to check with a local plant store to make sure you are planting at the right time. I live in Ohio. The time to plant may be different if you live in Louisiana. Planting your rhizome about 3-4 inches under the top soil would be ideal, or the length of you index finger if you don’t want to use a tape measure. Remember you also need a good 10 inches under the rhizome, so you will want at least 13 inches total of soil.
So let’s recap with the 5 things you must know before planting hops.
You will be buying a rhizome, not a seed.
Hops grow from rhizomes or roots. Like bamboo, aspen trees, and hackberry.
They will need something to climb on.
Wood trellis will work, but it’s not going to be as effective as good old fashioned binding twine.
Once you plant them they will grow back every year.
Hops are perennials, meaning they grow like daffodils or tulips, but they don’t have a bulb, they have a rhizome.
Be sure to plant the rhizome at the proper time.
You have to check with your local garden shop to get a good idea when to plant.
The rhizome will want to spread out as much as it wants to reach down.
Hops want to spread their rhizomes out to produce new shoots. Be sure to give them plenty of horizontal room to grow as much as vertical depth in the soil.
Best of luck to you in all you endeavors!