growing hops VINES
Hops are aromatic, edible flower produced by a hops vine. Hops (Humulus lupulus) are grown worldwide for their medicinal qualities and as a component of the beer fermentation process. Different varieties impart different flavor characteristics to beers, bitter, fruity, aromatic, etc., so it is important to choose one that is right for your intended use.
Choosing a Variety
Hops are vines that die back to the ground every winter. Once established they can grow 20-30’ annually, depending on location and training system.
Hops are a flower so do not require a pollinator.
Hop flowers are harvested late summer to early fall, when they are nearly or completely dry.
USDA Hardiness Zone
Hop plants are hardy to USDA zones 4-9. This rating tells you the minimum winter temperature the plants typically survive when properly hardened off. On our web site you will find a USDA Hardiness Maps which provides information on the average minimum winter temperature in your location, by zip code.
Many plants native to locations that have cold winters have a Chill Hour requirement to ensure uniform waking up of flower and leaf buds in the spring. The chill hour requirement of plants varies by species, by cultivar, and sometimes by the level of dormancy achieved. If you live in a location in which winter temperatures seldom go below 40°F, and/or winters are short, you may need to select “low chill” cultivars of plants not considered tropical or sub-tropical (apple, pear, or plum for example). Ask at your local co-operative extension service to determine your usual accumulated Chill Hours. View our Chill Hours Chart for more explanation, a chart of typical winter chill hours, and a list of fruits and their typical chill requirements. Hops do not appear to have a chill hour requirement.
Where to Plant Your Tree
Hops grow best between the 35th and 55th parallels, where the day length during the growing stages is best. Plant in full sun, provide afternoon shade if your location is hot, or you have chosen a variety that tends to sunburn. Provide support (twine works well) to grow the bines (vines) upright, or train over an arbor
Hops prefer rich well drained soils with a pH around 6.0-7.5, performing best in slightly acidic soils. Improve your soil where you intend to plant by mixing an inch or two of plant based organic matter (manures are best for vegetable gardens), peat, or coconut coir into an area 1 1/2 to 2 times the diameter of the needed planting hole and up to a foot deep. A 2-4” deep layer of mulch (straw, leaves, or wood chips) applied after planting will continue to improve the soil.
Allow sufficient space for both the top of the tree and it’s roots when selecting the planting location. Refer to size descriptions for each variety, keeping in mind these are generally managed or pruned sizes, not maximum potential sizes. If you are planting an orchard be sure to include enough space between rows for transporting supplies in and fruit out.
Growing in Containers
To grow a Hop vine in a pot you need a final container size of at least 20 gallons and support. Vines will grow larger in a larger container, but make sure you have the ability and tools to move the pots heavy weight. It is important for the establishment of the root system to gradually increase the size of the container over several years, rather than go from small directly to very large.
Do not use soil from your garden in the pot, instead use a potting soil mix with some added compost. For larger pots use a potting mix that has larger particles in addition to the smaller.
Care and Maintenance
Watering Your Tree
This is the most important and often the most difficult part of successfully growing plants. There are many factors, including the humidity, temperature, soil type, wind, and amount of direct sun that affect how much and how often water should be applied. Hop roots are particularly sensitive to lack of oxygen in the soil, avoid keeping the soil constantly saturated, especially during the first 2-3 years.
A general rule of thumb for plants in the ground is to ensure they receive an inch of water per week over the root zone. An inch of water is equivalent to about ¾ to one gallon per square foot of soil surface area. The typical three foot diameter planting hole would need 7 ½ to 10 gallons of water per week provided by rainfall or by the gardener.
Apply this water once a week, two times per week if soil is fast draining. This will of course depend on your own conditions and the plants you are growing! DO NOT water lightly each day because this results in a wet surface and dry root zone area. The soil should be moist but not soggy to a depth of about a foot for most growing plants. The top inch or two can feel dry, and the plant still be well watered. The trick is to have the water available where the roots are. In hotter and sunnier areas, a mulch of straw, bark, etc. can greatly ease the burden of summer watering. For plants in containers, water until the soil is saturated and water comes out of the drainage holes. Let the container dry until the soil is dry to the touch 1-2 inches down (more deep with deeper pots) and the container is lighter in weight. A plant that has wilted can be receiving either too much or too little water.
In rainy areas like the Pacific Northwest most of the plants that we offer will need relatively little supplemental irrigation ONCE THEY ARE WELL ESTABLISHED in the ground and have had a chance to develop a good root system. However even here it is important to make sure plants have regular, deep watering during the first couple of growing seasons, and the first summer is especially critical. In drier areas, or where soils do not retain water well, permanent irrigation is essential. Remember that you don’t want your trees to just survive, but rather to thrive. Make sure they get the water where they need it, starting at the drip line and extending away from the tree up to several feet ( for older trees) where the feeder roots will be. Drip irrigation and soaker hoses can be an efficient way to deliver the water.
For good steady growth and high productivity, your trees need to have adequate amounts of various mineral nutrients. Some people are fortunate and have naturally rich fertile soil. Many soils, however, are deficient in some nutrient or another and use of fertilizers, organic or chemical, can be highly beneficial if you want your trees to grow well. If you have a large garden or orchard it can be well worth it to have your soil analyzed by a qualified laboratory so you know for sure just what your soil needs. Typically this might cost $30-$60, depending on how detailed an analysis you want. Unless you know what is available in your soil, you will not be able to supplement it properly.
Use an all-purpose or balanced fertilizer like the organic fruit tree and shrub fertilizer. A couple of inches of well-rotted compost on the root zone can also be an effective fertilizer. A generous leaf or straw mulch around your trees will not only conserve moisture and help in weed control, but also keeps your soil healthy by building up humus, attracting earthworms, and supporting beneficial fungal organisms. This encourages young trees to be strong, healthy and productive. Use of concentrated products like chemical fertilizers or strong organics (for instance blood meal) is usually done from late winter through early summer. Applying fertilizer after early summer can encourage lots of soft new growth that is much more likely to be damaged by winter cold. Excessive use of fertilizer can in-crease disease problems on your plants and can even kill them. Use of too much fertilizer, whether chemical or organic, can contribute to stream and groundwater pollution, so please try not to use more than your trees really need. As a general guide, if your tree is producing about one foot of new growth or more a year and has healthy looking foliage, it may not need much or any fertilizer.
Pests and Diseases
Find out what insects and diseases are typical in your area. Ask your local co-operative extension professional what the typical insect and disease issues are in your area. Then you can make selections based on resistance or tolerance information available in our catalog, or, make a plan for controlling problems you can expect with the susceptible varieties you prefer to grow. If you see resistance information about a particular disease for one variety but not another of the same kind of fruit, then that variety may be susceptible or might not have been tested so is unknown. The following are some of the more common issues.
Tiny moving dots on webbing, especially on under sides of leaves or around tender new shoot tips. Yellow stippling pattern on top of leaves.
Insecticidal soap spray, soap/oil mix.
Spider mites thrive and multiply rapidly during hot dry weather.
In early spring, spike-like infected bines rise among normal shoots from the crown. Spikes are silvery or pale green, rigid, stunted, and brittle.Tips of normal branches may become infected and transformed into spikes. Leaves of all ages are attacked, resulting in brown angular spots. Flower clusters become infected, shrivel, turn brown, dry up, and may fall. Cones also are affected, becoming brown. Severe infection in some susceptible cultivars may produce a rot of the perennial crowns.
Destroy infected or escaped hop bines near or in hop yards.Sulfur sprays. Ask your local Co-operative Extension Office for local control recommendations, strains of Downy Mildew in some locations are resistant to some chemicals.
The fungus-like microorganism, Pseudoperonospora humuli, persists from year to year in infected hop crowns or plant debris in soil. It is specific to hop. Disease is promoted by wet or foggy weather.
Powdery mildew is caused by a fungus, Podosphaera macularis (formerly Sphaerotheca humuli).In the spring,new shoots can be covered with the powdery mildew fungus, and the entire shoot may appear white. These "flagshoots" produce conidia, which initiate secondary infections.Secondary infections on susceptible leaves appear as whitish, powdery spots on either the upper or lower leaf surface.Flowers and cones of susceptible varieties may also be infected.
Reduce overwintering and buildup of early-season disease inoculum by reducing or eliminating infected buds and flag shoots. Maintain adequate nitrogen levels but do not over-apply because more succulent tissue is more susceptible. Scout bines regularly for signs of powdery mildew. Select resistant varieties. Bicarbonate sprays, sulfur sprays, and summer weight spray oils.
Avoid wetting the lower foliage, and improve air circulation in the lower portion of the vines by removing the bottom 4’ of foliage after flowers have begun to form. Powdery mildew grows over a wide range of temperatures, at least 54°F to 85°F. Colonies can tolerate temperatures more extreme, especially during high humidity, resuming growth and sporulation when conditions moderate.
Greenish to black, winged forms migrate to hops in May or June. Wingless forms on hops are pale yellowish green. They suck plant juices and contaminate cones.
Insecticidal Soap, predatory insects.
Aphids overwinter as eggs on prune trees.