Growing Hops in Containers
Growing Hops in containers can be a challenge, but if you understand a few key elements of container gardening you can grow healthy plants that will yield a bountiful harvest of cones. A rhizome is the part of this plant that grows beneath the surface. It is the heart of the root system of the vine and stores and then transfer’s food from the root system. A Hop rhizome looks like a grapevine or stick and is used to start new plants. In this article we also discuss the below topics;
- How much time it takes to grow hops
- Hops plants growing tips
- How many Hops do you get from one plant
- What is the best fertilizer for Hops
- What is the best soil for growing Hops
- How do you know when Hops are ready to harvest
A Step by Step Guide to Growing Hops Plants in Containers
Hop plant is a hardy, climbing, herbaceous perennial that is used principally as a bittering and flavoring agent in beer. Hop can be used as a landscape ornamental, feed supplement in livestock production, a preservative, and for medicinal purposes.
Type of Soil is Ideal for growing Hop Plants in Containers
A deep well-drained, sandy loam soil is best for growing Hop. Poorly drained, strongly alkaline or saline soils must be avoided. Fertilizers rich in potassium, phosphate, and nitrogen must be applied each spring. Sandy soil is more ideal for proper drainage. Be sure there is adequate drainage as standing water will rot the plant roots. The pH level of the soil should be between 5.5 and 8.0.
Good drainage is essential to success for growing Hops. Soil with lots of clay can be problematic, and you’ll want to modify it to improve drainage before planting. Be sure to add plenty of organic matter such as compost and aged manure to the soil. And, other additives such as straw and sand can help as well. Planting in raised beds or mounds will help with drainage.
Be sure to use a high-quality potting mix with plenty of compost to ensure adequate drainage. Select pots or barrels that are at least 20 inches in diameter to give the roots a little breathing room.
Selecting Hops Varieties for Growing in Containers
Hop cultivars developed for brewing are divided into two groups;
- Bittering Hops have high levels of specific acids that produce bitterness in beer.
- Aroma Hops have a lower content of bittering acids and a more balanced essential oil profile that imparts the pleasant aroma and flavor properties to beer.
Ornamental Hops have a desirable foliage characteristic, such as an unusual color (for example, yellow or purple), but may also produce cones. Thus, the Hop cultivar you select depends on the intended use, which for homeowners is generally for home brewing or ornamental purposes
Pick the Perfect Location for Growing Hops in Containers
The first thing you need is to scout a suitable location for growing Hops. This can be a porch, patio, deck, driveway, and yard or anywhere that gets the right amount of light. To determine this, look around the prospective growing area every hour for an entire day.
Whether or not you choose to plant rhizomes indoors or outdoors, location is everything. Your Hop plants will need a place to climb, and they’ll flourish with 6 to 8 hours (or more) of direct sunlight. Any less sunlight could mean a small harvest if any cones grow at all. Hops can become a pernicious weed if left to produce wild in the ground. The plant has a rhizome for its rootstock and spreads out the same way as bamboo, ginger, or asparagus. These plant roots can grow out to several meters on a second season plant.
Once you’ve selected a spot, you’ll need a few items that can be found at almost any nursery or home and garden center. For starters, you’ll need a container. To give the plant roots enough room to spread, you’ll need a pot or planter with a minimum 20-inch diameter. When growing Hops in a container, the biggest shortfall you will need to overcome is the fact that you are cramping the roots.
When planting the Hop rhizome, place it on the surface of the pot and make a mound on top of it. The roots need good air circulation, particularly in the early days. When the Hop plant has started sending up the shoots to about one foot you can fill in the earth around the mound and have the surface of the soil at one level. Take care of handling and planting Hop rhizomes as they are easy to damage.
Hops need about 6 to 8 hours of sun a day so the position is very important. When looking for the perfect positioning you can monitor the garden over hourly intervals to see which area gets the most sunlight across the day, allowing you to determine where your plant will get the most exposure. Hops are a shooting plant and have similar properties to vines (known as Hop bines), therefore will need a good vertical space to allow them to grow to their full potential which can be up to 25ft.
Procedure for Growing Hops in a Containers
Step 1) Growing Hops in full sun or under partial shade in hot, dry inland areas. Provide shelter against strong winds then the vines will produce fewer flowers and fruit if they become dehydrated.
Step 2) Rhizome is a piece of Hop that will sprout roots when planted and can be purchased online or from local homebrew Hops. If not planting immediately the rhizome will need to be wrapped in a damp paper towel and then kept in the fridge to preserve it.
Step 3) Hops can do well in large pots, 50 cm diameter or larger is recommended and tall pots work better than short pots. Pots are great as you can buy in the potting mix perfectly suited to the Hops without having to build up garden soil. Growing Hops in the ground will give you greater yields but you will have to control the spreading of the plant and compete with weeds.
Step 4) Obtain a half-barrel planter or another container with a diameter and depth of 20 inches. And, make sure the container has m holes along the bottom to allow for adequate drainage. Then, move the half-barrel planter to its growing site before filling it with soil. Fill it with a mixture of about 4 parts potting soil and 1 part perlite. Do not firm or tamp down the soil as it will not drain as well.
Step 5) Insert two 8-foot-long stakes into the potting soil along the northern edge of the planter and space the stakes 5 inches apart. Screw about 1/3-inch eye screw into the top of each stake. Tie coir yarn is also called Hop twine onto the eye screw at the top of each stake. Wind the coir yarn in a crisscross fashion between the two stakes and cut the ends of the coir yarn once it reaches the surface of the potting soil. Tie the ends together.
Step 6) Dig about 2- to the 3-inch-deep hole at the base of each stake. Lay the Hops rhizomes in the holes and cover them with potting soil. Water them to a depth of about 4 inches and add additional soil if it settles too much after watering. Water the Hops rhizomes whenever the soil feels dry in the top two inches. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering, but do not let it dry out completely while the rhizomes are rooting. Watch for growth in two to three weeks at temperatures of around 20°C.
Step 7) Increase water once the vines emerge and run water into the planter until it dribbles freely from the drainage holes. Check the top 3 inches of soil twice weekly during cool weather or daily in hot weather. Water when the top 3 inches dry out completely. Train the vines against the base of the trellis once they are tall enough to reach it. Adjust the vine every 15 days until it is growing reliably along the trellis. Then, feed container-grown Hops plants with a liquid fertilizer diluted to quarter-strength. Apply the fertilizer every 4 weeks from the time the vines emerge to when they set fruit. Water liberally after feeding the vines to keep the plant roots from being burned.
Step 8) Prune the Hops vines once they outgrow their trellis. Remove the foliage from the bottom 1 foot of the vine to increase air circulation and decrease the likelihood of pest and disease. Remove the tip of the vines once the main stem produces many branches. Use clean and sharp pruning shears.
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Watering and Feeding your Hop Plants
Hops tend to be very hungry and thirsty plants, so you should be prepared to water and fertilize regularly. It is important, though, not to overwater when the Hop plants are young, as this can cause root rot. If you are growing Hops indoors, the limited size of the container means that they will eat up the nutrients fast. To counter this, use a liquid and slow-release granular fertilizer. Water your Hops plants daily or whenever the soil becomes dry.
How and When to Feed Hops Plants
Hop plants fertilizer requirements contain the macronutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Other trace minerals are necessary for plant growth as well, such as boron, iron, and manganese. The correct nutrients must be in the soil before planting, but they must on occasion be replenished or supplemented during the growing season as the Hops utilize the food to grow and produce.
In a container-grown Hops plant, you need to supply all the necessary nutrients through a reduced root system. Though, adding too much fertilizer can “burn” the plant and cause the roots to die back. The solution is to add a slow, steady stream of nutrients to the Hop plant and disperse these nutrients, as best as possible, throughout the container. The obvious solution here is a liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizers are available almost everywhere garden supplies are sold and these are great for all container-grown Hops plants. Some are sold as liquids, others as powders that are dissolved in water, and then applied to the plants. Compost and manure, while providing excellent nutrition for Hops plants, have poor drainage properties and don’t work well when growing Hops in containers. Time-release granular fertilizers will also work.
Hops Plant Care
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For your Hops to grow properly you will want to have something in place to assist in supporting the vines as they grow vertically. Some ideas for this include a trellis, bamboo, poles, or string. The most commonly used is a rough twine like a string which allows the bines to grab on to it, which in turn will make it easier to train the bines and then make harvesting easier.
Hops enjoy lots of water and sunlight. In the dry climates or the heat of summer, they could need to be watered daily. Once the Hops begins to grow, choose the best bines, and wrap them around your trellis to train them. You will need to train the Hops for a few days, but eventually, they will begin growing in a clockwise direction from east to west around the trellis.
Your backyard Hops plants require plenty of room. Plants must reach heights of about 15 to 20 feet before they grow side shoots that produce cones, and can reach heights of 30 to 40 feet each growing season. Hops need to be supported off the ground, so create a structure such as a tepee or large trellis that is at least 6 to 15 feet tall.
The Common Problems of Hops and their Control
Keep an eye on the Hops as they grow, aphids and powdery mildew are the common hazards in the garden. Powdery mildew disease forms on the underside of the leaves in a white powdery substance. Trim the affected plant leaves off and completely disposes of them outside your yard. There are many natural pest control sprays for aphids- check out our rhizome section for pest control options. Problems that are caught early are easier to correct. Poorly drained soil can lead to fungal diseases affecting Hops. Some of the main diseases are Black root rot, Fusarium canker, Verticillium wilt, Downy mildew, Gray mould, Powdery mildew, Crown rot, White mould, Sooty mould, Aphids, and Mosaic virus.
Treating these fungal plant problems requires the use of a fungicide. Also, to thwart mildew, keep the lower portions of the garden weeded and pruned back to allow light and air to penetrate. Treating this Hops plant problem means tackling the aphids with insecticidal soap.
When and How to Harvest Hops
A common mistake is picking the Hops cones too early. If you want to pick over-ripe Hops rather than under-ripe Hops; otherwise you’ll deprive them of those awesome alpha acids.
The different methods of picking your Hops are picking by hand (recommended for first-year harvests) or cut down the bine (recommended for all harvests after the first year).
If you cut the bine down, cut 2 to 3 feet above the ground to prevent injury to the root system and crown. For first-year bines, pick the cones and not cut down the bine until it dies off. Essential nutrients will flow back to the root system for the winter months and ensure it survives. For the following years, cut the bine down and also be careful not to damage or dirty those precious lupulin glands. You must expect one to two pounds of dry Hops per mature plant. Be sure to wear durable, abrasive resistant clothing, gloves, and goggles during the time of harvest. Hops have hooked hairs that can cause skin rash and small cuts.
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