Hops are generally quite robust. We were first attracted to growing our own because a farmer described them as “hard to kill”. But they do have a few needs: sun, space, support, and no sogginess.
Hops love the sun. If you have a shady yard (like we do) they won’t really grow. That’s why we had to move ours to a remote location. In a sunny space though, they grow rapidly (as much as 1 FT / day) and good sun exposure helps to keep mold & mildew at bay. Make sure you plant them in a spot that gets a lot of sun.
Hops primarily grow vertically. They can get up to 20 FT tall! Be sure to place your hops in an area that allows them to grow tall – some folks build trellises for them others just tie a line to their house and let the bines climb up.
Nerd note: these are technically not vines because they don’t have tendrils, they climb by wrapping around things and are botanically known as bines. But you can call them vines since most people don’t know, and really don’t care, about the difference.
Hops will also grow horizontally under the ground – sending shoots to establish dominance in every direction. There is a reason their botanical name is related to wolf (humulus lupulus: “wolf among weeds” or “wolf of the forest”). If you trim back any errant shoots throughout the season, you’ll keep it at bay but if you just let it go wild – it will establish its dominion over your yard – and next THE WORLD!!
Do you need to trim it every week? No. Once a season should be fine. We usually prune more often because we want our plants to focus their energy on vertical growth & flower production (i.e. hop cones!). Keeping horizontal growth at bay produces better yield.
You must verbally encourage your hops and play them classical music, daily. No, no, no, not that kind of support. Since they grow tall, hops need something to climb. The trellis options are virtually unlimited; from the practical plastic pipe based approach to ellaborate hoisting mechanisms and orinemantal options (see some inspiring examples here).
For the casual grower, a line tied to a high point on your house or a nearby tree ought to do it.
You will also need to train the first few bines around the support line. They wrap clockwise around the line. So when you carefully wind the young shoots around these lines, make sure you are wrapping the right way. If you do it wrong, they will unwind themeslves while you sleep and make you try again the next day.
Hops hate soggy feet. Which is to say, puddles around the base of the plant and slow draining clay soil are not ideal. We planted our hops in sandy soil and they are flourishing! If your soil is more towards the clay side and you could mix in some sand or absorbent soil additive like peat moss to help with moisture regulation. Basically, the single biggest problem with growing hops in New England is mold & mildew. Some growers suggest forming a mound that tapers away so that water will not puddle on the crown of the plant.
In summary, the dryer the leaves (from full sun) and drier the soil (from good drainage) the better and if you want them to produce flowers (which we do), they must be able to grow vertically. Hops don’t produce many flowers on the first several feet of their bines, so they must be allowed to grow tall in order to produce the fragrent and bitter flowers we know and love. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out thru the Contact Form or on Social media and we’ll be happy to help if we can.
Do you already grow your own hops? You may be eligible to participate in our Community Hopyard Project. It just may earn you free beer!
Hops are poisonous to dogs (and some cats) When the hop flowers/cones develop in late Summer do NOT let dogs (or cats) eat them. When ingested in large amounts, hops can cause malignant hyperthermia which can be fatal to our beloved furry friends.
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