Hops in Containers Update

“And I behold in breath of space
The autumn’s winter sleep.
The summer’s life has given
Itself into my keeping.”
-Rudolf Steiner The Calendar of the Soul Week 23

We’re going to drink “summer’s life” this winter. Year two of my hops (Humulus lupulus) in self irrigating pot experiment has yielded enough of a crop for at least one batch of beer. Read more about how we grew our containerized hops here. Some things I’ve learned:

1. There are two types of hops, bittering and aroma. Beer recipes call for both. Find out what varieties of hops grow in your climate, choose a type of beer you like, and plant at least one aroma and one bittering variety for hops self-sufficiency. I settled on cascade (very easy to grow) and nugget, both of which, when combined, make for a nice American pale ale.

2. Plant your hops somewhere where you will see them every day. I’ve enjoyed watching our hops bines grow just outside our bedroom window. They’ve come to symbolize summer for me as well as a restful night’s sleep. Plus the harvest window is brief and you need to keep a close eye on those cones–when the they get papery it’s time to pick them. I dry them for a few hours in our solar dehydrator, but you could also just let them dry for a few days inside with a fan pointed at them. After drying they go into bags in the freezer.

3. Plant hops in such a way that you can access them for easy harvest. Hops grow upwards of ten to twenty feet and beyond. If you can harvest them safely without cutting them down you might be able to squeeze more than one crop out of them in a season.

4. Hops need rich soil. I’m considering putting them in the ground next year with a lot of compost. I fertilized them in their containers, but clearly they could have used more nutrients. I did not get as much of a crop as I did the first year.

5. Hops are apparently deadly to dogs, so¬† be careful if you have a pooch. I don’t know if they will eat them off the bine, but they’ll definitely try to get them in the compost pile.

6. Prune to the strongest two bines for each plant and train them in a “V” shape. It’s really important to keep different varieties labeled and separate so, come harvest time, you know which one is which.

While painting the south side of our house I put up a pulley and rope system so that I can grow more hops. The pulleys will enable me to lower the bines during the August/September harvest season. More on our hops planting plans next spring.

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12 Comments

  1. And here I was reading his post, thinking he was chronically misspelling vine!

    Perhaps he should have added in there somewhere that hops grow on bines, not vines. I quoth Wikipedia: “A bine is a climbing plant which climbs by its shoots growing in a helix around a support. It is distinct from a vine, which climbs using tendrils or suckers.”

    It’s a new word for me today, too.

  2. We just picked the Saatz hops this evening! They also could have used some fertilizing, but I didn’t know it. I was hoping to use the hops as a gateway plant to get my husband interested in gardening, but it hasn’t worked that way yet. Maybe I need to plant some barley…

    At any rate, the plan is to build some sort of rustic pergola for them up the middle alley of the back yard and move them next year.

    I have to tell you that they smelled wonderful! My husband thinks that he might have enough to provide aroma for one batch of pilsner (my favorite), but it all depends on how they weigh out once dry.

    Hops are really pretty plants, and I really love the way they smell. I’m also pretty happy with what they do to beer!

  3. Hops are also very thirsty plants and enjoy being hosed down on a regular bases.
    We grow ours up trellises on the south side of our house to shade our bedroom windows (we have Cascades and Willamettes ,living in Oregon those are the two best.)We love them for their seasonal shade and later we trade the hops with our brewing friends for beer.

  4. Hmmmm, I was thinking he just missed the “v” and hit the “b” LOTS of times. So, I learned a new word today, also. If hops will kill dogs, will hops kill chickens? Chickens can fly, so I would hate for the hops to be so tasty the chickens would be tempted to taste.

  5. I grow organic hops on a small comerical scale and we sell hop starts in pots for sale at the local farmers market .

    The Hops in the Field are not that demanding and just need to be weeded and watered reguarly and a little scouting for pests and disease and Nutrient problems .

    If you want to find out more in depth information about hops Jason Peralt of Peralt farms gave this great presentation at the UVM Winter hops Conference earlier this year .

    http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/jason-presentation.pdf

    http://www.uvm.edu/extension/cropsoil/wp-content/uploads/jason-perrault-transcript.pdf

  6. Excited to see other people trying this. We had a friend grow for us on her urban farm on the other side of town and we are going to use them dried with our winter wheat for some kind of something yet to be imagined. We’re not into crazy hoppy beers. Usually if you know the IBUs its too much for me, but every beer needs just a little :)

  7. Practical Parsimony said…” will hops kill chickens? Chickens can fly, so I would hate for the hops to be so tasty the chickens would be tempted to taste.”

    Many organic hop growers use chickens to clean up hop yards , fertilize and help keep the bug population down .In new Zealand they run sheep down the hop rows .

    Donload the Left Fields Farm Organic Hop Manual for more info .

    http://www.crannogales.com/farm.html

  8. I had a really good harvest from my hops this year. About a month ago I chopped it down to ground level but now I have new growth about 3-4 feet. I live in Northern California. Could I squeeze out a winter harvest?

  9. Hey Daniel,

    Congrats on the harvest. But, no you won’t get any more this year. They’ll die back when it gets cold. Sometimes you can get multiple harvests in the late summer–this happened for me the first year, but not this year (I probably need to amend the soil some more). Come spring your hops will bounce back like crazy.

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