Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Growing Hops in Containers

Growing hops has always intrigued me. Being locked in the suburban sprawl has discouraged me from attempting to grow hops in the past. However, after reading an article in Brew Your Own (BYO) magazine about growing hops, I have gained enough confidence to attempt the unthinkable...

Growing hops in containers!

My dilemma has been the orientation of my house and the sun. The front yard is the only place that gets a significant amount of sunlight during the day. Hops need lots of sun and I was not willing to plant hop plants in the front yard. Hops are giant plants that grow up to 25ft tall and the roots expand up to 10ft underground. Due to the large dimensions of this plant, when planted in the ground you are limited to where you can plant them, i.e. not the front yard. But with containers, I can put them on the side of the house or move them wherever I want!

There is great argument across the internet of whether you should try to grow hops in containers, of which discouraged me from trying it for several years. However, BYO has come to the rescue and given me the confidence to boldly go where only some have gone before. Hops in containers are possible and I’m attempting just that this summer. The problem with containers is the constraint placed on the hop plant's roots. This constraint limits the size of the hop plant above ground and means you have to change the way you care for a potted hop plant as opposed to an in-ground hop plant. See BYO for the complete article and step-by-step instructions that I am using in my endeavor.

I planted three hop plants about 2 weeks ago. All three are currently sprouting about 1-2 inches. Two are in 24” containers and one is in the ground at the back of my house. I pre-ordered the hops from Midwest Supplies but you can also order from Bacchus and Barleycorn. You usually have to pre-order as hop rhizomes are generally in limited supply. You can search the internet and may be able to find some hop rhizomes still available. I planted the Cascade and Centennial in the containers. The only thing I’m doing different from the BYO article is the PVC housing for the stake. You can see the PVC opening in the picture in which my cedar stake will go down inside of. I did this because I want to be able to remove the stake at the end of the season and replace it the following season without damaging the hop’s roots. I chose cedar stakes as cedar is supposed to be rot resistant without chemical treatment. I planted Hallertau in the ground behind my house. I am not sure there will be enough sunlight in this location but it is worth a shot.

I will follow up throughout the summer with the status of the hops and offer my observations with the benefits of containers vs in-ground hop growing. At the end of the season I will weigh the harvest so we can see how much can be expected from container vs in-ground growing. I have also considered trying to plant some barley so at the end of the growing season I can make a FatCat Estate brew!

Brew Your Own Hops in Container article

Midwest Supplies has a very good FAQ section under Hop Rhizomes


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