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Old 03-20-2012, 02:43 AM   #1
brian_n
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Default My Hop Trellis

I’m planning on putting a hop trellis in my backyard in the Chicago suburbs. I've got 4 rhizomes coming from Farmhouse Brewing Supply: Hallertau, Centennial, Cascade, Willamette. The space is 5’ x 7.5’ (the staked out area in the picture below), most likely. So far I’ve purchased an 8’ Red Cedar 4x4 from Menard’s and I have a 16’ Red Cedar 4x4 being delivered to a local lumberyard in the next week or two. The 16’ will be my vertical, and the 8’ will get cut down to a 6’ T and the support braces. My plan is to go 42 inches deep with the vertical, leaving 12.5' above ground. My plan is to use maybe an inch or so of gravel at the very bottom to create a flat surface, then put the trellis in, and fill the gaps with gravel. I know that this won't give as much support as concrete, but it should be better support and better drainage than dirt, right? I'm going to have tie downs in 4 spots, using just some 18 inch wood stakes and some 3/8" sisal rope to both stabilize the pole and give the hops something to grow on. The rope will hook onto some J Hooks, so I can just lift them from the hooks when I harvest.

Below is a picture, plans from Google SketchUp, and some questions. Any advice you guys can provide would be great. Once I get around to building it, probably in 2 weeks, I'll post pictures of the project.

1. Does 42 inches seem deep enough? Too deep?
2. Has anyone else done a trellis of similar size, not used concrete, and been happy with it? I'd prefer to not use it if I don't have to.
3. I've read that 3/8" sisal is good for the hops to climb on, but do most people use something different/stronger as tie downs to support the post?
4. Does the spacing/ placement of the rhizomes look good?

p1020085.jpg   above.jpg   side-w-bottom.jpg   side2.jpg   t.jpg  

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Old 03-20-2012, 02:39 PM   #2
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Seems pretty heavy duty. Firstly, I would skip gravel and concrete unless you want a permanent installation. If it is an experiment through the season then just stick with dirt. If permanent, mix concrete. The work is about the same as gravel anyway. The gravel isn't going to help on the bottom of the hole. You won't have near the weight needed to sink the pole, and imagine having to remove that gravel later. Just don't dig any deeper than the depth needed. The key is compaction. 42" is a deep hole. Good luck trying to dig that. If you use dirt to back fill, it ain't going nowhere. You just need to make sure to tamp the soil compact with a tamper or a 2x4. Dig the hole as narrow as possible, tamp the bottom, place the pole in, add soil, tamp, add water, soil, tamp, repeat in 6" increments.

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Old 03-20-2012, 03:10 PM   #3
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Badbrew makes some good points about the 42" hole being a piece of work. It sounds like you've already ordered the 16' lumber. However, keep in mind that any lumber, especially untreated, is going to succumb to the elements eventually, especially buried under ground in an environment that is routinely watered. Galvanized fence posts are a more lasting option, imho, and you can couple two 8' pieces together to get the same height. As for support lines anchored with 18" stakes, this seems like the weak point to me. Buried cinder blocks are a more heavy duty option if you're looking for one. The spacing of your plants looks good; however, I reckon you may find a bit of a tangle toward the top eventually, as the plants should reach 12.5' and still be stretching to get up higher, which could lead to a jumble of bines toward the top. Not a big deal, really, but it makes separating varieties a bit trickier.

Have you considered extending the bed longer and using that pine tree as an anchor point and the stringing the line from there to another post. Another idea would be to use the fence posts in your chainlink fence to run the poles up from. For example, you could lay galvanized posts right up against those and lash the two poles together. This would make harvesting a breeze since you could simply unlash the tall posts and lay them down to harvest and then set them back up afterwards, take them down in the winter, etc. If you're anything like me, what starts as five or six plants will soon turn into a frenzied obsession to devote more and more yard to the hops. That row against your fence might start looking pretty good after you burn through your first harvest and wish you had more hops in the yard...

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Old 03-20-2012, 06:46 PM   #4
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badbrew, unless I hear otherwise, I think I'll take your advice and skip the gravel.

cram, thanks for the pine tree and or fence ideas. I considered them, and some other pvc or steel pipe options (all cheaper), but I went with the cedar mainly because my wife already hates this project, so if the end result looks ugly, she might kill me. I think the cedar trellis will look nice, even if it's going to be awful to install. As for your cinder block idea, I do have some spare cinder blocks and bricks. So you would dig 4 holes, place the blocks in there, tie the rope directly to it, and then cover them back up with dirt? Do you suggest securing an eye hook to the blocks instead of going directly to them?

Thanks

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Old 03-20-2012, 07:06 PM   #5
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Hah! Hopefully, your wife will change her mind when the hops grow--they really are beautiful plants and can provide a privacy screen between you and your neighbor's yard. Anyhow, your trellis idea does look more aesthetically pleasing than my suggestions...

As for the cinder blocks, I haven't done this myself but I saw the idea in the book Homebrewer's Garden. From what I recall, the author had the blocks partially buried angled away from the trellis so that at least part of the hole in the block is exposed--this would be where the guy lines are attached but pay attention to the chafing that will likely occur by, perhaps, doubling it up around the block. The benefit I can see of leaving the block partially buried would be that you can hit it with the weed wacker and advertise the line a bit better, plus the line should stand up to the elements a bit better if it's not covered in wet soil...

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Old 03-20-2012, 07:23 PM   #6
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I wonder if adding a cross-member perpendicular at the top of your T might give your individual varietals a bit more of their own bine space.

And don't let that guy from the Village People steal your hops!

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Old 03-20-2012, 08:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brian_n View Post
I’m planning on putting a hop trellis in my backyard in the Chicago suburbs. I've got 4 rhizomes coming from Farmhouse Brewing Supply: Hallertau, Centennial, Cascade, Willamette. The space is 5’ x 7.5’ (the staked out area in the picture below), most likely. So far I’ve purchased an 8’ Red Cedar 4x4 from Menard’s and I have a 16’ Red Cedar 4x4 being delivered to a local lumberyard in the next week or two. The 16’ will be my vertical, and the 8’ will get cut down to a 6’ T and the support braces. My plan is to go 42 inches deep with the vertical, leaving 12.5' above ground. My plan is to use maybe an inch or so of gravel at the very bottom to create a flat surface, then put the trellis in, and fill the gaps with gravel. I know that this won't give as much support as concrete, but it should be better support and better drainage than dirt, right? I'm going to have tie downs in 4 spots, using just some 18 inch wood stakes and some 3/8" sisal rope to both stabilize the pole and give the hops something to grow on. The rope will hook onto some J Hooks, so I can just lift them from the hooks when I harvest.
I see you're in my neck of the woods. I have attached a pic of my trellis (that can be seen from Wheeling Road, LOL).

I extended mine last year from 13 feet to 17.5 feet and they still over-grew the top line.

A few thoughts:
- The space you have is a bit on the small side for 4 different varieties. You are likely to have some serious tangling of side-arms, especially considering my next point
- 12-13 feet is simply not ideal. They will grow into a huge mass at the top and it will make inter-tangling worse.
- anything you can do to space the top anchor points as much as possible will be beneficial in the end.
- My only concern about your "T" structure would be any twisting forces in the wind.
- As previously mentioned, no concrete. That just traps water up against the wood. Put a little gravel or crushed stone in the bottom of the hole to allow some pooling below the bottom of the wood and back-fill with dense clay and stone that you dug up from the hole.

But, in the end, you work with what you have to work with.

Shoot me a PM if you want to swing by sometime and see my set-up or talk hops.
img-20100810-00036.jpg  
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Old 03-20-2012, 09:47 PM   #8
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Damn Randar, you're still my hero!

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Old 03-20-2012, 10:07 PM   #9
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Damn Randar, you're still my hero!
Ok, you're starting to creep me out now.
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Old 03-21-2012, 02:17 AM   #10
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Thanks for the tips.

I'm kinda locked in on the general design, since I already paid for the special order 16' cedar. That said, what do you think is the minimum depth below ground that I could get a way with without worrying about frost line issues and/or stability when it's windy?

I can easily make the area larger than 5' x 7.5'. If I expanded, which dimensions should get bigger? If I take the 7.5' to 10', I'd be giving the hops a little more length to grow to the top.

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