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How to Grow Hops at Home?
Self-sufficiency is a unique culture that powers the homebrewing sector. Nothing, after all, beats the taste of beer that you have made from scratch.
Other than getting a good homebrewer and exceptional recipes, you should also have the best quality ingredients for great-tasting beer.
Hops are among the key ingredients that determine the taste of your brew.
They lend some of the signature characteristics to beer, including aroma, flavor, bitterness and mouthfeel.
Hops are among the essentials in your homebrewing journey and should be carefully selected.
The chance to grow your hops is an extension of the self-sufficiency element in homebrewing.
Growing hops also allows you to personalize each batch of beer you make.
Thankfully, growing them is easy provided you have the right guidelines. Here are some guidelines to ease your hop growing.
Where to Buy Hops Seeds?
You will choose between hop rhizomes and seeds to start your cultivation journey. Fortunately, you need not walk from one local brew shop to another looking for seeds or rhizomes with the rise of online shops. You only need to search the internet.
Most cost $5 and are only bought in spring. Hop plants are female or male. Only the female plants grow flowers known as cones. The cones are what you need for homebrewing.
This means if you choose hop seeds, there is a 50% chance of them being the female plants you want.
Rhizomes are small pieces of roots cut from a female hop plant’s main root system. They are technically not a part of the roots but rather a somewhat underground stem.
A fully functioning plant that produces flowers can grow from one rhizome. With the rhizome, you are sure the plant is female and can expect several hop cones in the harvest season.
Can You Grow Hops In A Container?
You might be interested in growing hops but lack the ground space for it. This should not deter you since you can grow them in containers.
When you use an adjustable trellis to grow the hops in a container, harvesting will be far easier than when you use a regular trellis.
Though challenging, container growing is an excellent option for propagating rhizomes because the first-year growth generally surpasses that of in-ground hops.
A half-barrel container or one with a 20-inch diameter and depth will suffice for hop growing. This container should have holes along its bottom for water drainage.
Growing Hops At Home for Brewing
After choosing the best variety of hops for your homebrewing from the over 120 options available, here are tidbits on the elements you should focus on in your cultivation:
With the right growing environment, hops can reach heights of 25 feet in a full growing season. Their ideal growth location is one exposed to sunlight for 7-8 hours daily.
It should also have access to a lot of water and vertical space. Hop bines will need strong vertical support. You thus should consider including strong twines or tall poles in your growing site to support them.
It would be best if you planted the hops when the ground thaws, ideally in spring. This maximizes the growing time for your plants. Bury the rhizomes 6-12 inches deep.
Hop bines need enough water to establish their roots. Frequent short watering are essential to keep them adequately watered without flooding them.
When the bines reach a foot in height, start pruning their ‘’sidearms’’ to keep them from dangling. You should also cut the shoots emerging from the soil to keep your hops healthy.
The best soil to grow hops is well-drained sandy loam soil with a PH of 6-7. If the soil PH is low, wood ashes or lime can reduce acidity. Sulfur and aluminium sulfate, on the other hand, reduces alkalinity.
You should augment this soil with the right fertilizers. Fertilizer with a high amount of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus is the best choice. It should be applied on the initial sprout, then three weeks later and at the start of the flowering stages.
Downy mildew is the most common disease that might affect your hops. Infected shoots will be light and brittle with curled leaves. Warm wet weather often favors this fungal infection.
You should promptly remove and bury the infected shoots to control the disease. Verticillium wilt is also a common fungal infection affecting hops.
Wilting of the vine and yellowed leaves are the common symptoms of this infection. There are no effective regulatory measures for the disease, and it can persist for years in the soil.
The most common insects that affect hops are spider mites, hop aphids, and cutworms. Leaf rollers, hop loopers, armyworms and wireworms are less dangerous insects that might affect hops.
Regularly washing your hop leaves with a garden hose can help prevent insect infestation.
How Long Do Hops Take To Grow?
After planting in spring, hops will grow through the summer and be ready for harvesting in late summer. In your first year, the harvest might not be so much since hops reach their peak yield after three years.
To determine whether your plants are ready for harvest, consider the cones. Mature cones will be dry, springy, leave yellow lupulin powder when touched and have a strong hop odor.
Dry the harvested hops in a warm, dry place away from direct sunlight for a week or two.
Do Hops Come Back Every Year?
Yes, they do. Hops are perennial. This means that they will come back every year provided you have the right conditions for their growth.
Is It Legal To Grow Hops At Home?
Yes. With the legalization of homebrewing on the federal level in 1919, hop growing was also legalized for homebrewers.
Since then, different states have legalized homebrewing with the last being Alabama in 2013.
You, however, should first check the specific law on the same in your state to see if there are any restrictions on growing hops at home.
After your hard work growing hops, it will be time to sit back and relax the fresh and tasty homebrewed beer you get.
The process might be challenging, but the promise of good beer should keep you going. Growing hops, like homebrewing, is the labor of love for your brew.
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