Grow your own Hops - Backyard Hops Trellis Design

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So you want to grow your own hops, huh? The long and short of it is that the things grow as fast as bamboo and need constant management from April to September. Still want to grow hops? Awesome, here's one way to set up a small backyard hops garden that yielded almost a pound of wet hops, in year one, and proved to properly hop-up a West Coast IPA for me.
The first thing you need to take into consideration for growing hops is to do the research first. There are a ton of resources right here on Home Brew Talk, and out on the web in general. Here are a few links that I found helpful to resources from pest and disease management to trellis designs outside of this one. Especially start out with the documents on the last link.
http://www.northwesthops.com/Beer_Links_s/37.htm
http://byo.com/stories/item/723-grow-your-own-hops
https://drive.google.com/folderview?usp=sharing&ddrp=1&id=0B7aNkuU_q8iEREdBMkxWcFI2THM#
When considering a trellis, take a look at the surrounding area. Is there a southern exposure? Because hops need a ton of sun! Is there 20+ feet of vertical space? Because these things grow best when given space and structure straight upwards. Do I want to put in the initial investment and care for these plants to use in brewing? It can be worthwhile to track growth and plan a beer around your crop.
My wife is extremely proud of her garden. She typically grows beans, cucumbers, zucchini and squash and does well. I extended the garden space available last year and asked for the northernmost three feet of the garden. Reluctantly, she agrees and I went to work designing a vertical garden to support the hops.
My basic design includes two support poles, a wire, winch, and anchor. It sounds simple, but it takes planning. The more planning you put into your garden, the better off you will be. Don't rush into this, my first attempt was less than successful. This is the one that worked.



For the trellis, you will need:
  • 1 10' section of 1 " PVC tubing
  • 4 10' sections of 1" galvanized pipe
  • 2 galvanized pipe unions 1"
  • 2 galvanized pipe caps 1"
  • 2 galvanized or stainless steel eye bolts with nuts
  • 50-75' of galvanized wire (I used " because it was free from my Dad, but 3/16" would work)
  • 150' of coir twine - available here: http://www.northwesthops.com/Coir_Hop_Twine_p/twn1.htm
Here's where you need to use your noodle:
Anchoring system on one side (I'll describe this later)
System for lowering the hops for harvest (I used a winch that was free with the wire)
Tools to dig with & cement if you want (I did not use it but my soil was really rocky and supported the poles fine)
For the hops themselves, you will need:
  • 6 hops rhizomes - I used the "Mini Hop Farm Kit" located here: http://www.northwesthops.com/Mini_Ho...Kit_p/farm.htm
  • 3 20 gallon Rubbermaid (or similar) storage totes - I will explain why later.
  • 12 cubic feet of garden soil
  • 3 cubic feet of gravel - about 1" to 1 " size rocks to line the totes
  • Drill with " bit for drain hole in tote
My rationale for the use of the totes to place the plants is simply that hops are an invasive species if not properly cared for. And I did not want to meet the wrath of SWMBO for destroying her garden with hoppy goodness.
  • Take the totes, bore a " hole in two diagonal corners to properly drain the tote - hops can rot if overly watered or allowed to sit in standing water.
  • Line the bottom of the tote with a layer of gravel to encourage drainage.
  • Fill the tote with garden soil
  • Plant the rhizomes according to directions (I planted two to a tote just in case one did not pan out.
  • Once the bine begins to grow past two feet, hill the soil around the bine to allow access to proper watering.
  • Dig a hole appropriate to the size of the tote and bury it 90% of the way (I liked to be able to see the tote and burying it totally was too difficult due to rocks)
  • Space out the totes and drill two holes in the back of each tote to tie the coir twine to as a ground anchor that you can train the hops to climb as they grow.
For the trellis itself.
  • Dig a hole approximately 12-18" wide and 18-24" deep.
  • Cut the PVC pipe into sections 30-36" long (depending on how deep you can get the hole, in CT the soil is so rocky, 24" is pushing it in some places - my pipes were 30")
  • Center the PVC pipe in the hole and fill with rocks from the hole and then with remaining dirt. Or, if you do not have rocky soil, grab a few bags of Quikrete to cement the hole. - Make sure the PVC is plumb and straight.

  • Take a pipe cap, drill a hole in the center to match the diameter of your eye bolt. Place the eye bolt in the cap, cinch the nut to cap and eye. Thread the cap and eye bolt onto the end of one galvanized pipe section.
  • Thread the Union onto the other end of the pipe and add in a second 10' section to make a 20' pole. Complete this twice.

  • BEFORE you place the poles into the PVC anchors in your holes, string your wire through both of the pole end caps. Tie your coir twine to the wire between the poles and prepare to lift.

  • Placing the poles IS NOT EASY. I suggest finding a friend and promising a homebrew or two to help lift all of this into place. Place the bottom of the poles into the PVC anchor sleeve and sink the pole to the bottom. Your height should be around 18' which is a great height for hops.
  • Make sure that your wire is secured as you raise the poles. You will need to anchor the wire at both ends. I used a masonry bit, masonry anchor and ?" eye bolt to anchor the wire to a nearby boulder. The other end I attached to a winch to tighten and lower the hops.

Thanks for checking out my first DIY post. I'm working on my fermentation chamber post as well. Next year, trellis design #3 with some Centennial hops (first crop was Cascade).
If you have any questions, post below - or send me a PM and I'll be happy to add any necessary information as suggested or asked in a question.
- Stretch
 
Great post, very informative.
Down here in the southwest "Full Sun" has a different meaning. Think, scorched, fried, burnt, death... you get the idea.
Has anyone any experience with growing hops in the desert?
Water requirements, shade requirements?
 
None of the fractional dimensions are showing up for me in Chrome - I think there's a problem with the font and character you used for your dimensions.
 
That's a pretty sweet backyard set-up! Nice article although I would disagree with your comment of "constant management". If I read that before growing hops I would have shied away. I've found growing hops to be pretty easy. Water here and there and cut back occasional bines. They grow like weeds!
@Grossy, I live in Denver... not desert, but arid. Have had great luck with Cascade and Fuggle in full sun/occasional watering. I bought hops plants, not rhizomes, from these guys: greatlakeshops.com They made suggestions for hops to grow in my area. I'd suggest asking who you plan to buy from what they'd recommend... sure you can find something that'll work.
 
"Need constant management"--maybe if you want to maximize yield. Really, they grow like weeds, once established. All you need to do is make sure the plants get enough water, especially late in the summer. Cutting back to just a few shoots in the spring is helpful. I'm sure fertilizer would help, too, but it's not necessary.
 
I'm looking at using this design for my new hop plants, but I'm confused at how you slid 1" galvanized pipe into 1" PVC pipe sleeve -- trying that in the home store showed they are identical in size... Did you use a different diameter PVC by chance? If so, did the "wiggle room" between the sizes cause any issues?
 
I have the same question as @rob_mcd - are the PVC and the pipe really both the same diameter? I'm thinking of using a scaled down version of this myself.
 
I lived in Vegas for six years and grew cascade and chinook. Both got a lot of sun and were fine. But you need to make sure they're watered daily. I grew mine in pots, because as you know, the soil there is not good for growing much of anything. You can do raised beds, too. But I grew them in pots and strung a rope along my brick wall fence and I got decent yields from my three plants.
 
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