Support For Hops Vines: Learn About Hops Plant Support
The following are some of the most common questions and concerns raised by growers regarding hops plants.
Q: What kind of soil do I need?
A: You will need good quality potting mix with organic material (peat moss, vermiculite) to make your garden grow well. You can use any type of potting mixture, but it must have lots of drainage holes. If not, the plant roots will rot and die from lack of oxygen.
Q: How much water do I need?
A: Too little water and your plants won’t get enough sunlight to survive. Too much water and your plants may drown if they fall into the pond or sinkhole you’ve dug out to build your hop yard! Watering too heavily can cause root rot, so always follow the guidelines below.
Q: Can I use plastic pots?
A: Yes, but only if you’re using them for something else besides growing hops. Plastic pots don’t hold up well to heat and sun very well, which means they’ll burn quickly if left outside all summer long. Also, since they’re made of plastic they tend to break down over time making them less durable than wooden ones.
Q: Do I need a greenhouse?
A: No, but it would help a lot. The key to successfully growing hops is to control the environment so your plants are always protected from the elements. Too much sun will burn the leaves and stunt growth. Too little water will cause root rot and a general decline in health. It’s best to give your plants plenty of TLC by giving them the right amount of water, nutrients and sunlight at the right times.
Q: What kind of fertilizer do I need?
A: Any kind will work, but you should probably go with a slow-release fertilizer for best results. Liquid fertilizers tend to burn the roots and should be used only once in a while.
Q: Do I need a trellis?
A: Yes, but you don’t necessarily need one right away. Hops plants can grow quite large during the growing season, so you may want to construct a strong trellis prior to planting your seeds. Hops plants can grow up to 15 feet high, so you’ll need something strong to support the weight of the vines.
Q: What about pests and diseases?
A: Monitor your plants regularly and remove any diseased plant parts as soon as you see them. This is especially important if you see anything that looks like powdery mildew, which is a white fungus that tends to cover the leaves early in the growing season.
The following are some helpful tips to keep in mind when planting hops.
· Buy your seeds early. This way you’ll have enough time to start them ahead of the season.
· Pick a location that gets full sun (at least 6 hours) every day. Your plants will not grow properly without adequate sunlight.
· Choose a spot that can be dedicated to your hops garden. You won’t be able to plant anything else in that spot for at least two years.
· Your plants may get as tall as 15 feet, so make sure you have room. Hops plants can also spread out 7 or 8 feet, so make sure there is room for the vines to spread out.
That’s it! If you have any more questions about growing hops, just ask!
Now that you’ve got all the basic information you need, it’s time to start making a plan. Think about where you want to plant your hops and how much room you’ll need for the trellis system. A good rule of thumb is 5 feet in each direction for your poles and then 5 to 7.5 feet between each row.
Since your crop will be growing up toward the sun and will grow longer vines, you’ll need a little more room on the sides for them to sprawl out.
Let’s do some quick math:
5 feet on each side for the poles (4 feet for the row and a foot of space on each side of the row)
x 5 (rows) = 20 feet of space for each row
20 feet x 5 (rows) = 100 feet of space for the entire garden
If your rows are going to be lined up against the house or some other solid structure, you may only need 70 feet. Even if you’re only going to have three rows, that’s still a lot of space.
Now is also the time to think about what kind of trellis system you want to build.
Will it be simple poles with strings, a more intricate system of wires and crossbars, or will you need to construct a physical wall to support the vines?
The bigger your garden gets, the more complicated (and permanent) your trellis system will become. If you’re only going to have a couple of rows, a simple string trellis with temporary poles should work just fine. If you want to expand in the future, you can always come back and re-construct it then.
Once you’ve determined how much room you’ll need and what kind of trellis system you want, mark out the area for your garden and start digging.
Once you’ve dug the area, it’s time to prepare the soil. Hops are hardy plants that thrive in most soil types, but they do have some special needs. They need a good amount of potassium to grow, so you may want to consider adding a topsoil with high levels of potassium (you can get this at most garden stores).
You’ll also want to mix in some manure or other organic matter to add nutrients. Unless you live in an area with exceptionally rich soil, it’s a good idea to build your raised beds high enough that the soil in the bottom is at least a foot higher than the top of the bed. This will allow you to plant root crops (potatoes, carrots, beets, etc) in the bottom where they can get access to the nutrients without competing with the vines.
Now that your garden is ready it’s time to think about other things you’ll need. Hops are hardy plants that can take a fair amount of abuse, but they do have their limits.
Sun: Hops need a lot of sun to grow properly so try to pick an area that gets at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. If your area doesn’t get that much sun, there are some things you can do to help it out such as building a simple frame to bank the soil creating a bit of a greenhouse effect.
Water: Despite what many people think, hops actually don’t like water on their leaves. Pick a spot where water isn’t tracked into the garden or at least isn’t a constant issue.
Protection: Although hops are generally disease and pest resistant, they can still be susceptible depending on the season and weather. If you’re having problems with pests or diseases, there are a few natural ways of combating it. First, many garden centers carry natural pesticides that can help.
Second, many herbs (especially those used for cooking) are good at repelling certain insects such as rosemary repelling moths. Finally, you can always grow some catnip. Not only will your kitty love it, it’s great at repelling all sorts of garden pests.
Seed or Plant: Once you’ve decided on all this, you have one more decision to make: starting with seeds or planting a ready-made plant. Starting with seeds is the cheapest option and there are two ways you can go about doing it. The first way is to simply plant the seeds into the ground as-is.
This is fine if you just want to try it out to see if you like it, but the downside is you won’t have enough hops for the next growing season as it takes its time to grow. The second way is to start the seeds inside a few weeks before you plant them outside in early spring. This will give them a head start and will yield enough for next year as well.
The second way is to buy plants already started. This is obviously the easiest way to go, but it’s also the most expensive. Depending on where you buy them, the initial cost can be anywhere from $3 to $15 per plant.
Once you get your plants (or seeds), you want to get them in the ground as soon as possible as they don’t like to be watered on a empty stomach.
The first year, you’ll want to keep a close eye on things. Hops are susceptible to diseases and pests that like to eat them, so if you start noticing signs of disease or pests, check your plants daily and immediately remove any leaves that show signs of damage.
As your hops grow, you want to prune out any suckers as they try to climb up the support system. When they reach the top of the trellis, you’ll want to train them to a vertical position by controlling their height and length.
Once your plants start producing cones (which can take anywhere from 2-5 years), you’re going to need to pick them daily (or at least several times a week) in order for them to achieve their full lupulin potential. Lupulin is a yellow powder found in the hops flower that is used when making beer. The more lupulin, the more bitter the beer.
There are also special ways of drying and storing your hops for later use.
So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about hops but were too afraid to ask! If you have any other questions about hops, feel free to contact us or your nearest state approved physician (look it up).
Sources & references used in this article:
Field-testing of methyl salicylate for recruitment and retention of beneficial insects in grapes and hops by DG James, TS Price – Journal of chemical ecology, 2004 – Springer
Factors of Intensification in the Hops Cluster of Chuvashia. by AI Zakharov, OV Evgrafov, DA Zakharov… – International Journal of …, 2016 – ERIC
First operating experiences with a prototype for automated attaching of the supporting strings that the hop vines grow on in high-trellis hop gardens. by Z Gobor, G Fröhlich, H Soller, J Portner – … , Automation and Precision …, 2012 – cabdirect.org
Wire network for hop-growing fields by RA Thomas – US Patent 3,585,755, 1971 – Google Patents