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Planning Your Garden

April 2, 2010

A good site for your hop plants is the key to a healthy crop. The following criteria is the most important:

  • Sunlight exposure: Hops need lots of sunlight to grow properly. In the northern hemisphere a southern exposure is the best. 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight is needed to keep hops healthy.
  • Soil quality and drainage: The soil should be nutrient rich, with pH in the range of 6.5-8.0. Hops like a lot of moisture, but ground that stays too saturated after a heavy rain will promote the growth of mold and other diseases.
  • Vertical Space: Hops need to climb, a suggested minimum of about 12 feet. Commercial hops yards in America have 18′ trellis systems. Hops will grow even higher than that, upwards of 25 feet. A trellis system can be as simple as two poles with a wire strung between them. It needs to be strong enough to support the weight of the vines and withstand windy conditions.
  • Air Circulation: This will help to prevent diseases and will help keep pests to a minimum. If your area is really windy, a windbreak should be considered.

The side of a building that gets plenty of sunlight can provide a great framework for your garden.

For practical purposes, the side of a building that faces the sun during the day is the best place to locate your garden, so long as there is proper drainage. During the storm there should be no soil erosion occurring in the area you are going to plant, and the area should dry out quickly following the storm.  this method will save you the hassle of constructing an entire trellis, makes stringing your supports easy, and provides a decorative effect to the building. This is the method I have chosen, and will be stringing up 15 foot supports to the top of a building that faces the South. Against a fence in the backyard, or below a balcony are other practical choices. If these options are unavailable, but you have enough open space in the sun somewhere on your land that can grow hops, you are going to have to construct a trellis. To determine which trellis method will work best for your situation, take a look at some examples and consider your options.

Depending on how many hop plants you plan to purchase, you should stake out where you are going to put the hops in the ground to illustrate your future garden.  Make sure your stakes are in bright areas with proper drainage and are about 5 feet apart (if your hops will be different varieties).  Once you have a good idea of where you’re hops will be located, you can move on to constructing your trellis and preparing your soil for planting.

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