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!
Grow hops from hop plants! I was shopping for some flowers for my mother (Mothers Day) and I stumbled across some Nugget hop plants (humulus lupulus) for sale! These were 2 to 3 feet tall and doing better than the ones I planted from rhizomes almost a month ago. This was in the parking lot of our local Cub Foods (Cub Foods parking lot greenhouse). I have never seen hop plants for sale before at a garden center.
Hop rhizomes are getting hard to come by these days (out of season) so there is still the possibility to get some hop plants in the ground this year. Nugget was the only variety this particular plant shop had available but it gives hope to finding other variety hop plants in the garden centers. I thought I would pass this on for folks who still want to grow hops this year.
I have come across a place that sells hop plants online (not hop rhizomes). If you want a bit of a jump on the growing season. Highhops.net – 30 varieties of hop plants 48 US states.
Hop Sprouts – all 3 of my hop rhizomes have sprouted! Magnum was first followed by Nugget and finally the Cascade. The hop rhizomes were planted April 11, 2009. When growing hops, this is your first sign of progress – hop sprouts.
The Magnum sprouted April 21 (10 days), the Nugget sprouted April 24 and the Cascades finally broke ground April 26th, 2009. I had mulched heavily over all 3 mounds to keep the ground cold. I was attempting to delay sprouting until after the danger of frost. It appeared to work . Generally May 15th is the safe time to plant in Minnesota. I’ll have to keep an eye on the weather and cover the bines if it drops below freezing.
Now I just have to worry about a possible frost, rabbits, deer and maybe squirrels will dig up the rhizomes – they dig up my garden. Of course I will also have to worry about insects, viruses and other hop diseases like powdery mildew, downy mildew, high winds and hail. Hail obliterated a friend of mine’s hops last year. They never recovered – whole hop season ruined!
I am still contemplating on how I am going to rig the ropes for the bines. I have the materials – rope, pulleys, hardware… I have a couple of ideas. Functionality and ease of lowering the hop bines without needing a ladder (once the pulleys are fastened high up on my garage).
I am going to use a hybrid idea I have which is a combination of some other tricks I read about. The hop bines will be lowered when they get close to the top of the rope. I will loop the bines on a hook type apperatus, possibly a mountable half circle hose rack. When they near the top again, lower and loop the bines again.
This will effectively allow them to grow as long as possible and keep them off the ground. I will have to allow breathing room so the bines will not suffer from dampness and possible molds or mildew (powdery mildew, downy mildew…). I am sure I will need to make adjustments along the way. Wish me luck.
If anyone has ideas about how to do this or how they have done this, let me know. The whole idea here is to share ideas and especially what works.
The first major milestone has ocurred, all the hop rhizomes have sprouted! Magnum, Nugget and Cascade – bitter, bitter and aroma hops. I have to finalize my bine rigging ideas and implement them.
I am still investigating how I want to feed the hops, organic and naturally of course. Green sand, fish emulsions, compost tea and looking into mycelium products to permeate the soil bring nutrients to the rhizomes / root stock.