First year hop grower (2 Cascade and 1 Centennial). Some things I did right, and wrong:
Did a "partial" harvest today of one of my cascades, which yielded a bit over 12 oz wet. Based on the remaining bines and buds and growth, plus the average sun I have left though October here (SoCal), I am sure I'll get at least three times that by final harvest from that single plant.
The other Cascade is booming too, and the Centennial, transplanted late (late June) is already 7 feet and rarin' to go.
So it is possible to have a great first year. What I did:
1) I had my gardener dig 36" deep holes in my backyard, and I filled them with Miracle Grow. I think this is absolutely key
to having a good first year. I doubt commercial hop farms do this due to the expense, but 3-4 holes, why not? BTW, I tried standard gromulch at first, and young hop roots do not seem to like such coarse soil. Go with Miracle Grow.
2) I watered every
day, obviously more as the plant grew. Hop roots don't like being waterlogged. But they aren't cactuses. Good soil in a deep hole drains, so over-watering shouldn't be a problem.
3) Used Miracle Grow plant food every 3 weeks or so.
4) Sun 14+ hours per day. This is key. Gotta find an area in your yard that gets good sun.
What I learned for next year:
1) Don't plant rhizomes that look like sticks. Gotta have shoots already sticking out of them, and Freshops sent me junkers. Cost me several weeks of growth having to replace them. LHBS fortunately had some still in stock in May, which saved me. Buy yours in-person if possible so you can pick out the ones that look more like Body Snatcher pods and less like dead twigs.
2) Higher trellises. 10 feet is not enough. I compensated for it in various ways, but 15 feet would have been much better. Fortunately, I can run them across my 25' clothesline.
3) Gotta prune early and often. Today I felt like I was breaking up two giant squid having sex trying to get the bines apart. Pick 3 bines early, keep them apart, and prune everything else. Otherwise you have a mess and the plant wastes energy. Failure to plan = giant squid sex.
Anyway, those who say you can't have a good first year are wrong, assuming you have good sun, good soil, and water every day.
Here are pics from 7-10 days ago
(PoS Mediafire having some issues ATM).
Working on an IPA recipe...