Information on Growing Your Own Hops
Before you read the article, check out the Growing Hops at Home video!
Upon obtaining rhizomes, they should be stored in a plastic bag slightly moistened in a refrigerator. Plant rhizomes when you know the last frost has occurred. Rhizomes should be planted vertically with the bud pointing up or horizontally about 1” below the soil. First year “baby” hops have a minimal root system and require frequent short waterings much like any baby plant. Do not over water and drown the plant. Try not to soak the vine during watering, as that will sometimes encourage diseases. Don’t expect much growth or flowers the first year because the hop is basically establishing its root system. Full growth and maximum crops of flowers will be achieved during the second and third year. You’ll also want to trim back the first three feet of leaves to ensure that no mildew will affect the rest of the plant.
Hops are aggressive growers given the right environment. It’s preferable to mulch or fertilize your hops with manure (horse or cow manure is great, just mix with soil before mulching so you don’t burn your hops) or miracle grow tomato fertilizer. If you use artificial fertilizer use it sparingly because overuse can potentially burn out the plants. They also need as much sun light as you can give them (8-12 hours is great). You can grow them vertically or horizontally. It’s easier for them to grow vertically. During peak times they can grow over 12” in one day so make sure you have enough space for them. Use strong twine or nylon string because as they get older and bigger they get heavier and need the extra support, otherwise the twine may break and the plant will fall. You’ll also want to select between 3-6 bines for growth and trim back all other bines that begin to form. Select the best looking bines in order to obtain optimal growth. When training the bines make sure you train them in a clockwise way so they grow with the sun.
Harvest usually occurs late August and early September. At maturity, the hop aroma is at its strongest and is measured by crushing a cone and smelling it. The yellow lupulin glands in the cone become much more evident and plump looking when magnified. The cone will develop a drier, papery feel and in some varieties a lighter color as it matures. Some browning of the lower bracts is a good sign of ripeness. Squeeze the cones as they develop and you will notice they become more light and resilient rather than green and hard. The actual picking is self explanatory. For a great video on harvest hops check this out: Harvesting Home Grown Hops.
Simply place in a food dehydrator or on a window screen and let them sit until dry. With the screen method sometimes it will take a few days. Periodically check by squeezing them together. When dried, place in an air tight container and freeze for best results.