If you enjoy brewing your own beer, you might want to consider growing your own hops. These hardy, perennial plants sprout with little difficulty from a rhizome, or root, producing annual vines that can grow 25 feet high in a single season. According to the Brew Your Own website, you can grow hops successfully in the South, but you should locate them so that they receive sun in the morning and are shaded in the hottest part of the day. Modern American hybrids, such as Cascade and Nugget, are particularly good choices for Southern hops growers. By following some simple gardening techniques, you can expect to see a good harvest of home-grown hops the second year after planting.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- 16-foot trellis, or sturdy strings on hooks
- Soil testing kit (optional)
- Pruning shears or scissors
- Commercial fungicide containing copper hydroxide
Select a site for your hops. Beyond the need for morning sun and afternoon shade, you will need loamy, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 8.0. At least 16 feet of vertical space must be available, as hops grow by climbing; you can use a trellis or a series of sturdy strings hooked to a wall. You must also allow 5 feet of horizontal space for every hop rhizome you plan to plant. Because of potential problems caused by sprawling vines, there shouldn't be any electrical wires nearby.
Perform a soil test--or take a sample to your local county extension office--to determine levels of potassium, phosphates and nitrogen. If the soil is deficient in any of these nutrients, amend it accordingly. Hops need high levels in order to thrive.
Install the trellis before planting the rhizomes. If you have chosen a planting site next to a wall, install the hooks and the strings for the hops to twine around. Make sure whatever support system you use is secure--each vine can weigh up to 9.07 Kilogram.
Plant the rhizomes in the early spring by digging a hole deeper than the length of the rhizome, and placing the rhizome in it with the white buds pointing upwards. Pack the soil around the rhizome so that the white buds, or potential shoots, are about 2 inches below the soil surface.
Water thoroughly, and continue to give frequent waterings throughout the growing season.
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to conserve moisture and protect the rhizomes.
Wrap the hop vines around the support system--whether trellis or strings--when they are 1 foot long. Pick the strongest shoots, and trim the weakest ones off at ground level; this will force the energy of the rhizome into the hardier shoots.
Continue to trim your hop plants to 2 or 3 shoots per vine every few weeks to avoid tangles.
Watch for downy mildew by checking for curled leaves with silvery upper surfaces and black undersides. According to the Brewing Techniques website, you can control downy mildew by spraying with a fungicide containing copper hydroxide (see References 1).
Harvest the mature hop cones in late summer when they are dry to the touch, springy, and leave yellow powder on your fingers. The first season, the harvest will be very small. The following year, however, your vines should produce abundant hop cones.
Tips and warnings
- Read labels carefully and follow directions exactly when using fungicide.
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