How to Grow Hops Diary

Hops Cones Ripe

About Growing Hops in Your Garden

There are many reasons to grow hops plants. You might grow them because you are a homebrewer. Or, perhaps as a cash crop. For many gardeners, it’s the challenge of growing something they’ve never grown before. Maybe you’re growing them because it an easy to grow perennial. Then, there’s my favorite reason “because I can”.

So, simply “because I can”, I embarked on my first endeavor to grow hops. I do not make beer, or wine for that matter, at home or anywhere else. I do have people I can give the fruits of my labor, in this case, “cones”. So at harvest time, the bountiful fruits of my labor should not go to waste.

So watch, as I document and display my immense gardening prowess at growing hops in the diary below……….  

Hops Rhizomes Roots

Planting Hops and Early Growth

May 7, 2019 –  I just picked up a rhizome from a friend of  my oldest son. The shoots have begun to grow, about six of them. The longest is already over an inch long. I was told to get it into the ground tomorrow. The variety is “Cascades”. It’s used to make pale ales and IPAs, adding a citrusy flavor. I’m gung-ho, let’s grow!

Hops Plants 05-27-2019

May 8, 2019 – And, so it begins… It’s planting time! I prepared the planting site, mixing in plenty of rich compost. I was told the roots do not like to be in wet, soggy soil. So, I mounded the planting area slightly. I planted the rhizome a couple of inches deep in the soil, with just the tips of the growing shoots poking above the soil. There’s still a risk of frost and cold weather for the next couple of weeks. I’ll be prepared to cover them up if need be. Yes, my hops plant is going to be pampered!

Hops Plants 06-06-2019

Fast Vine Growth

June 6, 2019 – About one month after planting, the new hops plant is already about 10 inches tall  (From now on, I need to bring out the tape measure). There are two major bines. The plant is beginning to climb up the rebar I put next to it. As it grows taller, I will train one of the bines to climb up the corner post (see the left side of the picture).

June 7, 2019 – I applied a dose of general-purpose fertilizer. The tallest bine is not grabbing onto the pole by itself yet. A light breeze knocks it free. I continue to train it. It’s a smart plant, so I know it will get the idea soon (lol). 

June 19, 2019 – We’ve had a lot of rain and cool weather the past few weeks. I’m glad I elevated the soil just a little, to avoid root rot. I’m sure a lot of the action is going on underground, as the plant is developing its root system. The plant is growing slowly, but steadily. More bines are emerging.

June 25, 2019 – The weather is finally turning into summer. The hops bine is growing strong. The longest has reached 3 feet tall. Secondary bines are beginning to appear off the main. I’m going to have to put additional stakes or rebar next to the plant, for the bines to climb. The question is: will they be long enough? I don’t think so. I also need to mulch around the plants and add some more fertilizer.

June 28, 2019 – Numerous bines are emerging. The largest bine is growing up the rebar and is four feet long. I’ve trained another one onto the fence and it has begun its upward climb. Like vining beans, the bines grow several inches up without seeing major growth of the leaves, so it is hard to see about the top foot of the bines. I weeded around the plant and applied a thick layer of leaf mulch. 

July 2, 2019 –  Multiple bines are growing strong and quickly. They are beginning to climb up the fence that is around two sides of the planting site.

July 3, 2019 – More bines are climbing the outside fence. Some are already near the top, four feet tall. Applied general-purpose fertilizer. It should help to continue the fast growth. Pulled just a few small weeds. The thick layer of mulch is helping to keep the weeds down.

July 6, 2019 – The main bine is almost to the top of the first rebar, with about another foot to go. I tied a second rebar to the wooden corner post. It goes up 12-15 feet.

July 9, 2019 – The main bine has jumped from the top of the first rebar to the second taller pole. Growth rates right now are phenomenal. The main bine is about seven feet tall. I wish I had recorded the plant height on a daily basis. Isn’t hindsight great!? Many secondaries are forming at each leaf node. I watered the plant, as it is a bit dry and hot right now. 

July 10, 2019 – The bines grow by inches overnight! If my calculations are correct, the main bine has grown over four inches a day since early June. It’s hard to see how tall they are.

Hops Flower 07-27-2019

Hops Flower Buds Appear

July 13, 2019 – It’s hard to show this healthy, fast growing plant. (see picture above). The leaves are still small and in the picture, they are lost amongst the other lush plant leaves in my garden. But rest assured, this hops plant is growing fats and looks great. The main bine is about 10-12 feet on the rebar growing beyond what’s displayed in the picture. Fortunately, getting a good picture is the only problem I’m experiencing with this hops plant. Multiple bines have reached the top of the four foot fence. I think I will train them to grow horizontally along the top of the fence. Giving water regularly, as the weather is both hot and dry. We sure could us a little rain for the whole garden. Today, mixed in liquid fish and seaweed into the water.  

July 21, 2019 – The hottest weather of the season so far, gave us 2 days of temperatures in the mid nineties, and a heat index of near 110. I made sure that my whole garden had plenty of water. While some of my other plants wilted in the heat, the leaves on the hops plant showed no signs of withering under the scorching rays of the sun. The bines showed no sign of slowing down. The main bine has reached other top of the pole, at about fifteen feet. I will let it now, grown downward  from the top of the pole.  

July 22, 2019 – It looks like tiny flower buds are beginning to appear, many of them. It will be another day or two before they will be large enough for me to be sure. I was told I’d get just few cones in year one. Based upon the buds I see, I could get a lot more.

Hops Cones 08-10-19

Hops Cones Begin to Grow

July 27, 2019 – Flowers are popping out all over the bines. If only ten percent of them develop cones, I’m going to have enough to operate a commercial brewery! They say first-year plants usually produce just a few cones. We will just have to wait and see. The plants seem to love the hot weather. I am keeping them watered. The original main bine reached the top of the pole a while ago. The tip is now growing downward 3-4 feet. Other bines are growing horizontally across the four-foot wire fence.

August 5, 2019 – The plant is absolutely loaded with flowers. They aren’t attractive and don’t really have any color, just a lighter color of green than the plant’s leaves. It’s very dry right now. I am watering deeply regularly. It’s been a while since I last applied fertilizer. That’s okay, as the plant continues to grow quickly. With the flowers now out, I will switch to a high phosphorous and potassium fertilizer to continue to promote blooms and soon growth of the cones.

August 7, 2019 – The flowers can hardly be called flowers. There’s no color and nothing attractive about them. That’s okay, as long as they produce the cones, I’m happy. There is some bulge behind the flowers. It’s just started. I gently squeezed a couple of flowers and can feel cones in their infant stage. I’m going to have to learn how to make beer and a lot of it.

August 8, 2019 – We had heavy rain yesterday, which will be followed by heavy thunderstorms today. This breaks the back of the drought. I can stop watering the hops for at least a few days. The main bine continues to grow down from the top of the 15-foot pole. The speed of growth is slowing noticeably. I’d say it’s about 20′ right now. There’s plenty of growth horizontally along the fence. There is no evidence of insect problems or plant disease. I was told this was an easy-to-grow plant, with few problems.  That’s exactly my observation.

August 9, 2019 – One of you wrote to me (and I thank you), encouraging me in my first efforts to grow hops. He said his vines grow profusely, yet he doesn’t add any extra water or fertilizer. I recognize I’m pampering the plants, it’s fun to do so. The cones are now visible, there are a million of them! I recognize like any other plant, it will shed a good fraction of the cones before they reach maturity. This causes me to wonder if I should be pruning off some of the cones, so the ones remaining will be bigger. I’d appreciate hearing opinions from any of you reading this diary.

Hops Cones Ripe

Hops Cones Ripen and are Ready to Harvest

August 10, 2019 – The cones are clearly visible now, about 1/4 inch long. The bines are full of them. Deer are frequent visitors to my garden fence, munching on whatever grows out of the mesh. I just realized that deer are leaving this plant alone. Hooray! I’m thinking this herb emits an aroma that we like in our beer, but the deer shy away from. 

August 11, 2019 – I’m going away on vacation for about 12 days. I guess this will be a good test, to see if this is truly an “easy to grow” plant. Stay tuned for my next report in just under two weeks.

August 25, 2048 –  I have just returned from a two week vacation. As advertised, these are truly “easy to grow plants”. They have done just fine these past two weeks. There are dozens and dozens of cones. It has been pretty dry while we were gone, yet the plants are not wilted. The roots of this first year plant, have likely grown deep enough to find the water it needs.

August 26, 2019 – I gave the hops plant a good drink of water. The cones measure just over an inch long.  

September 6, 2019 – The hops cones continue to grow and are ripening. The largest of them measures two inches. They are getting a papery quality, which says they are almost ready to pick. I will probably harvest them in about a week.

Hops Cones 1

September 13, 2019 – I harvested the hops. The first year crop was expected to be small, but I can’t believe how many there are. I have them drying on a clean screen. Then, I will give them to the wonderful friend who gave me the roots to plant last spring. And, so ends a very successful year of growing hops plants for the very first time. The experience lived up to everything that is written about them: easy to grow, seldom bothered by insects or pant disease. And, perhaps best of all, the deer would not touch them! 

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