We get a number of people asking in-person and on social media about how to grow their very own backyard hops, so here are a few tips to get you started.
Hops are not terribly picky about where they can grow, but there certainly are places where they grow best. Hop, or humulus lupulus – try saying that 3 times really fast – is grown in the northern temperate regions of North America and Europe. In the past hops plantings were wide spread across South-Western Ontario . While we have one twitter follower that plans to experiment with growing hops north of the 60th parallel, our growing tips are for those of us residing in warmer parts of Canada where we get 120 frost-free days or more in a year.
Step One: Getting your beerly paws on rhizomes
The best place to find a reputable seller for home-growing is asking folks in homebrew forums or getting in touch with your local homebrew supplier. Keep in mind that getting rhizomes across the border would be rather difficult so stick with Canadian suppliers. Choosing one or two varieties is a good start for a home hop garden.
Step Two: Find out what kind of soil you have in your yard
Ideally, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic (PH ~6.0) is well enjoyed by hop plants. Here in Norfolk County, we typically have sandy loam, which is fantastic for drainage. If you’re stuck with soil that doesn’t drain well, it can be amended by mixing in some peat moss and plant material compost with lots of elbow grease. Soil conditions will also improve in subsequent seasons if you’re actively growing plants in the plot.
Step Three: Setting up a trellis or locating a fence for the vines
Set up the trellis before you plant the rhizomes so you don’t disturb the roots. If you don’t like getting telemarketers calling you at dinner time then you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the hop plants will feel if you start hammering poles into the ground next to them.
Step Four: Plant, Water, and Watch them Grow
Once the threat of frost is over, you can plunk them into the ground. The buds on the rhizomes should be point up or horizontally and be 1” under the soil. They need plenty of water and fertilizer because they get big, really big. So water often and before the sun is at its peak so they it doesn’t evaporate too quickly. Once the vines sprout, make sure they are on the trellis and not touching the ground.
Step Five: Harvest, baby, Harvest
This is the best part. When the cones are papery and dry to the touch, harvest with small scissors. If you only harvest ripe cones, you can get a harvest every other week. While we have machines to help us harvest the acres, there is something serene about getting up with the sunrise and hand picking the cones – we would do it by hand if we could.
Are you thinking about growing hops? Which varieties are you going to grow? Let us know in the comments.