New to Growing Hops, So

I am new to growing hops. I live in northern Illinois. I was thinking about growing a Hallertau plant and a Fuggle plant (are there close substitutes that I should consider that will grow better/easier/healthier?). I am buying “The Homebrewer’s Garden” as we speak, so maybe it will answer many of my questions, but, until I get it; here goes…

First off, how well will these plants grow in my area? How much yield can I expect (after the first year)?

Do I have to remove the rizome from the ground in the winter, like you would with bulbs? Or do the roots need to stay in the ground? I know this sounds like a goofy question, but I thought I would be sure.

How hard is it to care for them? I know I will need to train them, keep them fed, etc. What should I use for mulch on the hill; straw, wood chips, something else?

How should I prepare my hills? I know I need well drained, sandy soil. Has anyone in my area planted? How did you prepare your soil? How tall should the hill be? How big around? How deep?

I know you are supposed to grow each plant 3’ apart and different cultivars 7’ apart. Why is this?

On to the growing apparatus. I am planning something like what is shown in my ahem “drawing”. I would grow one of each plant on each end, therefore keeping them more than 7 feet apart, but still not having a huge trellis, as the two cultivars would grow towards each other. I am trying to avoid digging big holes and putting permanent structures in because, if it works, I would like to take it with when I move (probably around 5 years from now). I actually just realized that I would not be able to have bines growing up each side on each end, so ignore that - 3 bines up one of the ropes on each side.

All that said, is there any reason this will not work? Any simple modifications that should be made to this design, should it be scrapped all together; why? Will I really need the guywires if I am burying the pipes in the ground 3 feet (I think I will wait until I know I need guy wires before I put them in, hopefully I won’t need them, and I won’t have to mow around them).

I should also ask about planting location. Full sun or morning sun or afternoon sun or under a tree? I can basically determine how much sun they will receive by where I plant them under the big tree in the backyard.

Full sun if available will be your best bet. Make sure to leave them lots of room. My Mt Hood easily grows more than 20ft in an average season.
Here is a couple of decent reads:

I’d go with willamette instead of fuggles. It’s descended from fuggles and grows better in the U.S.

I used a fairly thick bed of pine bark mulch. Also, from my experience last year (first year), you want to make sure you keep them watered. I basically would stick my fingers in the soil to feel for moisture, once the soil was starting to dry up i would water them. Obviously making sure to not over water i might add. I like your trelis as I used an old cloths line and it worked perfectly.

Hops grow like weeds. The root system will get bigger and bigger and bigger each year. That is why they tell you to plant different kinds at least 5-7 feet apart, because eventually, the roots will spread out that far and you will no longer be able to tell which is which unless you dig up the roots in between and throw them out or replant them each spring.

If you get any cones at all the first year, it is a fluke – you should not expect any at all. They need a whole year to establish good roots. Then the second year they will be normal, and they probably peak in their third year, but second year is pretty awesome.

Hops need two things – lots of sun, and lots of water. Nothing else matters. Plant them in full sun, and ensure the soil is moist every day, and you’ll get huge yields starting in the second year.

Your trellis system (or whatever you’d like to call it) will work just fine. Keep in mind that hops would prefer to grow 25 feet high if you can manage it. They’ll produce more cones that way. But if you can only do 7 feet high, it should be fine. They’ll just bush out huge and crawl all over the dang place then. They’ll do fine with whatever height you give them. But higher would probably be better if you can do it.

That’s about all there is to it. There ain’t an easier plant to grow in the whole wide world. Hops can take a lot of abuse, but if you keep them watered, they’ll love you for it.

I should note, I’m not terribly concerned about the yield. I would like to have enough for 2-3 five gallon weiss batches and a couple more miscellaneous batches, at least 1 porter, probably 2. I would also like to give some to my uncle, but again only a couple batches. So, a couple pounds would be MORE than enough. I might end up on here giving/trading my hops out (if that’s allowed). LOL so keep your eyes open in a couple years. The reason I ask about the first year is because I would like to, once I harvest the first year (if there is a harvest to be had), I would like to malt my own grain with the intentions of growing wheat and barley the following year. I am really happy to get the knowledge so far. I am pretty excited about growing hops (I’m easily excitable). Thanks so far, keep it coming.

On a separate note, I am concerned about my soil, it’s pretty clay-y after a foot or so, I plan to dig down 2-3 feet and have a foot or so high hill. Do you guys think that will be a problem? It sounds like as long as I keep them moist, I won’t have a problem.


Baratone, thanks for the 2nd link - i knew about the first! Much appreciated!!!

I believe hop roots are pretty shallow, so I wouldn’t worry if they hit a wall a foot down. They’ll be fine.

Baratone, I would also like to thank you for the links. I didn’t get a chance to look at them yesterday, but the first one looks great. I don’t know how much I will use the second with only 2 plants, but if I know me, once I get two plants figured out, I won’t stop there. Thanks!

Just had a thought at lunch. Why not add another pair of strings across, and bring two strings up from each plant and run them across? Check out the NEW drawing. I would definitely put in the guy wires if I were to plan this much weight on the rig.

SE Wisconsin. Planted hops for the first time last year. If you go on “High Hops” website and go to the individual varieties they have some really good information on pest and disease resistance. From what I have read some of the heritage varieties are a little more prone to problems. My Brewer’s Gold topped out at 10’ and produced a 5 gallon bucket of hops. (11.6 ozs. dry). My trellis next year is 16’ tall jointed at the bottom for harvest, and attaching guide cords. Hope you don’t mind the pictures below.

I just thought of something… 15 feet of string is going to be severely weighed down. It will want to sag way down towards the ground. I think you’ll either need to go higher with your posts so they don’t spread as much, or else put extra support in the center of the strings. Or they will sag way way down. Or instead of string for the horizontal, go with a sturdy 2x4 or pipe or something along those lines.

Hey Flytyer, what kind of soil do you have? Oh, and, it’s my thread so no pictures but mine!!! :wink:

DM, I was wondering about that too. I am thinking about putting anchors in the ground and tying each side off, then putting a cable between the two with a turnbuckle to make everthing taught. I might use a wire with some cior (sp) wrapped around it. I think you are absolutely right about it sagging. I definitely don’t want the poles to move, so everything must be tight before I start.

This land that my family homesteaded in 1846. It was tiled at that time to drain marsh land. The soil is black down to 18" with clay below. On the base of each upright is 250lbs. of quikcrete so I’m not planning on guy wires, only time will tell. As far as soil make up I don’t know, but in technical terms my hops really liked bunny poop.(nieces raise show rabbits). PS Southern exposure 10-12 hours of sun in the summer.PPS Sorry about the pictures, but since I ain’t that articulate, and don’t type more gooder english I thought they would help.

I can’t wait to move… I want land to grow stuff (grains, if malting goes well this summer; along with veggies) in the worst way… I already told my wife that an acre is a necessity… In the mean time, I am trying to avoid digging a hole and placing concrete. I do have to say, the new trellis, with the joint, is a GREAT idea. I would be concerned about how heavy it is when it’s full of hops (lowering it might be difficult, 200lbs. of plants, plus 30lbs. of trelis, 10’ above your head), but, it’s super cool.

How well did the first trellis stand up to the wind? Was it anchored? Might be a cheaper/easier alternative to my pipe/wire/rope trelis. I am considering building a wod trellis to make it easier and cheaper.

I got a pack of 24" stakes from menards and the 1"X2"X10’ cedar strips were from there also. I just made two simple tri-pods, using lashing. Extended the legs of the tri-pod, pounded in the stakes and just used dry wall screws to attach. Like I said I didn’t know what I was doing, but it worked. As a frame of reference the middle picture was July 8th, and the Brewers Gold bines out grew the trellis by the end of August. It does take two people to lay down the trellis arms, but I have a neighbor who likes free beer.

Was there any warping in the boards at the end of the season? I was thinking about using 2x2x8’ boards, tripod them out, like you did, then put three of them in a row and another 2x2 across the top. Basically what you did except with an extra tripod, for support. Seems like it would be easier to deal with, in general; not to mention cheaper.

No warping, but we had very little rain last year in SE WI.

I’m in NE IL and I just started growing hops last year. I built out a whole deck to grow them over and well, that took longer than expected. I didn’t really get them in the ground until June. They were in planters until then. I planted Nugget, Centennial, Willamette, Northern Brewer and Mt Hood. I got about an ounce of nugget, half oz of Centennial and Mt Hood and a few cones of northern brewer. The willamette took off like crazy but no cones. I expect to have way too many damn hops this year, we’ll see how it turns out.