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Old 02-28-2013, 04:05 AM   #1
dmoore714
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Default Planting rhizomes in the wild?

I want to grow my own hops! Sadly, I live in a rented house with a tiny yard, and my landlord says I can't plant anything in the ground. On the other hand... my parents have 40+ acres of land in upstate South Carolina which they are doing absolutely nothing with. My grandfather used to raise cattle there (so its well fertilized) but now its just empty pasture, with plenty of old fenceline to support hop bines.

I would love to plant some hops out there. Here's the downside. My parents are teetotalers (they don't drink at all). Needless to say, they don't approve of me brewing. They don't care if I plant hops on the property, but they refused to help take care of the plants. I would do it myself but I live 6 hours away. Not exactly an easy trek just to water some hop plants. So I'm thinking about ordering some rhizomes, planting them, and letting them grow wild.

Questions:
1) What hop varieties grow best in upstate South Carolina?
2) How well would hops grow in the wild, without direct care?
3) What precautions should I take to keep pests (bugs, deer, etc) from killing the plants, since I won't be around to protect them?

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Old 02-28-2013, 04:29 AM   #2
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don't want to kill the dream of terraforming your parents' cow pasture to a hopyard....but maybe you could just get some 5 gallon buckets and plant 'em in there for now and get a handle on which varieties work for you and then possibly transplant them when you are closer/have land you can till?

EDIT: I'm sorry, this probably wasn't very helpful in regards to your three questions. My experience with growing things in south carolina is....well, as long as it rains a lot of things seem to grow pretty freaking great. And if it doesn't rain, they fry.

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Old 02-28-2013, 12:30 PM   #3
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I did a one year "test" on wild hops:
- Left some to their own devices,
- trained three to a trellis and mulched them in the wild,
- and took three rhizomes home for a container

I did nothing more to either set in the wild except treat for bugs after they ate all the leaves off. The container rhizomes received more care; regular watering, good potting mix, and slow release fertilizer, and some compost.

The trained ones in the wild definitely did much better than the completely wild, as far as yield. The rhizomes I took home had lower yields, but these were first year rhizomes, compared to established crowns in the wild (not apples to apples). However, the cones from the cared-for plants were of much better quality; larger uniform cones, more lupulin visible, and much more intense smell. They also dried much nicer with less falling apart and less loss of lupulin.

So, my recommendations are:
- prepare the soil with good compost, maybe some moisture granules, and slow release fertilizer granules.
- make a simple trellis for them to grow on. (preferably vertical not horizontal)
- Spray the weeds around them and mulch them good and thick.
- Train a few bines and strip the lower 3' ft. when they get 6ft. or so.
- Water, weed, feed, and control pests whenever you get a chance to get up there.
- Finally, don't expect a huge harvest of perfect cones, especially in year one... But you will definitely get something worthwhile after the second year.

Hops are very hardy once established. The wild ones I messed with have probably been growing on the fence line for 100+ years since there were last hops farms in this county in 1860's. You could increase your odds by growing rhizomes in large containers this first year and transplant them in the "wild" next spring when they have a large root system to feed/water from.

Hope that helps.

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Old 02-28-2013, 01:33 PM   #4
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Ignoring your questions, I agree that your best bet is to plant some in a pot in your backyard. Go bigger than a 5 gallon bucket. Look for something with at least a 10 gallons or better.

Going to your questions, I'm assuming that you will plant and won't be back until harvest time.

1.) Not sure what would grow well. You are on the edge of 34 degrees, so you are almost too far south to grow properly. I would look for varietals that take longer to mature like nugget. Since you won't be there to care, maybe a variety that has native hop lineage like Brewers Gold. Then there's the standard, Cascade. Of course a stressed cascade becomes a hermaphrodite so that may not be the best.

2.) If you have a hot, dry year, there's nothing you will do but with those you may get lucky. I would look for something taller than the fence line from them to grow up. Either put a pole in the ground or look for a dead tree. Make sure different varieties have enough space.

3.) Nothing you can really do about the bugs. Just trust the plants and the natural ecosystem. What you may want to do is clear the area around where you plant and put down a cover crop of alfalfa. This will suppress weed growth and give your hops a fighting chance. It will bring the deer over but they won't care for the hops.

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Old 02-28-2013, 03:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GVH_Dan View Post
Ignoring your questions, I agree that your best bet is to plant some in a pot in your backyard. Go bigger than a 5 gallon bucket. Look for something with at least a 10 gallons or better.
Definitely go BIG for a container. I used 10 gallon pots for my first year rhizomes....the roots filled the container in no time at all.

I'd make a self-watering container for each rhizome out of a 55 gallon drum. Here is some instructions from a fellow HBTer! and a thread on the subject. Get some plastic spray paint and make them look a bit prettier for the landlord.

I've made my own for veggies out of rubbermaid tubs before I had my dirt garden. They do work very well in hot areas for container plants that like water.
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Old 02-28-2013, 04:25 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies and for all the great information. I realize this is not the ideal way to grow hops, but I'm interested to see what comes of it.

I might try two or three varieties in the pasture just to see what works best. I'd like to try at least one bittering variety and one aroma, so I can (hopefully) brew an all-home-grown-hopped beer. I found another thread specifically about growing hops in SC that offered some good advice

There's a great stretch of fenceline that I'd like to plant along, but it sounds like horizontal is not ideal for hop bines. We also have an old barn that would make a good place to suspend some twine from, so the bines can grow vertical instead. I might also try some on the edge of the pasture. I can hang twine from the trees there, and the plants will have at least partial shade (just in case we have a hot, dry summer).

I dont get up there often... but I'm there at least a few times a year, so I can check in on them at least once or twice between planting and harvesting. And, thanks to all the advice here, I will do my best to prepare the area as much as possible before I plant.

I'm definitely going to plant a few rhizomes in containers down here too. I've heard Cascade is the only thing that grows well down here in the deep deep south, so I'll start with that. Maybe grab a few 50gallon barrels and cut them in half to make big planters.

Thanks again for all the advice! I'll keep people posted, and post some pictures, when all this comes together.

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Old 02-28-2013, 04:35 PM   #7
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I would say your main concern is water, hops like to stay moist. You could throw a ton of those slow release moisture pellets that swell up with water and them slowly let it back into the soil as it dries. You could also hang a few large buckets from trees, fill them with water, and set up a slow drip irrigation system. The buckets wouldnt stay full the whole time your gone but could last a while

Good Luck!

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Old 02-28-2013, 06:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Maybe grab a few 50gallon barrels and cut them in half to make big planters.
I like your enthusiasm but remember you will probably have to move these barrels someday. Even 1/2 of a barrel is a lot of dirt.

Good luck.
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Old 02-28-2013, 06:24 PM   #9
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I like your enthusiasm but remember you will probably have to move these barrels someday. Even 1/2 of a barrel is a lot of dirt.

Good luck.
Hah, forgot about that part...my 10gallon containers were heavy enough. I used an appliance dolly to move them into the garage for the winter. You will definitely NOT be able to lift anything bigger, full of dirt!

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Old 02-28-2013, 08:25 PM   #10
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Fenceline ?'s Standarb barbed wire(or non barbed)? How many rows of wire, 1? 2? 3 high? Assuming standard wny farmland practice there are 2-3 rows of wire, I would tie twine runners every foot or so conneceting the rows. drop a stake of some sort in the ground near the rhizome, and fan out a bunch of twine runners to get the bines from ground to 1st fence wire. Id clear a good 5' circle where you want to plant each rhizome down to bare soil. With the bare soil stake with fanned twine and the other runners every foot or so will give the bines the best fighting chance to reach the top of the fence with 0 training. I'm recommending clearing as much ground as I am because you dont plan to be around to weed, this will also give em a chance. Thats about all I can recommend for now. good luck.

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