by Alan Edwards, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, when I started growing hops, I mentioned my setup and that I
would give a report on how it worked.
I grow the hops up 8 feet, then horizontally about 16 feet. My setup
works really well. I run the vines up some nylon twine to a galvanized
steel wire, that is stretched across two posts, and then across to the
eaves of my house.
The first year, only two varieties made it most of the way across to my
house, for a total of about 20 feet--Chinook and Nugget. This year, I
expect more growth, and may even find some of the vines wanting more
line. As I write, three of the varieties have already reached 8 feet.
You only need to twist the new growth around the horizontal part of the
twine about every couple of days. It's not that big of a deal to get
them to grow horizontally. And it makes picking MUCH easier. I don't
need to take the vine down OR use a ladder; I usually stand on a chair--
a step-ladder will do nicely.
- - I have seven hop plants of different varieties about 3.5 feet apart.
The whole garden is about 24 feet by three feet.
- - The garden is along my North fence, for maximum sun.
- - Two 8 foot 2x4's are nailed to the wooden fence (at the corner and
at a 4x4 post, for support), with a galvanized steel wire stretched
across the tops (with a turnbuckle for tightening).
- - Nylon twine is hung from the steel wire and staked into the ground near
the hops. I would advise against using jute (natural fiber) twine.
I used jute twine last year and after weathering, some of them snapped.
Also, they stretch out over time, requiring retightening every so often
(plan for this).
- - The horizontal twines are tied to the steel wire and fastened to the
eaves of the roof with screw-eyes.
- - Some vines are not aligned with the house. And in those cases, the
twine goes to a second steel wire stretched between the North-East
corner of the house and an 8 foot 2x4 attached to the East fence.
That wire forms an extension to the North side of the roof, where
the other twines are attached.
- - The garden is fenced in with a simple 2x4 frame and some chicken wire.
If you have pets, you must fence it off. Don't trust your dog. I did
two years ago, and he wrecked the garden. I had to start all over again.
This year, instead of training three vines from each plant up one twine,
I am training four vines from each plant up TWO twines. All twines are
equally spaced. This gives the appearance of having twice as many vines
and should make harvesting much easier. Last year's crop got pretty
bushy and hard to pick on the more prolific varieties. I also hope that
the horizontal part will create some nice shade on my back yard, since
the vines will be 1.75 feet apart. I seriously doubt that they will grow
together and cause me to misidentify the varieties. I also expect a
bigger harvest from this configuration, since I can let more vines grow
without worrying about clutter.
Keep new shoots pruned until you see hop cones, then let a couple of
vines emerge and wind around the existing vines. You'll have another
harvest a few weeks after the first. Keep doing this and you can have
several harvests in one season.
If you have some varieties that aren't doing too well (less that 6 vines
emerge), go ahead and train them all--it may be your only chance. I had
a pretty poor first harvest from my Willamette and Mount Hood last year.
Tettnanger didn't do too well either. Some varieties just don't do as
well as others. If you are growing Nugget, Cascades or Chinook, expect
to trim them regularly. They grow very well. If you don't keep cutting
shoots, things can get hairy quickly. The same goes for the long runners
that you get coming out of the sides of the vine. Also, if you have the
choice, put the least prolific varieties in the part of the garden that
gets the most sun--they need all the help they can get.
If at all possible, water the hops with some kind of automatic system.
They need much water, and often. I've got mine on a timer that waters
them twice a day.
Good luck, and most of all HAVE FUN!