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Ignoring the downsides (Hops: buy vs. grow), how would one grow hops in their backyard?

I know that it grows 30 feet tall and that you cut it to the ground in the winter, but how do you get started with growing your own plants?

How long would it take and how many plants would you need if you wanted to brew one small batch of beer each year from your home grown hops?

I live in the north-east. Is it even practical here?

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I'm not sure about other complications, but I know where I live (Winnipeg, MB, Canada) it get's quite cold, but still people grow hops and now are growing enough to sell to local homebrewers. –  Nathan Koop Nov 17 '10 at 19:10

8 Answers 8

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In season, you can order Hop rhizomes (root cuttings) from several places, online, and possibly locally. I got mine from http://www.beer-wine.com/, located in Massachusetts, but they will ship them. I live in New England, so if that's Northeast enough, they grow fine here.

I ordered 4 (two each of two varieties), but only two sprouted (I think both Cascade). My fault, I suspect. These two are now more than enough for a good September/October harvest and brew session, and I usually have a gallon size freezer bag or two to share as well. The number you start with may help establish a usable vine sooner, but once one is fully grown, you'll have all the root cuttings you need to establish as big a hop garden as you need.

The proper time to plant is in the fall, about when a fully grown plant would be going dormant. They need to sit in the soil for the winter and will sprout in the spring.

The first few years there were only a few cones, but last year I harvested 3 pounds, enough for several brews. (And last year hops were at a premium due to a shortage and would sell wholesale for $26/lb!).

I have built an arbor, similar to those used to support grape vines, and train them up the trellis each spring. They grow up about 7 feet, then across the top another 5-6 feet. It's certainly not a typical way to grow hops, but it works well for me.

I had heard they could grow to 30 feet, so the first season I ran several lines of twine from the arbor to the peak of the roof, but it was completely unnecessary - a bit of pruning contains them well, and concentrates hop cones at a height I can reach to harvest.

I just moved, and have dug up several chunks of root and have transplanted them to a nice spot in the new yard near a shed. I'm hoping these sprout in the spring.

In my opinion, it's well worth growing your own.

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Sweet, thanks. I live just outside of Boston and wondered about the climate. I'm still debating if i have enough space to grow hops. –  rox0r Nov 17 '10 at 15:57

I planted one Cascade hop rhizome about 10 years ago. It takes 2-3 years before you get much of a crop. These days, after drying the hops, I average 5-7 lb. from that single plant! I grow it up a 6-8 ft. high deer fence, then laterally across the top. You plant the hop rhizomes in the spring. You can buy them many places, but I get mine from www.freshops.com . The closer you live to the 45th parallel, the better your hops will grow.

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5-7 POUNDS!?! That's amazing! I, too, have been looking into growing hops. Thanks rox0r for the question and to all of your for the answers! –  EDWF Dec 15 '10 at 17:20

I've heard of one person trying to grow a few plants he bought online as partially grown plants. UK in the mob so its hard to link you up.

You can buy the baby plants or you can buy the less developed rhysome rootlings and try to grow them. They are available to buy online.

If you can grow hops in Kent it should be possible in the north. Though I'm no expert.

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Hops will grow below the 51st parallel. I have been growing commercial hops in Manitoba (near Winnipeg) for two years now. They need lots of sunshine, lot's of moisture and lot's of compost. I am growing mine on a 12 foot trellis which seems to work just fine. Because of our cold winters I cover the crowns with straw in the late fall after the plants have frozen off for the year. In the spring I pull back the straw and use it as a mulch to keep the weeds down and conserve moisture. At present I am growing 12 different varieties. I will have rhizomes available for sale in the spring. I'm not sure what the full potential yield is per plant but I think it's safe to assume 2 pounds from a healthy mature plant.

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There are a bunch of good answers here, but I want to throw out a precaution.

Don't plant from seed.

A male plant is very difficult to get rid of, and it will spread and pollinate all of your female plants (and your neighbors if they grow hops too). I'm not sure what a pollinated hop tastes like, but I know for sure unpollinated ones are what you want.

Rhizomes or baby plants are the best way for a beginner to ensure they're planting female plants.

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I acquired some rhizomes from my local homebrew shop. Plant them in spring and watch them grow. They're vine-like so you'll need something for them to climb. They're pretty resilient and don't take much maintenance.

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I live in southern New Hampshire, and currently grow: Cascade - 4 plants, Centennial - plants, Hallerteau Mittelfruh - 2 plants, Nugget - 2 plants, Willamette - 2 plants.

Hops grow very well in the northeast. Just be sure it gets at least half a day's sun (or more).

It is important not to let them get too overgrown onto themselves, or they may harbor mites aphids or beetles. By weeding and mulching around the base, you air the plants out and discourage mold, and give space to birds and hornets/yellowjackets who will feast on any pests.

You can clone hops in the spring and in the fall. Just dig up a few inches of root to either side of a ground shoot.

In the fall, I bury the hop bines under fresh mulch. The bines will become new roots sometimes, so you can spread the plant. Don't cut the bine until it's taken root, which probably would not happen for a few months of wet weather (wait until spring).

I also grow hops along friend's property, stone walls, fences along sheds etc. I offer to eliminate some poison ivy and plant my hops, and give them some beer.

This was my 3rd year growing, and I got 4 lbs of wet hops. I used 2 pounds of that in a Wet Hop Harvest IPA, and dried out and vacuum bagged the rest.

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If you're growing from a rhizome it's going to take a couple of years until you get a good yield. Recommended to me by the head of NZHops was to actually take a clipping at the beginning of the season. If you have any hop farm nearby, they are usually more than happy to give you one.

The soil you grow it in is super important, It needs to be fairly well draining as you'll keep it well watered but they don't like swimming. I use a large pot and get a potting mix that's high in nitrates. We have some dodgy shops around that sell potting mix designed for growing weed, this works extremely well for hops.

They do grow quite high, mine usually just meet the top of my two story house. I just run a couple of strings from the pot up to the roof. But don't expect to get the same growth as at the hop farms, they are in ideal locations, and you probably aren't.

As far as what varieties you grow, you want one that will handle your weather conditions. Cascade seems to be able to handle most conditions and is probably a good start. Make sure you get a female plant.

Try and keep them shielded from the wind, if the leading tip gets bashed around too much, it will stop growing.

I let the plant grow out and once i have a couple of shoots reaching the edge of the pot, i will train those onto the string and cut the rest back.

At the end of the season, cut your shoots off at the bottom, only leave a small bit exposed. Hops have a massive amount of root growth, if you have planted in the ground, get a sharp spade and cut a circle about 30 cm radius around the plant. If you did it in a pot, like me, pull the soil out of the pot, cut the bottom half off and throw away. Replace the soil with some more high nitrate potting mix and put the hop plant and remaining half soil and root structure back on top.

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