Hops Update

Guest post from Tom, talking about the hops.

Back in March I built four planters for our back patio, with a plan to grow some hops and possibly provide some shade. I got some Cascade hops rhizomes from Ruby at the Institute of Urban Homesteading, and ordered more Cascade, Northern Brewer, and Centennial rhizomes online.

All of the rhizomes have produced a fair amount of growth in their first year. I think we were all a little dubious when we saw exactly how tall our 10' electrical conduit trellis is, but earlier in the spring the hops were growing prodigiously, with the Cascade ordered online winning the race to the top.

 Up and over

Up and over

Since then, things have been a little more mixed. So far, we've gotten hop cones just from that one Cascade planter. I keep looking at the other plants to see if I can see beginning signs of cones, but so far, no dice.

 Cascade hop cones

Cascade hop cones

Then, about two weeks ago, we had a prolonged hot spell, and that almost did in some of the plants. A lot of newer growth withered on the vine in what seemed like a matter of hours, and it was fairly upsetting. We've done some profuse watering and significant pruning since then, and the plants are looking better now, but we lost a lot of growth.

Many of the hop cones on the Cascade plants dried up in this hot spell, so I went ahead and harvested a bunch. You're supposed to dry out the cones before storing them, but these had pretty much dried out with that hot spell, so i just put them into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. It took a lot of cones to come up with an ounce (a standard 5-gallon batch of beer will take anywhere between 3 and 7 ounces). I think I'll try using them in my next batch. They smell right, but given the hot spell, I'm not sure if they should have been more fragrant. We've still got some cones growing, so I'm hoping for another harvest at some point.

 I swear, officer, it's my friend's bag

I swear, officer, it's my friend's bag

While we did get plants up and over the 10' trellis, from a shade perspective, the plants did not grow enough to provide sufficient shade by the time we got summer heat. 

While I'm hopeful to get more growth and cones this year, I'm already looking forward to a few things I'll try differently next year:

  • While it's hard, I think I need to be more aggressive in pruning some of the early growth. I really should have trimmed down to just 1-2 vines per rhizome, but I didn't. I think we'd get taller and more robust growth with more aggressive pruning. The parts of the vines that really got hit with the hot spell were the newer, thinner growth.
  • Because the rhizomes are growing in planters and not in the ground, I think they're more susceptible to heat and evaporative losses. Mulching the planters early would have helped with that.
  • I drew up plans for a wooden arbor that uses the planters as anchors, but then decided that it was too costly a project to undertake this year. Having an arbor like this, with vines growing up, would look nice and provide the shade we need.