Hops can take a couple of years to fully develop, so be ready for that. In the first year, you will be planting, and letting your hop plant get a good home. You may get some hops the first year, but plan on a better crop the second and third year.
Hops are grown from a rhizome. A rhizome is a horizontal underground stem, with leaves and buds, that serves as a storage organ and a means of vegetative propagation. You will need to acquire some rhizomes from an established hop plant. The best place to do this is from a home brewery supply company. Mine came from The Home Brewery in Ozark, Missouri. The folks there can ship to you, and the quality of their products is good.
You will want to plant at least two rhizomes of the same variety, as you will increase the odds of your plants surviving. Give your plants 3 ft in all directions for growth. If you have seen my hop plants on The Celtic Ozark Garden, you will be able to see how big they can get. My square foot method only allows for one plant in the 4 ft square. After a bit of growth, I weeded out one of the two I planted, and saved the stronger.
Hops grow best in the latitudes of 34-50 degrees. They like a sandy, well drained soil, with a PH of 6-7.5. Fertilize your hop in the spring, and again in July, with a fertilizer rich in phosphate, nitrogen, and potassium. This general type of fertilizer seems to really work well. A little well aged horse poop will also be a treat for your first year plant. Let your plants develop for a couple of months, prior to adding.
The rhizome you get will have a bud on it, that will be the basis of the new growth. You will want to plant the rhizome vertically in the ground, with the bud pointing up. Cover the whole top with 1″ of good soil. Don’t pack the soil. If you have a problem figuring out where the bud is, then plant the rhizome horizontally. Keep the rhizome watered well, but don’t over soak. The rule of thumb is to stick your finger in the loose soil. If it is moist, you are watering well. If it is dry, you need to add water. If it is just soaked, you’ve added too much, and need to let the water level subside.
You can plant your rhizome any time after the end of frost, to no later than May. This will give your plant plenty of time to grow through the first year. In the next installment, we’ll talk about caring for your hop plant after the first year.
The Celtic Ozarkian