Hop Growing Update

Tettenang Hop Vine
Tettenang Hop Vine
Cones on the Vine
Cones on the Vine

Since I last posted about growing hops, the Tettenang hops continued to flourish.  There were enough ripe cones that this past weekend, I brewed a German Fresh Hop Ale (Harvest Ale) using 2.5 oz of fresh Tettenang hops, picked off the vine Saturday morning.  It should be ready within the next couple of weeks, and I’m excited to try it!

Did you grow hops this year?  What was your result?

Hop Growing Update

Yesterday I successfully put up my second hop trellis, for the Cascade hop bed and two Hallertau hop beds, bringing the total hop beds to six.  The two Hallertau beds used the “Jumbo” rhizomes from Freshops.

When I previously bought hop rhizomes, I got the standard size, but after seeing the viability of the Jumbo varieties (it looked like a small tree trunk), I would definitely recommend buying the jumbo rhizomes from Freshops.  In both cases, the rhizomes have vines over a foot tall within a few weeks.

As for the other three beds (Golding, Tettenang, and Willamette), I have one Tettenang hop vine that has already reached the top, and is about a foot above the trellis!

Stay tuned for updates, and I’ll see if I can snap a few photos of the setup, too.

Today I Hate Squirrels

Today during lunch, I dug through my recently planted Cascade hops, and I had a disconcerting find.  One of my rhizomes was missing.  At first, I thought I may have missed it, so I dug through the soil again, and couldn’t find it.

At this point, I thought about when I had last checked the rhizomes.  It was Saturday evening, and everything was good.  With both of the rhizomes, I took a couple of the sprouts and placed them above ground to reach the sun, to hopefully kick-start the growth cycle.  Perhaps the birds thought it was a worm and grabbed it out of the ground.  Then I remembered the dreaded squirrels liked to dig through my soil, mentioned in my last hops growing article.

I searched the yard, about 10-15 feet from the bed, and found the rhizome.  It had been split in half and chewed, most likely by squirrels.  I was devastated.  I decided to first soak what was left of the rhizome in some water, then buried the halves in the soil.  To try and repel the squirrels, I spread black pepper and cayenne pepper over the beds.

So, let’s hope for the best so the rhizome will grow, and today I hate squirrels.

Growing Hops in Iowa Part 2 – The Beginning

Early Hop Plant
Early Hop Plant

As you bring out your green thumb and decide to plant your own hops, here are the things you need to get started:

  1. Hop Rhizomes (obviously)
  2. A trellis system for the hops to climb
  3. Dirt (another obvious item)
  4. Protection from critters (this is optional, but I found out quickly that squirrels like to dig in the loose soil)

Let’s start by discussing each item one by one.  First, hop rhizomes are a section of the root of another hop plant.  What’s nice about rhizomes is they shoot off additional rhizomes each year, and those offshoots can be dug up and replanted, or given to friends.  As a matter of fact, that’s how the original rhizomes are harvested, and each one is genetically identical to the parent.  Each year around February or March, many homebrewing stores sell rhizomes to plant.  Unfortunately, if you miss this window, you may need to wait until next year to obtain a rhizome.  If you remember from my previous article on growing hops, last year I purchased Goldings, Tettenang, and Willamette hop varieties.  This year, I expanded my hop selection to five by also purchasing Hallertau and Cascade.  As of right now, the Tettenang hops are growing very well, and a couple of bines are over 2 foot tall.  I just planted the two new varieties this evening, but have heard good stories about how well Cascade hops grow in the Midwest.

Tying Up Hop Strings
Tying Up Hop Strings on the Trellis

Now that you’ve obtained the hops, the next step is to build some kind of a trellis system for the hops to grow.  There are numerous designs available, but, from the photo, you can see that I went with PVC pipes.  I found this design on the internet, but have had a hard time finding it again.  If you want details, let me know.

Each one is spaced 8 feet apart, and the PVC is 10+ feet high.  I have three eyelets for each vertical pipe, spaced 2-3 feet apart, screwed into the top pipe, and have strings tied to each eyelet.  Then, on the ground, I have a spike I tie the strings to.

The reason I went with this design is that if you notice at the bottom of the pipes there is a dark gray pipe sunk into the ground.  It is a bit larger in diameter than the white pipes, and each white pipe slides into the gray pipe.  This allows me to remove the white PVC pipes and store them for the winter with only the dark gray pipes staying outside all year.

Now that we have the rhizomes and the trellis, we need to plant.  You can simply place the rhizomes into the dirt and allow them to grow, or you can make the soil more hospitable.  For the most part, there are few nutrients needed, but I dig a hole and use garden soil or potting soil.  Some folks use regular soil mixed with manure.  I also use a liquid fertilizer.  Because the soil is loose to allow for water drainage, it’s advisable to put a fence around it to keep the local squirrels and chipmunks from digging in the dirt, thinking they left nuts from the winter buried in your hop bed.

So, that’s about all you need to plant hops.  They are hardy plants that just need a little attention and patience, and with time, you will have your own hops.  Look for my progress updates as growing season progresses.

What’s your experience with growing hops?  Have you had success where you live?

Growing Hops in Iowa

Tying Up Hop Strings
Tying Up Hop Strings

It’s about that time of year again, when the snow melts, and the growing season begins.  If you have home brewed for a while, you may ask yourself, “What’s the next step?”

The easy answer is growing your own hops!  Hops are a hearty plant that thrive between the 30th and 50th parallels, which is roughly between the panhandle of Florida and just north of the great lakes.  Anywhere in this area can do well growing hops.

In the past, hops have been grown in several US regions.  Originally, many of the hop fields were in New York until several diseases ruined the crops.  The hop growing then continued west, occurring in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states, until several different diseases destroyed the crops in the Midwest.  Now, most of the hops grown in the US are in the states of Oregon and Washington, although many areas can support hop growing.  In fact, one Iowa farmer has grown hops outside the town of Oxford.

Hops are perennial plants, and usually take at least a year to develop and produce hop cones, the parts used in beer-making.  For example, last year I planted three types of hop rhizomes: Goldings, Tettenanger, and Willamette.  By the end of the growing season, despite my anticipation, I did not harvest a single hop cone.  Because it usually takes a year to establish, I have high hopes for this year.  In addition to these three types, this year I also plan on planting Cascade and Hallertau types of hops for the first time.  The description of each of these types of hops can be found on the home brew wiki.

In a future installment, I will describe what needs to be done to grow hops.

Have you tried to grow hops?  What’s your experience?