Entering my fourth year of growing backyard hops, I don’t consider myself an expert but I have produced healthy and happy mature hops (2015 yield: 8lbs of Cascade from one plant). When we started growing hops, I found that it was difficult to find a source with basic information hence, this piece (you’re welcome). [Editor’s note: Rebecca Kneed at Left Fields has written a manual aimed more at commercial hop farming http://homebrewing.org/assets/images/PDF/HopsManual.pdf]
Order your rhizomes early (Feb/Mar) to ensure that you get your desired plants when they are ready for shipping (usually late April). Consider buying hop twine to support your bines as the twine will support 100lbs and mature plants are very heavy. One good wind storm and your precious hops could come tumbling down. Sources for ordering rhizomes in Canada include Hops Connect (BC), Left Fields/Crannóg Ales (BC), Prairie GEM Hops (MB), Clear Valley Hops (ON) and Four Horses (NS).
Depending on your region, your rhizomes should arrive in late April/early May. Planting isn’t onerous but you need to follow some key steps to give your rhizome(s) the best chance of survival such as:
- Keep your rhizome moist until ready to plant;
- Plant when there is no chance of frost;
- Select a spot where there is a lot of sun – southern exposure is preferred by your hoppy little friends;
- The planting area should have a trellis or hop twine secured for the climbing wonder to reach up to 25 feet;
- Your hops can start growing vertically then move horizontally along your trellis/twine, if needed. We have our hop twine secured to the roof (20’) and they grew over 24’ last year;
- Prepare the soil by digging a hole about 1 foot deep and 1 foot in diameter – fill the hole with fresh top soil, compost and peat moss;
- Plant the rhizomes approximately five (5) feet apart to give the roots ample space to grow;
- Plant your rhizome 1-2” deep horizontally with the root side down and bud(s) pointing up;
- Water the area daily to keep the rhizome moist but not soaked;
- Now wait patiently for about two weeks for your new baby to poke through!