First Year Hops


    First year hops update.  It has been 2 months since I planted the hop rhizomes.  I figured it is time for an update (and a reason to visit the hop growing blog).  When they were first growing, the Nugget and Magnum hops were significantly ahead of the Cascade hops (by about 50% in height).  At the 2 month marker, the Nugget hops are 7 feet tall, the Magnum hops are 5 feet tall and the cascade hops passed the Magnum and is at 6 feet tall.

    First Year Nugget Hops

    First Year Nugget Hops

    The Nugget hops are the tallest hop bines at this point in time (2 months).  The Nugget bines do receive just a little bit more direct sunlight so I don’t consider this a fair race to the top.  I have 2 bines sharing this rope and they are perfectly spaced and growing as a double helix (as are the other 2 hop plants).

    My neighbor says he thinks the hops are cool.  I was a bit worried about using the white rope as it sticks out like a sore thumb against my brown garage.  White was not my first choice in color, I was actually looking for green but white was all they had.  I did not have time to shop around so white it is.

    The only fertilizer I have used is a little bone meal and blood meal.  I am staying organic all the way with these hops.  I will soon use some compost tea (as soon as my compost nears completion).

    So far I have not had an issue with deer or rabbits eating my hops bines.  I believe a rabbit got one of my nugget bines but that was before I had selected the 2 best bines to grow and I clipped the rest of the hop shoots.  Since then the bines have been left alone.

    I am looking at buying / using a soil inoculant as the soil on the side of my garage has been neglected forever.  My wife’s peonies, surrounded by rock mulch has not seen much organic matter.  I had to dig up rock and plastic to make holes for the hop plants.  Last fall I dug down a foot and 2 feet in diameter.  I mixed in grass, leaves and wood ashes to supplement the soil.  There wasn’t much black dirt or topsoil so I added some with the organic materials.  The hop bines seem to be doing ok for first year hops.  I am looking at some beneficial ground bacteria and mycelium (mushroom type fungus) which helps the roots – root stalk / crown absorb nutrients from the soil.

    First Year Magnum Hops

    Magnum Hops First Year

    First Year Magnum Hops
    First Year Cascade Hops

    First Year Cascade Hops

    Categories : Growing Hops


    1. Depends on your climate / micro-climate. Here in Minnesota, you generally plant between April and early May. May 15th is the plant date here in zone 4 for tomatoes and other frost susceptible plants. I would assume you could plant as soon as hop rhizome vendors ship which is around March. Here in MN we have to store the rhizomes in the refridgerator until the ground is thawed and “hard frost” danger is over.

    2. James Roberts says:

      I live in central Arkansas too. When do you plant hops here? I’m about 35 miles south of Little Rock.

    3. Eventually you will want to cut them down. I leave mine up to gather sunshine for energy for next year until they become ratty looking. Then I cut them down level with the ground. These bines will not come back next year. New sprouts will emerge next spring and as second year hops, you won’t believe how fast they will grow and top out. If you are in a cold climate, you will want to mulch over them to protect from freezing. Congrats on your first year!

    4. Amy Ganski says:

      This is my first year of growing hops. Now that the growing season is done, do I cut down all the vines from the pergola, or do I leave them. I’m not sure if they should be cut down every year.

    5. When the hop cones squeeze easily (squeeze almost flat) and bounce back and are papery feeling, they are ready to harvest. If they are not ready, they will feel fairly solid (not squeeze easily).

    6. Hop Tender says:

      I planted hops in early April & only let them go about 8ft high. (Plan to go highr next year) This is only my first year crop in Sierra foothills of California. I planted Cascade, Centential & Chinook. All are doing quite well with many cones. My question is when to harvest? Some are beginning to turn pale & I don’t want them to dry out.

    7. Hugh,
      I am not sure how to tell the difference between male and female hop plants. My guess is you have to let them mature and if they don’t produce hop cones (and produce pollen sacks instead) those are the males and you want to dig them up. You should always start with hop rhizomes. then you know you have female hops (they don’t sell male hop rhizomes at least not to the general public). Hope this helps.

    8. FireIslander(NY) says:

      You guys are light-years ahead of me! My question is simple, I actually planted 20 hop seeds (10 of each, Saaz & Hallertau that I got in Germany this Spring) and got 14 sprouts. Babysat the heck out of them! I planted late, so expect nothing this year, though a few plants have already sent out rhizomes that popped up a few days back. My question is – how do I tell the males from the females? What should I look for? Do I just pluck them out or what? I cannot find any info on this on the net. Thank you (all) in advance.
      Kind regards,

    9. I am not aware of any nutrient that would help the hop plants withstand the heat any better. Maybe someone from Arizona could chime in with advice. First year hops require frequent watering. Does your soil retain water or does it immediately drain? I would mulch over the top of the soil with some light colored mulch to keep the soil from baking and help retain water. You might try a drip irrigation setup. If I come across any info on helping hops survive the heat I will let you know. Good luck!

    10. surprise nuggets says:

      112 the hops are up to about two and a half feet but dont want to grow. I’ve been watering daily but took a day off to go to the beer festival in flagstaff this weekend. When I got back some of the leaves were scorched and crispy dry. I have started watering twice a day now and hope that solves the problem. We shall see. Is there a certain nutrient that might help them ward off the heat any better?

    11. Keep us posted on how they do in the heat (110+). Keep them watered and Best of luck!

    12. surprise nuggets says:

      The hops are up about a foot now and seem to be doing fine. I thinned them three days ago, just too many coming up. Going to be 110 degrees this weekend but I’m not too worried. They seem to be hoppy and strong. Growing hops in Arizona seems to be working very well!!… so far

    13. Surprise Nuggets,
      We just had a 99 degree day here and my hops are fine. Very important to keep them watered especially the first year. I would water everyday and use some sort of mulch (light color to reflect sun / heat) on top of the soil to help retain moisture and keep the soil from baking. from what I have read you are on the acidic side of the PH spectrum for hops (6 – 8 PH) – 5.8 is close to 6 so if they are doing ok (and they sound like they are) I would leave it at that or try and go a little more basic (towards 7). The soil mixture sounds good, fertile, retains moisture but will drain so as not to drown the hop rhizomes. Fifteen sprouts from one rhizome? If so that is great – I see about half that. Congrats, good luck and keep us posted.

    14. surprise nuggets says:

      Living in Surprise Az, I wasnt sure if planting in mid May was going to work, but the weather here has been unexplainably cool. After a week and a half the nuggets hops are out of the ground an inch with 15 separate sprouts. This is my first time growing and was unsure of the soil. I have planted in a third peet moss, third compost, and third virmaculite. Although the PH is 5.8 the little guys seem to love it. Afraid of the heat to come, it could be 110 degrees in a week, should I be worried? Love the info. thnx

    15. Big Nug,

      Welcome to the club. Where are you at (state or country)? We in Minnesota are having an early spring (no, nothing to do with global warming – just one of those years). Anyway, I am itching to un-bury my established hops and plant the 3 new rhizomes I have. Traditionally in Minnesota, the last frost is the first or second week of May. It’s a crap shoot but I’ll probably go earlier than that.

      For the new rhizomes, I have some biodegradable pots I am starting indoors. The rhizomes have been in my fridge for a while and have 4 inch sprouts already. I’ll keep everything posted on my blog so all can learn from my experiences – hope it helps everyone. It’s getting exciting! Hop on.

    16. BIG NUG says:

      started my first rhizomes 3/31/10 allready 1/2inch tall, there in potting soil kitchen window hopping for the best.

    17. DobroD says:

      Hope you had a great fathers day. It was a great day here.

      The hot weather seems to make all the difference! It seems to make the bines all the more determined. We’ve had a solid week of mid 90s temps and each bine is stronger and trying to climb even further. I am considering harvesting the larger cones in a week or two (like the berry analogy in some earlier comments).

    18. DobroD,
      Congrats on the hop cones! They are looking healthy. Next year I should be closer to that level. Your hops seem to be doing fine without fertilizer – I am sure the spent grains helped recharge your soil. What kind of traps did you use for the Japanese beetles? They are not a huge problem where I am at but I want to be prepared just in case.

      My hop bines are taking off! They are around 10 feet or better. I am going to measure them, take some current pictures and post to this blog. I did add a soil inoculant, but the hops had started growing 4-6 inches a day before I did that so I won’t know for sure whether that helped or not. I used the same soil inoculant on my garden and my wife’s potted flowers and they are definitely responding. We are finally getting some hot sunny weather so the hops should skyrocket now. Working today, Fathers day tomorrow – may get an update post out tomorrow (I am a dad and grandfather so it is my day).

    19. DobroD says:

      Looking good! Your first year looks better than mine (last year). My hops have exploded this year and are coming on strong so you have a bright future. I have yet to fertilize, although I did dump my spent grains in the bed over the winter. The hops under those grains are the strongest this season.

      Watch out for Japanese beetles now. I had trouble with the beetles eating the leaves last summer. I put out a trap several yards from my hop bines and that seems to help.

      Keep up the great work with the blog!

      Not to brag (but I am proud), I have cones now! Just posted and update on grillandbarrel.com http://grillandbarrel.com/2009/06/arrival-of-the-coneheads/


    20. Hey Bill,
      The beneficial bacteria and mycelium product I mentioned is a living product that helps plant roots absorb nutrients from the ground and also breakdown organic material for plant use. I bought some a couple of years ago and this stuff made my plants take off! I had a flower that would not bloom for a month, I sprayed this stuff on the plant and the soil and the next morning, the flowers were 9 inches tall! This stuff was made by a guy in a garage and he went out of business.

      I ordered this stuff Alive!TM Soil Activator. If it does half of what that other soil inoculant did, I’ll be happy.

      The inoculant you are talking about for peas is different – that is just for releasing nitrogen. Healthy soil is teaming with microbes and fungus that break down organic materials down to humic acids which is as far as any organic compound can be broken down. It also helps carry or move the nutrients to the roots in a symbiotic relationship. Chemical fertilizers can kill these beneficial microbes – this is a way to kickstart the soil back to natural health (organic thing) I’ll let you know how it works.

      My Magnum are trailing my Nugget and Cascade by 2 feet now (but they have more and larger leaves). Must be a variety thing and/or how they grow in my climate (zone 4) or how they like my soil.
      I would love the link from your Yahoo Group “Grow-Hops”. I stop by your Yahoo group a couple times a week – great content! I will put a link to your group on the front page of this blog (it is worthy).

    21. Thanks. Sucks about the DOA hop rhizomes. Hang in there. Where there are hop sprouts, there is hope! Anything that survives is more than you had before. Next year you can add some more and maybe start earlier. I take it by your email address that you are in Canada – what city?

      Since my last post 6/14 (took the pictures the 13th), my hop bines are averaging 4 – 6 inches a day! Kind of like tomatoes, once they hit a certain point, they just take off. They should hit the top of the rope (15 ft) within 2 weeks. Then I will be able to try out my theory and lower the bines some and loop them on a hose holder (or equivalent) mounted to the garage wall. Your hops should hit that point sometime.
      I saw another idea I liked about a week ago (wish I bookmarked it). This guy was growing in containers and had his twine spiraling up, essentially gaining bine length with limited height. I may try that next year.
      As far as posting on this blog, I am chronicling my first year hops and don’t want to dilute or confuse the history. Next year I may open it up or start a new blog and allow multiple authors. I don’t have time to deal with it now. Spammers are a huge concern. I turn down a couple spam comments a day (the ones that get through Akismet – blog comment spam plugin).

    22. Bill Velek says:

      You said: “I am looking at some beneficial ground bacteria and mycelium (mushroom type fungus) which helps the roots – root stalk / crown absorb nutrients from the soil.”

      Interesting. I had never heard of that before, but I’m always learning new things. This is only my third year with hops, and I never did much research for my veggie garden — just rotated my crops and added lime and fertilizer to my soil as the annual soil analysis would indicate. Is that the “innoculant” that you were referring to earlier? If not, what is the innoculant that you meant; i.e., what does it do. The only one I’ve used is when planting peas to help them fix nitrogen; I don’t know if that would work with hops, because I think it is only for peas. I’ll need to check at our garden center; is there a particular name or brand I need to mention. I’d imagine that I might get a weird look if I just ask for “ground bacteria and mycelium”.

      You have a great blog, by the way. You mentioned that your Magnum are doing well; I live in central Arkansas, and mine have been struggling for three years now. If they don’t do better by the end of this year, I’m going to replace them next year. My Fuggles have always done GREAT; my Centennial not as well as Fuggles but much better than the Magnum; and the Cascade that I planted this spring are already nearly twice as tall as my Magnum and they are really filling in very well with laterals.

      If you or any of your visitors are interested, our Yahoo ‘Grow-Hops’ group has a searchable message archive which currently contains 8,720 messages — almost exclusively about growing hops (small percentage about growing barley and brewing-herbs, and general garden stuff like making compost). We currently have 2,993 members, and lots of links, photos, etc. With your permission, I will add a link on our ‘Grow-Hops’ group to your blog. The group can be found through my website portal.


      Bill Velek

    23. jay says:

      looking good. feel like i’ve lost, but maybe just need more patience. the tallest plant i have right now is about 8 inches. The fuggles seem to be doing the best along with nugget. my cascades didn’t come up. i’ve dug up a couple of the rhizomes and don’t see any growth. i might try to keep them bury and keep socking the compost tea to them, but i think they mightve been d.o.a i planted mid-may, so needless to say i lost a good part of the early growing season, but i think they still have a chance to really take off. i think i’ll end up with a decent harvest for year 1. Is there any way to post on your site, or can you only respond?

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