Growing hops in Minnesota works well with our climate. I have put together a few resources for folks in our state (good for many similar climates). This info should be helpful for anyone considering or currently #growinghops , if you reside in Minnesota or not. Not much else to write about in January – today we are supposed to have a blizzard. Tomorrow it is supposed to be colder than 20 below zero fahrenheit with a high temp of 12 below zero! Not much hop action at these temps.
Some hop rhizome vendors (and hop plant vendors) are already taking orders for this season. Obviously here we can’t do any ground preparation this time of year but we can start planning what varieties of hops to plant. It is a good time to start planning support structures for our hop bines. Eighteen to twenty feet is an optimum height, but they will take what you give them. My pulley system only has 13 feet and 15 feet but they provide plenty of hop cones for my needs. There are many rigging systems and many creative ways to rig hop bines – Poles, sides of buildings and decks… (southern exposure is best, but east or west will work – (not northern exposure)). Get creative, my setup only cost me about $20 for pulleys, screw hooks, wooden stakes, rope and tie cleats by using the south side of my garage!
I hope these resources help to get you involved and gives you ideas on growing hops for yourself or even commercially.
The Nugget hops are the last to harvest. They have always been a couple weeks behind the Cascade and Magnum harvests. I currently only have 3 hop plants, one of each variety – Cascade (aroma hop), Magnum (bittering hop) and Nugget (bittering hop). Harvesting by hand takes me between 1 to 2 hours per plant – with 3 to 5 bines per rope. By using my pulley system to lower the bines, makes it easy to pick at a comfortable standing height.
The Nugget hop cones are small this year for some reason. My guess is the heavy rains this spring and early summer leached the soil. I had top dressed the soil with compost but it was mostly washed away. I will do a better job next year amending the soil and preventing washout of compost and kelp. When I originally prepared the soil, it was fill. I dug down about a foot and a couple feet in diameter and mixed in compost, leaves, grass and black dirt with the sandy fill. I think the hop crowns or root stock have exhausted most of those nutrients.
These bines are 13 feet tall and produce about half a pound of dried hops. Optimally you would want 18 to 20 feet for maximum production per plant, but I don’t have that luxury on this south side of the garage. Perhaps my next house I can build a double decker garage or better yet, set aside some land just for hops and rig them 20 feet high! We’ll see.
The ladder in the picture is for cutting lateral branches that cross from the one rope to the lowering rope and wrap around it. I didn’t need it for the Nugget or the Magnum hop bines, the rope seemed to slide through without much resistance. The Cascade bines needed to have the wrapped around lateral branches cut from the lowering rope. The ladder came in handy for holding beers and cigars while I was picking hop cones though.
Time to harvest the Magnum hops. I would have done it last weekend but I went fishing instead – fishing takes priority. Anyway I had today off work and it was a perfect day, mid seventies and sunny – the first day of fall. This bine (actually 3 bines on one rope) took me about an hour. About half the time it took to harvest the Cascade hops. The Magnum hop cones are bigger than the Cascade and not as many cones. Much easier picking and not as much foliage to search through.
The bees are busy this time of year so I smoked a cigar to help keep them away. I would have smoked a cigar anyway but just letting you know it helps keep the bees away while you’re harvesting.
If you are unfamiliar with my setup, I have pulleys mounted underneath my garage overhang and I have enough slack to lower the bines for picking hops at ground level.
When I am done harvesting, I raise the bines back up for the leaves to gather energy for next year’s growth – they are perennials, come back each year . Once they die off, I cut them off just above ground level and pull the dead bines off the ropes. I leave the ropes up over the winter to save time and effort of restringing them the next season. I am using nylon rope so there is no rotting. I have used the same rope for 5 years now and it shows no wear.
Picked close to 2 pounds of wet hop cones. They should come out to 6 to 8 ounces when dried. I have them in my basement on a screen held up by 2 chair backs under a ceiling fan to dry out. It takes 2 to 4 days to dry usually. I then tightly pack them into ziplock freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal them and put them in the freezer. Unless I have a friend that wants to use them right away.