Hops in Containers

This spring I set out to answer the question, “can hops be grown in self-irrigating pots?” Answer, as you can see from the photo above: YES! For those of you not familiar with Self-Irrigating Pots or SIPs we have an earlier post on the subject.

Hops rhizomes, planted April 9, 2009

For our hops SIPs I modified a storage bin using Josh Mandel’s instructions (pdf). Back in early April, I obtained four hops rhizomes (two cascade and two nugget) from my local homebrew shop. You can also get rhizomes from many online sources. I chose cascade and nugget because I heard that they are two of the best varieties for Southern California. Both did well, with cascade being the most vigorous. The smell of the maturing cones is heavenly and the plant is quite beautiful, providing some much needed shade for the porch.

Nugget on the right, Cascade on the left

The only suitable place to grow this massive plant at our small house just happened to be by the front porch. This arrangement ended up being ideal–we’re on a hill and I simply attached some twine along the roof and put the SIPs down below the porch. I can simply stroll out on the porch and harvest the blossoms without having to balance on a tall ladder. Having the hops cones at eye level lets me access the cones when they are ready to pick and lets me monitor the health of the plant. I’ll also to be able to continuously harvest rather than having to cut down the entire plant. Alternately I’ve seen hops trellises rigged with pulleys so that you can lower the “bines”, as they are called, for harvesting.

Hops farmers in England demonstrating why you need to think about trellising.

With a western exposure the hops get morning sun and shade in the afternoon, which seems to be perfect in our sunny, dry and hot Southern California climate. The only problem I’ve had is a bit of rust, but it doesn’t seem to have spread too badly. Hops suck up a lot of water and, thanks to the SIPs, I only have to water once a day.

The SIPS are full of potting mix with a ring of organic fertilizer placed on top of the soil as specified in Josh Mandel’s directions. I have periodically added an organic liquid fertilizer to the water reservoirs as hops need a lot of nitrogen.

Cascade cones almost ready to harvest in late July

I don’t know how my hops will do in SIPs the second year, and I’m considering planting them in the ground if I can find a suitable place. I suspect that hops are a good candidate for pairing with a greywater source and I’m thinking about ways to do this.

Now that I’ve grown hops, I’m tempted to go to the next level. The local Rite Aid? How about we replace it with a field of barley? I’m anxious to swing a scythe again.

Stay tuned for info on a hops growing workshop with Boris Price and the folks at Silver Lake Farms to be hosted at the Homegrown Evolution compound this month. Look for the announcement on our blog this week.

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5 Comments

  1. Wow, this is great! We’ve always wanted to grow hops, but never thought we had the room. This post has…inspired me… (evil plot coming).

  2. I don’t know if that picture was just taken early or not, but they don’t look all that healthy to me. For that small space one plant is WAY more than enough. I brew 40 litres at a time probably averaging about 1.5 times a month. One Cascade plant easily fills my needs for my PNW pale ales (I don’t use them for bittering though).

    Here’s all the posts about our hops.

    http://oururbanfarm.blogspot.com/search/label/hops

  3. I’m new to grow hops (Curitiba-Brazil-Lat 25º). I’m homebrewer and I need some help!
    I let the pot with Rhizome Columbus near the Garage entry, it take sun 6h/day, if doesn’t is cloudy or rain. My garden soil is not so good. I’ll use MH 250W HPI-T with timer from 8-10h per day. It’s enough? What kind of light is better to use to begin to supply lenght day? I’m not at home always. Maybe in this way its better for me.
    I prepare a pot/container, but i don’t know if its right.
    This is older Post…but I need some directions
    If the rhizome doesn’t have sun light enough, it’s dies? Or its stays or turn vegetative?
    I heard that is better planting the rhizome before springtime here, because is similar the Hardiness Zone 10, I think. In this zone, they do harvest early? Here isn’t info enough. Can I talk with someone? I need someone to direct or to guide me to grow hops here in Brazil.

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