How to plant, grow and harvest organic hops — the brewer’s favorite aromatic plant!
For millennia, hops have been vital to one of the United States’ favorite hobbies: beer brewing! A fragrant perennial belonging to the Cannabaceae family, The balls are a type of bine, climbing vertical surfaces using stiff hairs with circular growth. The northern part of the hemisphere hops develop in a clockwise direction.
Hops are produced by rhizomes, a sub-ground root mass that binds the well and absorbs the water and nutrients needed for photosynthesis. Rhizomes also function as a source of energy for the hop plant.
Apart from the harvesting of hops to use in the production of beer, hop shoots are great additions to stir-fries, salads, or salads. Be cautious not to pick too many leaves, which can impede plant production.
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Harvesting Hops
- Plant hop rhizomes under full sunshine
- Plant in well-drained loose soil with an acidity of 6-8
- Plan at minimum 10-20′ of vertical climb space, with a sturdy support such as the Trellis
- Plant similar cultivars that are 3 feet apart. different cultivars spaced 5′ away
- Do not overwater. Water in the early morning so the plant doesn’t dry out during the day.
- In spring, prune the shoots to improve hardiness and vigor
- Fertilize by adding plenty of phosphorous and potassium
- Harvest at first brown and papery. Keep in a calm and dark location
BUILD YOUR SOIL
Planet Natural offers the organic supplements your plants need to flourish.
Eric Vinje founded Planet Natural with his dad Wayne’s help in 1991. They started the company running the business as a grasshopper bait online business from an unfinished garage.
Eric has now retired. However, he is a well-known gardener renowned for composting, gardening, and insect control skills. He uses non-pesticide options, including beneficial insects.
Eric believes that if you do something good for the environment, its effects will benefit future generations.
How to Plant
The choice of site will determine the success or failure of the growth of your hops. Hops like six to eight hours of sun each day. A southern exposure is the best. However, locations facing west and east are also productive. Pick sites that are shaded to avoid wind-related damage.
Plant hops that have 10-15 feet of climbing space and are near the vertical structure of support like fencing, Trellis, or a building. Rope or twine can also be used to secure wells. Plants are heavy and, therefore, ensure that the cord is tied.
Rhizomes can withstand early frosts in spring and should be established as soon as the soil can work. Mulching your hop hill offers extra protection for the rhizomes against frigid temperatures in spring. Established rhizomes can tolerate deep winter freezes.
The soil used for hops must be porous, soft, and well-draining. Standing water can cause mold and root rot. Select a naturally mounded site or create a “hill” a few inches tall with sandy soil to ensure adequate draining for the balls. Maintain a pH range of 6-8.
Before planting, prepare an 8-inch trench using a cottonseed mix, compost, bone meal, or phosphate (read our article Preparing Garden Soil to learn more). Place rhizomes horizontally into the trench. Cover by 1″ of dirt. Refrigerate rhizomes until planting.
To avoid the crowding spread, plant similar cultivars 3 feet apart and other cultivars 5 feet away. Plants in a crowd are more prone to mold and pest infestations but aren’t as productive and may cause shade damage to the plant. If the vines are strung together or crowded, they may be too close to each other. Growing in containers for hops is not recommended due to the risk of crowding.
The overwatering of hops is the main reason for the failure of hop wells, particularly for the first year plants with a weak root structure and use less water than later seasons crops. It is essential to let the soil dry between irrigations. The early morning watering allows plants to dry out during the day, preventing decay and mold.
Training, Pruning and Fertilizing
Hops can increase by up to 2 feet per week during the late spring and early summer. As they expand, wrap wells with supports on the vertical side to encourage upright growth and ensure proper spacing. The change will slow down at mid-summer when plants begin flowering.
After the first year of plant growth, reduce the first set of shoots each spring and trim the second group of nodes back to the highest 3-4 wells. These shoots are more durable and will result in more robust plant growth. During the growing season, trim any subsequent shoots away at the base of the plant, directing energy to the well.
Please use organic fertilizers to maintain the quality of hops and their production. Alongside nitrogen for growing plants in a green, leafy manner, jumps require a substantial quantity of potassium and mineral phosphorous to make high-quality hops. Fertilize using a high phosphorous content that is twice the nitrogen content. Trace minerals like manganese, iron, and boron can also be beneficial to the growth of plants. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers can encourage plant growth but also cause a decrease in cone alpha acid levels, which can affect the quality of brews.
Harvest and Storage
Harvest hops before the first frost of autumn in the late summer or early September, when the aroma is most intense. Balls are ready for harvest when cones appear brown and papery, and the petals start to break off. When the balls are ready to harvest, the lupulin gland will be sticky and yellow when the cone has been broken open. Ensure the cones are fully ripe before harvesting to ensure the beer’s full strength and color.
Harvest the plants at the well’s end first, then move to the rhizome. When the hops are harvested, and the well starts to die, the sap flows down to the rootstock for winter storage.
Two essential elements are required to dry hops: air circulation and. Cones can dry on screens outside in the sun, inside an old brown paper bag, by shaking it regularly, using an appliance to dry food, or in the oven at lower temperatures. Hops are dry when the cone’s stem is soft and easily broken. Be cautious not to dry too much, as this can reduce alpha acid levels and impact the beer’s brewing.
The hops are kept from oxygen and heat to prolong the shelf lifespan. Cones can be held in the fridge for several months or frozen in bags for up to one year.
Insect & Disease Problems
The mildew that causes powdery mold can impact yield and cone quality. The symptoms of powdery mildew can be specific to cultivars. Copper-based fungicides and sulfur organically fight powdery mildew. Get rid of the affected leaves and throw them in the trash – don’t compost or store them near your yard.
Aphids and spider mites are typical hop pests treated using insecticidal soaps, oils, and beneficial insects.