Craft Brewers Rejoice – Garden Hops

hopsI am not a homebrewer but I have enough friends that enjoy homebrewing that I can enjoy their passion while also contributing to it with hops grown here on the farm. Given the interest in homebrewing here in the Bay Area, I can also trade fresh hops for liquid gold or other types of produce.

In addition to having a flower that contributes mightily to a favored beverage, hops are a vine that spreads out nicely to form a privacy fence and have a wonderful aroma when in bloom.

Hops are a vine, called bines, that grow to between 14′ and 25′ in height and spread out 3-4′. They require trellising because the weight of the bines will overpower the plant and fall over. Plant┬áthese now, in the fall, to ensure you will have a strong spring growth. The cold winter weather will kill off the bines but the roots will remain healthy and ready to pop in the spring.

hop-plantedPreferring well-drained soil, these plants are surprisingly hardy and will do well in a variety of soil conditions. The one thing they don’t like is over-watering, which can promote fungal growth that weakens the plants. Many garden guides recommend mounding up the roots, I have opted not to do that because know the soil in this particular area is well drained, winter and summer (there is a pea gravel French drain that runs the length of this fence line, which is on a slope).

I will mulch over the plants later in the month when the weather turns colder. In the early spring, I will run trellis wires and let nature do the rest. Hope grow through the summer months and mature in late summer. The buds can be harvested and dried, then vacuum packed and frozen. You can also vacuum pack fresh hops and freeze them, but the result will be a mushy mound of aromatic hops, not much to look at but still usable.

The live crowns are suitable for spring or late fall planting, purchased from Great Lakes Hops. Crowns are live or dormant plants, rather than rhizomes which are lateral root growths that will sprout new growths. Packaged well and shipped overnight, it was an easy process and Great Lakes seems like nice people to do business with (they even threw in an extra “lucky dog” crown!). The varieties of hops are many, take your time to pick out a variety that suits your conditions.