Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Growing Hops at Home

This Spring, one of the gardening projects I took on was to plant some hops rhizomes in the backyard. There's a part of me that is seriously considering making the investment and starting a small hopyard - there is a shortage of hops in general and it also would be amazingly cool to drink a beer that had been made with my hops.

Hops Varieties

I had built 2 raised beds along my fence, which had plenty of sun and also 2 trees at each end that I could incorporate into a temporary trellis system. I ordered 3 varieties of hops from a seller on eBay: Amalia, Glacier, and Nugget. Unfortunately, he wasn't trustworthy and only sent the two latter varieties. I planted those and then worked on getting my money back (hops rhizomes aren't cheap!). After I got that mess sorted out, I ordered the Magnum variety from another seller. This one also delayed shipping, but ultimately I got the rhizome and got it into the ground. It's growth is clearly several weeks behind, but it's not that important this year anyway.

My trellis system is quite simple - I put in eye hooks into the two trees that are at opposite ends of the raised beds. Between the two trees I've stretched clothes line, then dropped Natural Sisal Bundling Twine for the bines to attach to. Even though they look like vines and act like vines, hops shoots are actually called bines with a "B." Vines use tendrils to attach themselves to a support, while bines have stiff "hairs," hence the use of rough coir or similar twine to give the bines somewhere to stick to. We'll see if the clothesline is strong enough to support the bines as they get heavier - the benefits are the low cost (I already had the clothes line), the ease of putting it up, and the ease of bringing it down for whatever reason.

Simple hop trellis

All three rhizomes have sent out bines. I've begun to train them onto the twine in a clockwise fashion, which is the direction hops bines naturally grow. "The rotation of the shoot tip during climbing is autonomous and does not (as sometimes imagined) derive from the shoot's [sic] following the sun around the sky – the direction of twist does not therefore depend upon which side of the equator the plant is growing." (Wikipedia)

If I do expand on this initial planting, I'll look into planting actual plants and not using the rhizomes. Hops are susceptible to a variety of ailments and apparently rhizomes are a good way to spread them around.

I'll write up part II of Growing Hops at home at the end of the season or maybe earlier if it seems worthwhile.

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