Tag Archives: gardening

Hop Growth Update

The hops keep on growing. These are my two Centenntial plants in the foreground with two Newports behind them; behind the picture are two Willamette and two Cascade plants also in pots. The Centennials are out-pacing the other plants so far. They were the first to sprout and have been the fastest growers after sprouting. I also have a larger number of bines on the Centennials plants than I do on the others. I’m not sure why that is the case, but I assume it has something to do with the variety as I am basically treating all the plants the same.

One of the most common searches people use to find my blog is ‘growing hops in pots’, with people often trying to find the correct size of pot to use. I’ve got eight plants in two different size pots. The Centennial and Newport plants shown here are potted in 12″ plastic pots from the hardware store. The Willamettes and Cascades are planted in 16″ pots. I was originally only going to have the four 12″ pots, but ended up getting four more rhizomes to plant. I decided that bigger was better, and the 12″ pots were looking pretty small to me once I the rhizomes had started to sprout. From general reading about hop online, I suspect that even the 16″ pots are too small for the hops to grow to their full potential. I can only wait and see. This is my first year growing hops, so I certainly have things to learn.

I am using pots because I don’t have a place to grow the hops at home at the moment. My backyard is both too small and is sort of under construction at the moment. Once it’s all sorted out, I might be able to have a few plants there. So I have the hops growing at the office up the side of an old silo. They get lots of sun and have plenty of room above them to grow. Part of the deal is that I have to keep them in pots so that they are relatively contained and can be removed at the end of the season. This is fine with me as I’d like to take them home someday as well.

Since they are growing in pots and have relatively little soil for nutrients, I have been watering them daily with Miracle Grow solution. I use a 1 gallon water jug to water the 8 plants once a day, so each plant is getting about 1/8 of a gallon of Miracle Grow water per weekday plus whatever rain they get naturally. I’m not in the office on weekends, so they have to fend for themselves. I try to give them 2 waterings on Friday, but I generally forget in the rush to get home for the weekend. I might have to start watering them twice a day when they get bigger. I’ll be checking for any leaf damage or stunted growth to determine if they are lacking nutrients. I’m also considering switching to a bloom fertilizer once they plants stop growing foliage and start growing hop cones so that I can maximize production.

Again this is my first year growing hops, so take my processes with a grain of salt. So far, they seem to be working just fine, but I’ll not really know how successful I have been until the fall.

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Hop Twine and the Silo

I’ve got 8 hop plants growing in pots at work, 2 each of Centennial, Cascade, Newport & Willamette. One of the Centennials was the first to sprout a few weeks ago, and by last Friday it was about 18 inches tall. The other 7 plants are all between 1/2 inch and maybe 6 inches tall. Hops seems to start out pretty slow after they break through the soil, but once they get about 4 inches tall, they grow noticeably every day. It’s pretty unbelievable. Every Monday morning I am impressed with how much bigger they got over the weekend. The tall Centennial was no longer able to support itself, so it was time to stake the plants and get the hop twine attached to the silo at work where they will be growing.

I borrowed a 20 foot ladder from Forrest on Friday to tie up 8 lengths of 20 foot hop twine. The silo has an old ladder up one side, but I was warned that some of the rungs had broken the last time someone tried to climb it 18 years ago. I doubt it’s gotten stronger since then, so I avoided it. The hop twine is made from coconut husks and it is extremely coarse. You definitely wouldn’t want to use it to climb anything. I cut myself twice with the twine and ended up with a few coconut husk splinters from messing around with it trying to see just how deadly it was (brilliant).

I tied the hop twine off around the metal bands that run around the silo in 2 sets of 4. I wish I could have spaced them out a little more, but there weren’t a lot of places to tie the twine that would get the hops enough light. I wanted to keep them on the south side of the silo as much as possible so they’ll get the most sunlight.

You can see the old ladder in these pictures. I actually ended up moving the twine away from the vine you can see growing on the silo already but I didn’t get any pictures.

Thanks to Mark and Richard for holding the ladder for me. Now I just need to get my hop plants as big as those vines already on the silo. They’ll certainly be getting enough sun. My only concern is the size of the pots they are planted in limiting their size/productivity. I hope that regular watering and fertilizing will give them all the nutrients they need. It works for hydroponic gardens, so it should work for me too.

Here’s that large Centennial plant growing up it’s newly staked twine. It’s got 20 feet of room to grow before it hits that silo. From what I understand about first year plants, I don’t think it will get that tall. Of course, I won’t be disappointed if it does either.

Here are the Centennials and Newports from further back. I think you’d be hard pressed to find another finance firm that has an office that looks like this, and even harder pressed to find one that let’s employees use space to grow hops from home brewing.

Now I just need to get those other 7 plants moving up their twine.

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More On Hop Growing

Not much brewing going on at the Koehler Brewery, but there’s plenty of watering hop plants. Three of the original 8 plants have sprouted, 2 Centennials and 1 Newport. I’m glad I got at least one of each of them to grow so that I’ll have some variety available to me for brewing come fall. I’d have been disappointed if I ended up with all the same hops. Here’s what the largest Centennial plant looks like about week after it first broke thorough the soil.

I brought the plants that sprouted to work. It’s easier for me to water them here during my breaks and there’s definitely more sunlight than there is at home. Once they get big enough, I’m going to put some stakes in the ground next to the pots and run some hop twine up the side of an old silo we have at work. The plants should get tons of sun and have lots of room to grow. I guess the only drawback is that I need to keep them in pots so I can remove them at the end of the season. I’ll have to water them and supply them with nutrients regularly, but that just gives me a brewing related activity to keep me busy everyday, so I definitely don’t mind. It’s not like I was going to be able to plant them in the ground at home either. Our backyard is sort of under development at the moment, so it probably won’t be until next summer that things are in order back there. Anyway, a huge thanks to Oman for allowing me to keep my hops at work this summer.

In a more ridiculous development, I got 8 more hop rhizomes; 4 Cascades and 4 Willamettes. I couldn’t pass up some free rhizomes. These rhizomes are much more variable in size than the ones I planted already. There are a number of smaller rhizomes in the bunch. My plan is to plant then 2 to a pot instead of individually. I already have enough pots. Here’s a picture of the Willamettes. I’m trying to do a better job of including pictures on this blog. I always have my cell phone with me, so I’m not sure why I haven’t added more.

The white sprouts are on the right. The instructions that came with my other hops recommended planting the rhizomes horizontally (like they are shown) about 1 inch deep unless you know which side will sprout. If you do, you can plant the rhizome vertically with the sprouts facing up. These rhizomes are already sprouting, so I’m planning on planting them vertically this morning during a break.

Finally, I came across this picture of a hop farm in Germany. Awesome stuff. Oman might not be that happy if I made the office look like this, but it I think I have enough plants to make it happen. Ridiculous.

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Hop Progress

One of the Centennial plants broke through the soil this weekend. It’s now about an inch tall, so it’s growing pretty quickly. No activity from the other plants. I am a little worried that the plants have been getting too much water and that the roots will rot. There’s been a considerable amount of rain recently. I always empty the trays under the pots after the rain to try to keep the drainage as effective as possible. I thought about bringing the plants inside on days when we are supposed to get rain, but root rot is only a possibility, a baby digging up the roots is guaranteed if the plants are inside.

I also got permission to bring my hops to work. There is an old silo at the office. My plan is to run some hop twine from the pots up to one of the metal bands around the silo. The silo gets great sunlight and should be an excellent place for the hops to grow. Since I am at work all day as well, it’ll be easier for me to tend to them there during breaks.

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Hop Rhizomes

I ordered some hop rhizomes.

There’s no sensible reason for me to buy hop rhizomes. My backyard is about 25′ by 35′, which is to say, it’s small. I live in a townhouse. We bought the place new and went out of our way to make sure that we had a much green backyard as possible. We put in a parallel parking spot in the alley to conserve green space and park the second car on the street in front of the house. Sometimes I think our yard is too small to be useful and that we should just put in a garage like everyone else. I figure that if we wanted a yard we should have bought a house with a big yard. We certainly had the opportunity. But most of the time I think it’s nice and that we made the right choice. It’s like a little courtyard back there (apart from the fact that there’s basically no grass – thanks builders).

Our neighbor has a giant 2 story garage thing in his backyard. I’m not sure how he gets natural light into his house. Luckily the monster garage doesn’t block the sun from our backyard. Did I mention that it’s 2 stories?

Anyway with our small backyard, we need to make careful decisions about what we want to do with that space.

Buying hop rhizomes just because they are only available in April and pretty cheap isn’t really what we had in mind. Hops may be cheap, but they grow into huge plants. The vines grow 15′-20′ tall. That’s right, 20 feet tall. General practice is to plant individual rhizomes of the same cultivar 3 feet apart and different cultivars 5 feet apart. So you really can’t fit that many plants into my yard.

So I bought 4 Centennial rhizomes and 4 Newport rhizomes. Both are relatively new varieties of high alpha acid American hops. I’m pretty sure I bought the Centennial rhizomes because of the Two-Hearted Ale I drank a few weeks ago. It’s supposed to be made with Centennial exclusively. The only brewery I’ve known to use Newport is Rogue. I figure I bought the Newport because I’ve never seen them for sale at All Seasons. Newer is better right? You’d think that with limited space I’d want to have a bunch of different varieties of hops or at least hops that I have used regularly and liked. Nope. Go for the unknown stuff exclusively and in volume. I’m crazy.

I could fill my whole backyard with those plants. I’m going to need to find a better solution.

There is an old grain silo at work that has a ladder up the side….

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