Hop Growing

Why grow hops? You get the freshness of a homegrown product and the satisfaction of knowing you have grown them yourself and brewed them up in your beer. My neighbors think it's pretty cool too!

The First Year in Arizona
My First attempt at growing hops was pathetic. I was living in North-Eastern Arizona near the New Mexico on an INdian reservation. I had rekindled my passion for brewing, and wanted to step it up a notch and grow hops. I choose three hop varieties; Cascades, Columbus, and Chinook. I bought rhizomes from Fresh Hops. I stored them in the fridge until planting. I dug three holes spaced far enough so the hop bines would not get mixed, and deep enough to let them get started with the loose soil. 

I planted all three in a straight line along the front of the house about 6 feet from each other. In order to protect the plants I pounded some wooden stakes into the ground. I had hoped this would protect the plants from the lawnmower. At this point, I still mowed the lawn, and they guided me away from the plants.

Shortly after I planted the hops the tribe created a jobs program to have tribal members get paid by the Federal Gov't to mow our front yards. The stakes were pulled up, my twine thrown, away, and my hops were mowed down without mercy.

I would have shared a beer with them if they would have left my hops alone.

A strong support system for the plant to climb on is needed. Look for space along fences, garages, or windmills. Plant in early spring, once frost is no longer a concern, but no later than May. I strung a trellis line from the wooden stakes I pounded into the ground to the roof for the plants to climb. Only 2-3 vines should be trained to each string with 2 twines per plant (I only used 1 twine per plant, and ran two bines up each). Vines are ready to be trained when they are about a foot long and wrapped clockwise to twine. Once trained, the bine will take care of itself. The first year bines grew to about 3 feet in height before they were mowed down to nothing.

Please don't look too closely at the house. This is US government housing a (20-yrs old and unmaintained) double-wide the government expected medical staff to live in.

The Second Year in Arizona
They automatically started to grow in the spring again (Humulus Lupulus is a hardy perennial plant producing annual bines). The government wanted more jobs for tribal residents, so they started to mow our front lawns every couple of weeks.

We were told to flag anything or anywhere that we didn't want mowed. Everything else in the way was mowed down - neighborhood children learned quickly not to leave toys and bicycles in the front area. They mowed everything, it was nothing to have a windows broken or cars dinged badly on lawn day from "staff" mowing rocks and toys sending schrapnel flying.

Off to Home Depot to purchase rebar rods. I pounded about three of them around each plant to act as a barricade for the hops. I tied small red plastic ribbon to each of them. The hops grew about 4 foot up the trellis that year.

Alas, I came home one day to find all my rebar had been pulled up and thrown on the front door step. The hops were mowed and strewn across the lawn. Other neighbors had similar results with gardens. In subsequent weeks other stuff in driveways and the steps were thrown in the lawn so they could be mowed up and mulched back into the earth. They were a bunch of mow happy mulching destructive urchins.

When I closed that chapter on our lives I left Arizona with the plants still in the ground. Continue on as I started to grow and use hops in Minnesota...