Avoid Dissimilar Varieties Intertwining
These hops are planted about 7 feet apart at the base but the 2 plants on the outsides of the center peak, angle in a couple feet to gain some height. Here the Magnum and Cascade bines are starting to intermingle at the tops – not good. Once dissimilar hop varieties mix like this, it is difficult to separate later during harvesting. You want to keep the varieties separate, especially these 2, Magnum is a bittering hop and Cascade an aroma hop. All I did was take a telescoping pole and separate them. I swung them to the opposite side of the bine heading downward (their weight is getting to be too much unsupported to keep going up or sideways).
As you can see from the 3 in this picture, the laterals are not close enough (yet) to try to intermingle. They have in the past and they probably will again, I just stay on top of it and don’t let them by separating with a pole and “train them” to go down or wrap to the other side away from the next bine. One year I didn’t stay on top of it (I was out of town for a week) and thought I would just separate them at harvest time – BIG MISTAKE. It took at least an hour to untangle and there was still some intermixing. That’s why it is important to keep them separate, unless they are the same variety, then it doesn’t matter.
Morale of this post – when planting, plant similar varieties 3 feet or more apart and dissimilar varieties at the bare minimum 5 feet apart. This was an important point to make to save you some agony in the future. I hope this helps you out.
All 3 hop bines reached the top of their ropes June 4th – a little behind schedule. This is due to the cloudy, cold and rainy weather we have had all spring. They are now well past the top end of the ropes and the Nugget and Magnum are reaching above the roof and the Cascade hops are climbing up the underside of the roof. They will continue to do this until their unsupported weight becomes too much and will weigh them downward. They will stop growing vertically (downward) at this point and focus their energy on filling out sideways and start to produce hop cones.
These are fifth year hops and should be at the peak of their hop cone production (usually by the 3rd year they are at or close to peak production). Last year was a bad growing season for hop cones for me anyway, the weather was all over the place. You can check out the posts from last year for that story fourth year hops ( I just realized I misspelled fourth for the category – DOH). You can also click on the sitemap link up top in the header for access to all the posts from before I had even planted these hops (ground preparation up until now).
You might have noticed I am using white nylon rope for the hops to climb. The rope is way over spec as far as what they can support (I believe it is something like 900 pounds). The reason I chose it is it is cheap, readily available and no worries on rope failure and it is rot/mold resistant. I have been using the same rope for 5 years now. I leave it up all year round and it shows no wear and tear. The fewer times I have to get up on a ladder the better (I have a fear of landing, the fall doesn’t bother me, it’s the landing I dread). That’s it for now, I have a graduation party to go to. Leave a comment and let us know how your hops are doing.
So far this year, here in Minnesota we have been ripped off out of a spring. Cloudy, cold and rainy almost every day, not to mention 4 inches of snow in May. Despite the lack of sunshine, the hops are almost on schedule for growth for a “normal season”. Generally the hops top out by June 1st. Last year was an early spring and the hops were at where they are now by May 6th.
A few days of sunshine and they will all be topped out and start filling in (bush out). They are all sending out laterals (branches) and will fill out substantially. Hopefully a better harvest than last year (about half of what it should have been). Let’s hope for a more normal growing season and harvest. The hops are healthy with big leaves – up to a foot across! I am about to top dress the soil with some more compost that is almost ready (I make my own).
I just wanted to give you an update as to where they are at. June 1st is a benchmark date for a “normal” topping out of the ropes and a good indicator of general health and productivity. I hope those of you that are growing hops are having success. Leave a comment and let us know how you are doing.