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 can also 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 hop variety that we choose to grow was a 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.
For more relevant information on hops check our Growing Hops and the Beer Industry.
How to grow hops
When receiving your rhizomes you want to put them in a plastic bag with a moist towel and place them in the fridge. this helps keep them moist until you are ready to start planting. Today 75% of hops grow in the US are grown in eastern Washington. In a place known as Yakima Valley. However, hops can grow well in growing zones 3 to 8. Hops thrive at temperatures between 40 to 70 F.
They are susceptible to frost so you want to plant them out a couple of weeks before your last frost date. Hops are vine plants that can grow extremely tall. they like full sun to partial shade. Hops have extremely large root systems. They’ll grow very deep roots.
First, fill the bucket up about 75% compost. Followed by perlite for aeration. Then vermiculate to keep the soil moist. And top it off with a little bit of azomite to help provide trace minerals. Mix well and then add water. For planting, on the rhizomes root, you’ll notice that you’ll have nods. This is where the plant will start to sprout. Plant it a few inches into the soil with the nods facing up. Keep the soil moist. After a few weeks, they’ll start to sprout shoots.
Important things to know
The pots that we used had drainage holes in the bottom. Soon we started having mini hop cones. For fertilization just add additional compost to the top of the posts and spread it out. It’s extremely important to know well when the right time to pick hops is. This can be tricky but one of the key indicators is that the outer leaves start to turn brown. Another indicator is to pull apart the comb and make sure that there are yellow resins and oils in the loop.
Loop line glands contain the resins and oils more brewers are looking for when making beer. There’s a magnitude of chemicals present. The three main ones are alpha, beta acids along essential oils. If you don’t use hops right away you’ll need to properly store them. The way to do this is to dehydrate them. you could also use methods as putting them on the window screen.
The first year you’re not going to have a really big harvest. In the subsequent years, you’ll have larger harvests. We recommend increasing the pot size from 15 gallons to over 20 gallons. You might want to experiment with providing some liquid soluble fertilizer such as fish emulsion specifically earlier on the growing season. This would give the plants a head start.