Hop Rhizomes Have Arrived: Rhizome Care and Preparing Your Soil
Hops are incredibly hardy plants that can really take a beating. Once you have received your rhizomes in the mail, you may find that you need to store them for a short period while you finish preparing your garden and trellis structure. If this is the case, you have to be sure to store them correctly so they are ready to grow once they hit the soil. To get the most out of your plants, your rhizomes need to be kept cool, moist and out of direct sunlight. The quickest and easiest method of doing so would be to place them in a clean ziplock with a very small amount of water, and kept in the refrigerator. It seems basic and self explanatory, but to get your hops plant off and running once it hits the soil, this is very important. Hop rhizomes will store well in this manner until the winter frost has subsided and you have prepared your garden for planting.
Once your rhizomes have arrived, you can get them off to a good start by adding lots of compost or well rotted manure to the soil before planting. Hops grow best in soil with a Ph of 6 to 7.5, and need plenty of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and boron. I would suggest beginning with a 50/50 mixture of earth and commercial gardening soil, then adding a good organic fertilizer or compost to provide most of these nutrients.
The soil should be worked at least 2′ deep. Separate the plants based on variety. Hops of the same type can be planted about 3′ apart, and with different varieties about 5′ apart, just to be safe. Plant the hop rhizomes 6″ deep and in raised beds. Rhizomes can be put in the ground either vertically with the buds facing the sky, or horizontally if you are unsure. Cover the planted hops with a thick layer of mulch to prevent the soil from drying out and to keep weeds and pests to a minimum.
Don’t forget to MARK YOUR PLANT with a flag or other notation that will tell you what kind of plant is in the ground. If you buy a handful of varieties like I did, things could get confusing if you don’t mark your plants in some way, and this is information you will want to remember down the road.