Growing my own hops

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Growing my own hops

Postby skootles » Mon Mar 30, 2015 12:51 pm

Last year when I was picking out plants to grow on my balcony I thought briefly about growing my own hops for my own beer. It was a bit late in the season and I didn't really have the time so I put it off until the next season.

So, I'm looking for any advice regarding growing your own hops on a balcony. Has anyone done it? Where did you get your hop plants? I haven't thought about what type of hops I'd like to use for the beer (that'll have to be a conversation with my friends who will do the actual brewing) but I'm open for suggestions on hops that would grow well in a southern Ontario summer.

I still need to look into the actual feasibility of growing hops on a balcony (7th floor) too. As I understand it some plants just don't grow well on balconies, and some require special care. I understand that hops would generally require a trellis which is fine, and my balcony is also covered in netting which has helped my plants grow (the vines usually weave in/out of it, using it as support).

So yeah, any suggestions or comments are welcome. I have to look up more tips on growing hops because right now I've got no idea what kind of soil, light, whatever they need.
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Postby sofakingdrunk » Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:37 pm

Not to thread-jack....but I'm also in the same boat. I was thinking last year of growing some hops but didn't get to it in time, so would like to this year. I'll be doing it in my backyard however, so any tips/advice/experiences with that, from all you knowledgeable folks out there would be appreciated.
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Postby Craig » Mon Mar 30, 2015 2:26 pm

I did this for the first time last year.

Stick a stick or something in the ground and gently wind it around it when it's just starting out, if whatever you're using as a trellis doesn't go all the way down. Be gentle and don't worry if it doesn't latch on right away.

I let three shoots grow off each plant and prune the rest away. My trellis is pretty high, maybe 15-20 feet or so. My theory here is the fewer shoots you have, the faster and taller they will grow, but growing higher than your trellis doesn't help anything, so if I only had 6-10 feet to grow up I might try a few more shoots. All I can really say for sure is 3 worked nicely for me last year.

They like sun, plant it somewhere sunny.

Once they're going, I prune the bottom foot or two of leaves off. You're not going to harvest much down there anyway and it helps keep bugs off.

Watch for aphids (tiny white bugs) if you find them spray the underside of the leaves with a soapwater solution before they take over.

First year crops are notoriously low. So don't get discouraged if you don't end up with much or any in your first year.

That's all I've got after doing it for only one year myself. Lots of stuff out there on Google too.

For balcony growing, I'm not really sure. I know the plants have fairly extensive root systems, so they're generally ill-suited for being grown in pots. But it's probably possible, you'd just end up with a lower yield. I would also worry a little about the plant dying over the winter, but I don't know if that's justified. I don't really have any personal insight here, sorry.
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Postby mahcinesquad » Mon Mar 30, 2015 2:26 pm

I grew hops for the first time last year. I got 5 plants from I think it may be a little late now to get them - but there are other places in Ontario that will sell rhizomes (I seem to remember the ones I got from Toronto Brewing being more mature).

I put together a hop yard - basically a 3ft deep garden box and made a big arch (16') to drop nylon rope from for the bines to grow up. I had the ropes on pulleys so that I could lower the bines at the end of the season to make it easier to harvest.

I wish I had spaced my plants out more. They're about 1.5' apart, and they definitely got tangled at the end of the year.

Also, the hops took that full 16' of vertical - and then some. You can train the hops to grow in more of a horizontal lattice as well. I'm not sure if that's more effort to harvest.

The pulley system was still worth it - even with the bines getting a little tangled with each other, and growing into the top of the arch.

From my first year's harvest I got about 1lb (that's after drying in an oast, and hops have a lot of moisture when first harvested). I wish I'd picked a different hop (I went with Nugget) as I don't know what my nugget's AA is and I'm not sure I'm a super fan of it for aroma additions where it'd be adding little to bittering.

Hopefully I put them to bed properly last fall and I'll see if them come back this year.

Growing them on a balcony seems like there wouldn't be enough space. At least that would be my guess.
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Postby Derek » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:42 pm

Definitely possible...

Use large pots, because the roots will really fill them.
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Postby atomeyes » Tue Mar 31, 2015 7:48 pm

Derek wrote:Definitely possible...

Use large pots, because the roots will really fill them.

yep. large and deep and strong. the root will bust through the bottom.

you REALLY want to space them apart. by year 3, you'll wish you only planted 2 VERY spaced apart.

it also depends on the variety you have. my wilammete are total fuckers. they'll grow 20 ft tall and are now branching really wide. one plant takes over the side of my shed.

cascade's a lot more dainty so far. it also got aphids last year.

remember: only let a max of 3 bines grow. choose your 3 strongest and cut the rest.

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