This past year, I grew hops in containers and had great results. I noted every step along the way to share with you how to plant rhizomes, prepare the soil, growing and pruning tips, when and how to harvest, and curing and storing tips. Be sure to stick around to the end, where I share some lessons learned so you can grow more hops.
The thing you’ll need to decide when planting hops is to either use rhizomes or hop plants. Rhizomes are the small roots that are cut from the main root stem of a mature female hop plant. You also can purchase hop plants.
You also can purchase hop plants. These have already started growing and will give you a head start. However, they are about double the cost of rhizomes.
The hot variety that I chose to grow was cascade hop. This is a popular variety. But one thing to know is there are many varieties that are actually proprietary. This means that you need to be licensed in order to grow them. Some of those include Amarillo or Citra.
When receiving your rhizomes you want to put them in a plastic baggie with a moist towel and place them in the fridge. This helps keep them moist until you’re ready to start planting.
Where can you grow hops?
Well, today 75% of hops grow in the United States are grown in eastern Washington in a place known as Yakima Valley. However, Hops can grow well in grow zones three to eight.
Hops thrive at temperatures between 40 to 70 degrees. Hops are susceptible to frost so you want to plant them out a couple of weeks before your last frost date. Vine plants or Hops can grow extremely tall anywhere from 15 to 25 feet. They like full sun to partial shade.
I’ll show you what I did to devise a trellis to help them grow up the side of my house.
So let’s first start with what pots I used in the soil. I decided to use containers because I didn’t have a permanent location for them yet in a garden.
Preparing the soil to grow hops
Hops have extremely large root systems. They’ll grow very deep roots. So you want to make sure you have a large enough pot. I use 15-gallon buckets that are leftover from landscaping trees.
I First filled the bucket up about 75% with compost, followed by perlite for aeration, then vermiculite to keep the soil moist, and topped it off with a little bit of Azomite to help provide trace minerals which are totally optional. Mix well, and then add water.
Now for planting, on the rhizome root, you’ll notice that you’ll have nodes. This is where the plant will start to sprout.
Plant it a few inches into the soil with the nodes facing up. Keep the soil moist. After a few weeks, they’ll start to sprout shoots.
I put bamboo sticks into the pot and trained the shoots up the bamboo stick by wrapping them around the bamboo. Trim to only three shoots per plant.
I Then screwed hooks into the eaves of my home and ran garden jute from the hooks down to the buckets and then trained the vines from VAM boost onto the string. I also trimmed some of the sides shoots similar to as you would with tomatoes on the bottoms of the vine to promote vertical growth.
Watering requirements to grow hops
The watering strategy I used for these hops was to ensure that the soil did not dry out. The pots that I used had drainage holes in the bottom. I suggest looking at your pot and making sure that it has drainage holes and if it doesn’t drill holes into the bottom of the pot. This would prevent over-watering, having the roots sit in Excess moisture which could lead the roots to rot.
In July I started to have mini hop cones form, which was really exciting. Up until now, I had not fertilized these plants. But I thought this was a good time to add additional compost and side rest the plants to add additional nutrients to help promote further growth.
I Just simply added it to the top of the pots and spread it out accordingly. So when you’re making your initial mix make sure that you leave some room in the pot. So you can top dress later in the season.
In Mid-September some of the hops are ready for picking now.
It’s extremely important to know well when the right time to pick the hops is and this can be tricky. But one of the key indicators is that the outer leaves start to turn brown and When you roll them between your fingers, they’ll sound crunchy.
Another indicator is to pull apart the comb and make sure that there’s a yellow resin in the lupulin glands. lupulin glands contain the resins and oils of which most brewers are looking for when making beer.
There’s a magnitude of chemicals present as glands. The three main ones are alpha, betta acids along essential oils.
If you don’t use your hops right away you’ll need to properly store them. The way to do this is to dehydrate them I use a herb and spice dehydrator. I set it at 95 degrees and laid out two hops on each of the trays.
Dehydrating is not the only method you can use to dry them out. You could also use methods such as putting them on a window screen and running a box pan underneath them.
I ran the dehydrator overnight for about eight to nine hours. After the dehydrating process, I put them into a plastic bag Squeezed out as much air as possible, and put them into the freezer to store them.
They should stay fresh in the freezer for about a year and then decrease potency as time goes on.
So let’s talk about some things that I could have done better. Some lessons learned to help you.
Lessons Learned (Apply these lessons to grow better hops)
Now one thing to note I’m really happy with my results. The first year most of the energy growing the plant is going into growing the root system. So the first year you’re not going to have a really big harvest.
In the subsequent years, you’ll have more and more of a larger harvest. Stop being said I still think there is some room for improvement in my process.
So let’s talk through those:
- I would have increased the pot size from 15 gallons to over 20 gallons. I noticed that some of the roots were hitting the bottom of the pot.
- Experimenting a little bit with providing some liquid soluble fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Specifically earlier on the growing season. I think this would have given the plants a head start and made nitrogen quickly accessible to the plants.
- Try hop plants. I think trying hop would have given me more of a head start on the season. As opposed to the rhizomes. The rhizomes took several weeks to sprout.
- Lastly, I probably would have started with more than two plants. So I could have a larger initial harvest and Larger harvesters the following year.
Hope you found this article helpful. If you did, please comment down your questions and share.