Hop bines – Humulus Lupulus (not hop vines) are taking off now.  Growing at a rate of 3 to 6 inches a day.  7 days ago the Nugget hops were 7 feet tall – the Magnum hops were 5 feet tall and the Cascade hops were 6 feet tall.

    Cascade Hop Bines

    Cascade Hop Bines Gaining Ground

    1 week later Nugget hop bines are just over 10 feet, Magnum hop bines are 7 feet tall and the Cascade hop bines are 9 foot 6 inches.  In 7 days the Nugget hops grew 3 feet (5 inches a day), Magnum hops grew 2 feet (over 3 inches a day) and the Cascade hops grew 3 foot six inches (6 inches a day)!  This is the fun part of growing hops!

    The vertical growth should continue at this pace or better and the bines should soon fill in with side shoots and hop cones!  The hop flowers or hop cones are the end product we are after.  Watching the hops bines grow is the fun part.  I have not had to lower the bines yet (soon) as they reach the top of the rope/pulley of the hop rigging.  I still need to get some hose hangers or similar contraption to loop the bines on to allow more vertical space for the hop bines to grow.

    Magnum Hops are Slower to Start

    Magnum Hops are Slower to Start

    I mentioned on an ealier post that I spotted a posting on an interesting concept, a upward spiral.  I don’t know if the bines would need to be constantly trained or if they would follow the spiral.  I imagine there is a magic number of the angle of the rope where the bines would wrap around the rope without daily training.  Too slow of a rise and the bine would attempt to grow straight up.  I will experiment with this concept next year.

    This years pulley rigged ropes with a slight angle is doing great.  No sense in messing with perfection.  The Nugget bines are within 2 feet of reaching the top so I better start shopping for

    hose racks.

    Nugget Hop Bines in First Place

    Nugget Hop Bines in First Place

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    Jun
    14

    First Year Hops

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    First year hops update.  It has been 2 months since I planted the hop rhizomes.  I figured it is time for an update (and a reason to visit the hop growing blog).  When they were first growing, the Nugget and Magnum hops were significantly ahead of the Cascade hops (by about 50% in height).  At the 2 month marker, the Nugget hops are 7 feet tall, the Magnum hops are 5 feet tall and the cascade hops passed the Magnum and is at 6 feet tall.

    First Year Nugget Hops

    First Year Nugget Hops

    The Nugget hops are the tallest hop bines at this point in time (2 months).  The Nugget bines do receive just a little bit more direct sunlight so I don’t consider this a fair race to the top.  I have 2 bines sharing this rope and they are perfectly spaced and growing as a double helix (as are the other 2 hop plants).

    My neighbor says he thinks the hops are cool.  I was a bit worried about using the white rope as it sticks out like a sore thumb against my brown garage.  White was not my first choice in color, I was actually looking for green but white was all they had.  I did not have time to shop around so white it is.

    The only fertilizer I have used is a little bone meal and blood meal.  I am staying organic all the way with these hops.  I will soon use some compost tea (as soon as my compost nears completion).

    So far I have not had an issue with deer or rabbits eating my hops bines.  I believe a rabbit got one of my nugget bines but that was before I had selected the 2 best bines to grow and I clipped the rest of the hop shoots.  Since then the bines have been left alone.

    I am looking at buying / using a soil inoculant as the soil on the side of my garage has been neglected forever.  My wife’s peonies, surrounded by rock mulch has not seen much organic matter.  I had to dig up rock and plastic to make holes for the hop plants.  Last fall I dug down a foot and 2 feet in diameter.  I mixed in grass, leaves and wood ashes to supplement the soil.  There wasn’t much black dirt or topsoil so I added some with the organic materials.  The hop bines seem to be doing ok for first year hops.  I am looking at some beneficial ground bacteria and mycelium (mushroom type fungus) which helps the roots – root stalk / crown absorb nutrients from the soil.

    First Year Magnum Hops

    Magnum Hops First Year

    First Year Magnum Hops
    First Year Cascade Hops

    First Year Cascade Hops

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    Adjustable Hop Bine Rigging

    Adjustable Hop Bine Rigging

    Rigging Hop Bines for Unlimited Height

    Rigging Hop Bines for Unlimited Height

    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!

    Nugget Hop Bines Starting to Climb

    Nugget Hop Bines Starting to Climb

    Cascade Hops Growing Vertical

    Cascade Hops Growing Vertical

    Magnum Hop Bines Racing to the Top of the Rope

    Magnum Hop Bines Racing to the Top of the Rope

    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!

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    Kegerators / Beermeisters