What do you do if you want to grow hops, Humulus lupulus, and you have limited space? Not every craft brewer has access to a plot of land or even a backyard. Maybe you live in a condo with a sunny balcony or maybe there’s just not enough room to build a hops arbor. So if you are living in the urban jungle, then the answer is to grow hops in containers. You can do it! It’s easy and with these gardening tips you will get up to speed and growing hops in no time.
Scout the location:
Hops love the sun so pick a location that receives adequate light throughout the day. This can be a porch, patio, deck, driveway, yard or anywhere that gets the right amount of light. Put some effort into your decision, you need to find an area that gets as much sun as possible from the late morning to afternoon. Hops grow vigorously within USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. Hops are a hardy perennial plant that will actually thrive in climates that experience all four seasons.
Get your rhizomes:
There are many different varieties of hops to choose from based on key factors for brewing. We chose to grow Centennial hops, the rhizomes are pictured below. The first three are healthy with new bud growth and root production. The last shows little development yet it was still viable. Remember, you are planting female plants since they produce the hops cones necessary for brewing. Chances are you will order hops online. We ordered these from a seller on eBay. If you receive rhizomes by mail, refrigerate them prior to planting.
Alpha acids from hops contribute to the bitterness in beer. The more alpha acids the more bittering potential. The actual alpha acids vary from year to year depending on the weather, harvest conditions, and storage. Here is a list of common hops and their alpha acid content.
|Common Hops||Alpha Acid Content|
Obtain a half-barrel planter or another container with a diameter and depth of at least 20 inches. Make sure the container has several holes along the bottom to allow for adequate drainage. Fill the pot with potting soil, dig a 4″ trench and lay the rhizome in with the buds upward and root facing downward then cover with adequate potting soil. We made a sturdy trellis from garden fencing. Despite their large size, hops grow well in containers and if provided with abundant water and ample supplemental nutrients they will produce, to your delight, an abundance of cones.
Care and Feeding:
Be sure to water your hops as needed, thoroughly wet the soil in the container. Never let your plants begin to become dry, brown and brittle. These are indicators that your little plants are asking for more water. Alternatively, if they begin showing discolored, yellow leaves, then dial back, they are probably receiving too much water. Feed container-grown hops plants with a liquid fertilizer diluted to quarter-strength. Apply the fertilizer every four weeks from the time the vines emerge to when they begin to develop cones.
As your hops grow in length, they need to be attached to the trellis. Weave the bine in and out in a clockwise direction for best results. Prune the hops bines once they overgrow their trellis. Remove the leaves from the lower 1 foot of bine to increase air circulation and decrease the likelihood of pests and disease.
As summer passes and fall begins, it is time to start thinking about harvesting your hops! You should expect to begin harvesting sometime between mid-August and September. As the cones reach maturity, the tips of the cones will begin to turn light brown. First-year plants may produce as much as ½ pound of hops, while established plants can produce in excess of 2 pounds per year.