I recently purchased a hop plant of the ‘Magnum’ variety and have done a little research into how to grow it successfully, here’s what I found from a range of sources. The plant itself has only been in a few weeks and is growing fast!
Basically they are quite easy to grow but you’ll need plenty of space, the plant I have is a Magnum hop and can reach 6 foot in height and width some will grow even taller and wider! The commercial varieties will grow to 20 feet. However you can purchase smaller varieties such as the Prima Donna which only grows 3 metres each season, it is a dwarf version of First Gold. Hops are also a perennial which means they come back each year, they have a deep root system which protects them from frosts in winter and droughts in summer.
Once your hop plant is established it will send up multiple shoots in spring, when they are about 1 to 2 feet in length select 3 or 4 of the healthiest ones and get rid of the rest by cutting them back to the ground. Keep pruning the plant throughout summer and cut back any new shoots that appear from the ground. This will allow for a vigorous healthy growth above. Make sure that the vines you have kept are trained up your support structure. Once the hop plant is firmly established you will need to trim the foliage off the bottom, this will allow the air to circulate and avoid damp conditions. Then at the end of the growing season cut the whole plant down to 2 feet in length ready for the following year.
The hops will reach their full growing height by Summer and will start to grow buds which a few weeks later will become flowers. A few months after this, in September, they can be harvested, make sure you have some good gardening gloves and a long sleeved top as the leaves can be vicious and put up a bit of a fight. You can harvest from the first year of growth however they reach their full potential at 3 years.
Hops do have a few enemies to look out for these include; aphids, red spider mites and powdery mildew. As mentioned above removing some of the foliage will control the mildew but you will need to spray the bugs unfortunately, rather than a chemical spray you could try a garlic spray which is often used successfully for roses and is environmentally friendly.
Position: Full Sun and sheltered. The soil needs to be rich in nutrients and have good drainage.
If you have hops in the rhizome form plant as soon as it arrives at a depth of 4 inches. If you have a hop plant, put outside mid to late April after the last frosts. Plant with some organic matter and water well. Be sure to buy your plants from a reputable disease free source. I bought mine from Crocus.co.uk.
You’ll need a support structure for the hop to grow on so there are a variety of options available. You could make your own, I am building a tee pee structure out of willow sticks, I’ll then keep pruning the plant to keep it at a manageable size. You could also grow it up a trellis or it looks pretty good growing over a pergola.
I hope this little article has helped and happy brewing/gardening!
If you have anything to add please do as gardening is a constant learning curve, a bit like brewing!