How to Grow Your Own Hops
Advice fom the helpful folks at Willamette Valley Hops!
It's best to plant between March and May, but you can put your rhizomes in the ground any time of the year. If you're planting early, mulch is a good idea but do not use too much. The hop rhizome should be planted 1"-2" below the surface of the soil and it is very important to face the eyes of the rhizome in the up position. This is where the vine will actually break the surface.
When the vines break the surface, the vine will naturally tend to grow clockwise up the string or trellis. If it should happen to grow counter-clockwise, try to train it back around. Otherwise it's unlikely that the vine will follow your string.
Hop plants love natural sunlight and need as much as they can get. However, do not use reflective devices to increase heat/light. It will kill them.
- DO NOT overwater. Overwatering is the most common mistake among growers.
- Once your plants reach 7'-8' feet tall, we recommend hilling them. By hilling, we mean to just pile some additional dirt around the base of the plant. This helps maintain both moisture and temperature, as well as preventing mildew.
- The vines will continue to grow with only moderate need for fertilizer. We like the pelletized, slow-release fertilizers, and we use 16-16-16. Now don't over fertilize, but don't let them starve. We occasionally increase the nitrogen content near the end of the growing season. By this point, your hop plant will have established feeder roots and will be well on its way to finding its own water and nutrients.
- Its very unlikely, but some regions may benefit from some additional soil amendments or conditioners. You can contact your local extension service, or e-mail us for our recommendations.
- In large scale production we use preventative spraying measures for pests and bugs. These are generally aphids and spider mites. The extension service is a fantastic resource for both organic and non-organic solutions. Horticultural oils are all-natural, very effective and pretty easy to find.
- The hop plant will flower around the first of August.
- The hops - or fruit of the hop plant - will start appearing around the third week of August. Of course all of this depends on variety.
- The Willamette Valley varieties are almost always ready by the second week in September. The home grower must make the decision on this. We pick around the tenth of September because the alpha acid percentage is at its peak in our region. These are your "goodies" that will help in creating your wonderful beer. Of course we also have harvesting and weather to consider because of the amount of acres.
- There are many ways to dry your hops. Obviously we all don't have a hop dryer down the road from our house and it is likely you will have to improvise and build your own. The target moisture content is 8-10%, which is ideal for preserving the fruit acids and preventing mold. We use 150 degrees for 8-10 hours including an hour for cooling with fans on. This is with a height of 3-4 feet and a width of approximately 30' x 30' drying surface. Please do not attempt to build a dryer this big.
- When your hops are dried, seal and refrigerate. Some hops last longer than others in refrigeration. Please e-mail us with any questions you have about long-term storage.
- Your hop plant is a perennial and will provide many many years of enjoyment and yield. Over time you will be become an excellent hop grower and and your yield will increase dramatically. You will become a master of your beer!