Rigging hops experiment for maximum growth with limited height. Ok, here is my theory put to action. As the hop bines reach the top of the rope, I let out some rope and loop the slack off the ground and the hop bines have more vertical space to grow. I am thinking about using hose hangers mounted to the garage wall to loop the rope and bines with room for air circulation.
A hop trellis in my opinion is more for looks than functionality (traditional trellis definition of lattice wood structure – sometimes rope/twine structures are referred to as a trellis, a loose interpretation). Harvesting hops from a trellis requires a ladder or cherry picker to reach the hop cones. Rigging hops with rope allows you to lower the bines to the ground for picking the hop flowers. If you use a pulley or similar rigging system, you don’t need to go to the top of a line/pole/trellis to harvest or drop the bines to the ground. Don’t get me wrong, I love hops climbing a trellis or arbor or pergola. Hops make a great shade cover, look great and aromatic to boot.
As you can see, my hop plants – humulus lupulus have to compete with my wife’s Peonies. It won’t be long and the hops will be towering over their competition. I would rather lose the flowers but that is not a battle worth waging, besides, the flowers were there first.
From left to right are: Nugget hops, Magnum hops and Cascade hops. To give you a sense of proportion, the wooden stake is a foot out of the ground. The hop bines are bout 2 feet tall and growing inches a day, about to take off!
The rigging for the hop plants consist of a stake with a hook, rope, a pulley and a tie down (flag pole cleat). The pulley allows for lowering the rope for additional growth and makes harvesting easy – just lower the bines – no ladder needed once installed! It is far safer to harvest on the ground than on a ladder. Especially if you are celebrating the harvest with a few homebrews! Another advantage is you can always lower the bines, harvest the ripe hop cones and raise them again if you have some hop flowers that are not ripe to pick yet.
I didn’t keep track of the cost of the hop rigging equipment (hooks, rope, cleats and pulleys) but I believe it was about $20. I have close to $20 in hop rhizomes and shipping. So for $40 and a little time planting hops, I have a great hobby for years to come, I can watch hops grow! I plan on bartering hops for homebrews from my homebrewing friends (I may even break out my homebrewing equipment and brew a batch), trying some hop sprouts to eat and hop tea to drink and I may try a hop pillow too!
I have about 15 feet for vertical growth and if this works as planned, I could eventually grow 30 to 40 foot hop bines! That’s the theory anyway. I will keep you posted with pictures and stats. This is a design in progress so I will adapt my configuration as I gain additional experience from this setup. Keep checking back for progress reports and pictures!