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Northern hop growers - advice needed!

 
master steward
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Location: Isle of Skye, Scotland. Nearly 70 inches rain a year
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I'm very excited to be planting out my new hop plants soon. I got 4 varieties that ought to be early harvest from A-plus hops, a UK hop specialist. They were superb crowns at a very good price - I actually struggled to find pots big enough to put them in because I wasn't ready to plant out yet.

growing hops in cool climates
Hop plants ready to plant out now

The site I have chosen for three of them is right down at the bottom of my tree field. I have a group of spruce that give a nice sunny sheltered spot (or as good as I'll get here). The ground isn't that deep, but I think drainage and feed will probably be more important for me here since I get plenty of rain normally. I'm going to put one near my shed in my growing area. It's a bit less sheltered, but I'm thinking it can grow up my bird perch when I get that erected.

how to grow hops
preparing planting holes

I've never grown hops before and I am wondering whether just letting them scramble up into the spruce trees will be something I will regret later. Does anyone have hints and tips to share - what has worked for you and hwo do you harvest your hops?

I'm particularly keen to hear from anyone that has short cool summers like me, but all advice for a newbie grower would be gratefully received!
 
pollinator
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Location: Middle of South Dakota, 4a
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Hi! I have zero advice but following along since I'm growing hops for the first time this year. We are using it as shade for our chicken run and ourselves.

Also curious if it will bother close trees. One of ours will most likely climb on my favorite crabapple, the other will be near a Cherry.
 
gardener
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Just a few thoughts, Nancy.

Are you planning to harvest the hops?  If so you might not want them in the trees.  

It might be a good idea to figure out your structure, and harvest methods before you plant into the ground.  In this region, they put out 20 foot poles, run horizontal wires, suspend string for the hops to climb up.  I didn’t want to do that, so I made a tripod out of the longest poles I had, i planted the hops in a circle at the base of the poles.

I was trying to create a shade structure …

Then I converted to goat pasture…

I didn’t stay with it long enough to have experience harvesting.

I think the traditional methods in England involved people walking around on stilts…

With hops, they will die to the ground each winter, so you won’t lose any of the plants’ vigor by trying one method after another.

One thing I thought of was putting up a sturdy trellis or pergola type structure that I could lower with a pulley system.

It will be an interesting process, and I will be curious what you end up with…

I do think trying to pick them out of the trees might not be a good idea.  I would locate them with the idea that you will be providing a structure of some kind.  

And even if they end up in the trees this year, next year you add  a different support system.
😊
 
pollinator
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Location: Southern Manitoba...bald(ish) prairie, zone 2b/3
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I can't provide advice, but I enjoy Farmery Estate Brewery near Neepawa, Manitoba.  They grow their own hops and barley for their craft beer.  The ingenuity of farmers.  I know on the site there are some photos of their hops, but I don't know if there is enough to glean ideas.  I think Thekla makes some really good points.  I'm sure YouTube University would be able to help, but the challenge there is finding the right "course" without it turning into a rabbit warren that sucks away your time.

One of these days I need to take a drive and get the tour of the Farmery farm.
 
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Salut,
I introduced hops for various reasons.
They do proliferate along a stream not far from here so it is not an ‘exotic’.
They are very keen climbers and will cover all sorts of unsightly elements like the big  plastic water
containers.
They are, however, invasive as some would say. I find their long growths climbing up trees and bushes a long way away from the mother plant. They have very long, shallow roots; long white thin with extra filaments.
I do wonder at how they manage to spread so far. There is not always a root connection. I find it quite unruly.
In winter, it is an unruly tangle that springs to life after the winter, if this still exists.
It’s part of the landscape now.

Anyway, the good thing is, the young shoots are edible. Locally, they are harvested and added to egg dishes.
Beer obviously for those who make it.
Ihave made hop socks, that solitary sock that has lost its partner somewhere. Or you can use an alternative attractive pouch, fill it with dried hop flowers, can add lavender and chamomile if you like.
This is a very useful ornament on your sleeping arrangement, hung near your head, on the bedstead, to aid peaceful sleep.
It really does work and can make a lovely gift.
One can also drink the mixture of herbs or hop on its own, as a bitter calming tea.

I have heard that hops have been used to graft cannabis? Can’t quite get my head around this.
The hop stems are very thin. It will not festure as one of my projects.

Twiny hop Blessings to us all
M-H
 
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I grow hops in coastal Maine on an arbor we built of metal conduit and hog wire, the ends of the conduit slipped over rebar pounded into the ground. Pretty inexpensive and fairly simple to build if you have a pipe bender. The hops want to grow straight up, so I have to toss them over the top as they get taller. We also grow schisandra and a grape vine on this arbor and sometimes runner beans and squash!

The climate here is somewhat similar to Scotland so they may do well where you are too.

The hops are really pretty, especially when the flowers are hanging down. We use them mostly for tea since we don't brew beer (yet)—I'm interested to try eating the new shoots.

They do spread, but I don't find them anywhere I haven't planted them. I think we've had them about 8 years.

I wouldn't recommend growing them up trees. I originally planted them near some young trees, and they can strangle them and pull them down. So we moved them to the arbor. May not be a problem with mature trees, but you'd have a lot of trouble getting the hops harvest.
hops-on-arbor.jpg
hops on arbor
hops on arbor
 
Nancy Reading
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Great responses thank you all!

I've already planted the hops with a nice load of compost to give them a start. The roots have filled out the containers already, so it was definitely time to get them in the ground. This year is the first year, so I'll mainly just be learning what issues I have and hoping they establish and grow well for next year. I do hope to be able to harvest the flowers (and maybe spring shoots) in future years though.

Thekla - So it does appear that using the trees may be a step I will regret....I do have some spruce trunks between 7 and 14 feet long. I wonder if I can make a climbing frame with those? I did buy some length of hop twine - quite a robust jute (?) string, although I'm not sure I have enough for all the hops. I think  the idea is that you let the hops grow up the string and then cut hops and string down when ready to harvest. I don't think my stilt walking skills will be up to harvesting using those!

marie-helene I wonder whether your hops are seeding as well as spreading? I do love the shape of the leaves and the flowers. I remember them growing up the fence  of our playground at primary school, but that was a long way South from here, and a much warmer summer. I hadn't thought much of other uses - so thanks for those suggestions. We have a very small micro brewer locally and we are hoping to use local hops for flavouring and/or bittering depending on how they turn out. Without the warm summer to ripen the flowers they may have some unique qualities.

Anna I love your arbour! That looks so pretty. I did wonder about using a hoop from my new polytunnel as a support for ropes. I may have a spare one if I decide to make the tunnel slightly shorter - that would give me a height of about 10 feet. I think I would prefer to use the spruce though if I can work out a structure that will stay up and can be erected fairly easily.

The other question I have is companion planting around the hops. They seem to be a little susceptible to slug damage. I have noticed a few of the leaves being nibbled. Will the hops grow fairly happily in harmony with the grass and wild flowers that will naturally try and recolonise, or should I try to establish a complementary guild of some kind for the hops? The hops appear to have quite deep roots, so a surface spreading ground cover like mint might be an idea. Or I could transplant some of the ladies mantle that grows wild here. That has wide leaves that will make a nice clump that the hop vines ought to push through with no trouble.

hop_planting.jpg
growing hops in Scotland North
Hop roots were nicely filling pot
 
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1`I'm in the Willamette, where hops are a fairly common crop, grown on giant trellises made with tall treated timber posts which support horizontal steel cables and each root crown gets a few lines of Coir twine (coconut husk fiber) I don't know how long it lasts, but it is STRONG, but you need gloves, fiber ends can pierce your skin. I can't break Coir twine at all, unless it has been in the weather for over one wet winter. The growers do not want to accumulate non-degradable synthetic twine in a tilled field, and they want good yields. I have not worked a hops harvest but friends have told me they wear ONE set of clothes for the harvest and burn it when done. I imagine it is somewhat similar for Cannabis workers but I wouldn't know. The two are graft compatible, but the resins are made in, then sent up from, the roots, so it's not a practical way to increase yields of killer bud. I do use coir twine for lashing, especially for willow work on stream banks and in-stream features when a beaver family isn't around to do the work. Same deal, it holds long enough, but won't ultimately girdle  the growing willow or be a permanent concern in the creek. Thor H. had Kon Tiki built with coir, and found that the rough coir rope wore grooves in the raft's logs, but they got there despite the grooves.
 
Nancy Reading
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Thanks everyone for your advice!

I have now constructed a climbing frame for my hop vines using some of the spruce poles I cut down early in the year. A simple A-frame at either end and a top horizontal pole. It was a little tricky lifting up the top pole - I needed to recruit some extra "power of tall" from my husband to put that in position, but I'm quite happy with the result. Each end is tied with some polypropylene rope to adjacent spruce trees - I'll need to keep an eye on these, but I think they will be fine for a year or so

natural string and pegs
jute cord and twig pegs


I had bought a little jute twine at the same time as the hop plants, as I mentioned above. There seems to be plenty to do several lengths, so if I need to replace it each year that will be OK at least for a year or so. Maybe I could develop my skills at nettle twine or similar for the future. I cut some instant pegs from some of my hazel bushes to hold them to the ground at the ends.

holding guy ropes down pegs
pegs in use


So below is the final result. I took the vines gently off the sticks they had been on, mostly for cosmetic reasons, and started them twining up the cord. Hopefully they will be happy in their new home

hop growing support
finished hop climbing frame
 
Rick Valley
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That "Jute" twine looks *exactly* like what the brewer's supply here sells as "COIR": Jute is much softer and weaker, coir can wreck your hands if you're handling it with barehanded. It is also used for stream restoration work where plastic twine is a no-go. Coir twine is what tied the balsa logs of the Kon Tiki raft together and wore deep grooves in the poor logs.
 
Nancy Reading
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You may be right Rick. I assumed it was jute since that is what garden twine here normally is. The website doesn't specify and it does feel very coarse. The hop vines feel sort of prickly too, I expect they have fine hairs that help them catch on undergrowth to grow up to the light.
 
Rick Valley
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That's a really good theory on the value of the stem texture, and like Bill said, multiple functions for every element, it probably discourages eating it too.
 
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