As your hop plant grows to its ultimate height, typically at the end of June here in the Ozarks, the mid season care of the hop plant begins. The beginning of the decrease in sunlight will be the trigger for the plant to start putting on side vines, and the plant will stop its vertical growth. The sidearms will then begin to produce hop cones on the side arms. This is know as the flowering stage, when horizontal grwoth begins.
Make sure to keep the sidearms from tangling up during this time and clear away any weeds and branches from the bottom 3 feet of the plant. Weeds promte moisture, which can provide a safe haven for insects that you do not want in your hop plant. Fungal disease can also get started with way. Better to bid it goodbye from the gitgo.
As the hop cones grow larger, you will want to keep an eye on the color and texture of the flower. They will end up yellowish green to a very light green. They should feel very light to the touch, and feel very dry also. A rule for know when harvest time is getting close is this: if you crush one of the cones in your hand, and it stays compressed, then it is not time. Low alpha hops, or aroma hops, will typicallly be ready to harvest sooner than your bittering hops. When you have crushed a hop also, you should have the smell of the lupulin on your hands. The smell of fresh hops is incredible.
We’ll talk again soon,
Raymond C. Province