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Growing Hops With Limited Space

2011 March 17
by Chris

A couple of weeks ago Katy mentioned that we were beginning to think about what we were going to plant for our balcony garden.  Well, I got a head start and ordered some hop rhizomes (a rhizome is a piece of the root, since brewing hops are all female, they are never fertilized and so there are never any seeds) from Fresh Hops so that I could grow my own hops for my home brew.

pot for hops

My large pot full of dirt after I put in three gardening stakes

Why would I want to grow hops, you ask?  Because a single rhizome costs about $4, and will produce up to 2 pounds of hops each year.  Buying hops at the store costs almost $4 per OUNCE!  So, as with all things home-brewing, there is an initial investment, but it pays off int he long run.

This past weekend, I went to Lowes and bought a large gardening pot (about $30) and three 8-foot tall gardening stakes ($4 each), along with a big bag of dirt and some fertilizer (about $10).

The hops arrived yesterday along with some hop twine (Coir Yarn) and a great book, The Homebrewr’s Garden, by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher.  It contains extensive advice on how to grow and use your own hops, malts and brewing herbs.

Nugget Hop Rhizomes

Two Nugget hop rhizomes that will start the root system for the hops

So today I put it all together!  Hops typically need about 12 feet of vertical space to grow, but because we’ll be moving into an apartment with a balcony that doesn’t have that kind of space, I had to get creative.  Instead of having the hops grow straight up the twine like they would want to, I will train them to grown at an angle along the rope that I have wound in a circle around the three garden stakes.

hop twine

Hop twine around the gardening stakes

I planted the rhizomes about 1″ below the surface and they should sprout in the next month or so.  Once they sprout, hop vines can grow at up to ONE FOOT A DAY! Holy crap!

As they grow, I’ll have to water them a LOT and keep them fertilized.  By late summer, the vines should be full grown and we should have between 1/2 and 2.5 pounds of fresh hops that I will be able to use in my beer for the next year!

I’ll keep you updated on the progress.  It should be interesting since not only is it my first time growing much of anything, but I’m having to do it in a space-limited, less-than-ideal location for hops.   But I think I have a good system in place and hopefully it will result in some tasty (and cheaper) beer!

Also, we’re going shopping soon for some more normal veggies and herbs to grow on our balcony garden.  I am sure that Katy will post an update in the coming week!  Let me know if you have any suggestions on what we should attempt to grow on our small balcony, especially if you’ve had experience (and good results)!

**UPDATE: My first hop vines have sprouted and I have added an addition to my trellis to help support the garden stakes and the twine.  Read it in my latest post about my home-grown hops**

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4 Responses
  1. March 18, 2011

    Nice, I pre-ordered some rhizomes myself and am waiting on them to come in. I like your creative way of giving the vines more feet to grow on. I may steal this from you since I only have about 10 feet for them to grow. Did you do Nugget only or did you get a different hop as well?

  2. March 18, 2011

    I only got Nugget because I had such a limited space. If you have multiple varieties, you are supposed to plant them at least 5 feet apart, and only have a pot, I really only have room for one plant. I planted two just to make sure they grow, but after this season, I’ll have to separate them.

    Feel free to steal the design. I’m a little worried that once the hops start wrapping around the twine, the twine will slide down the poles, but hopefully it will hold together without me having to re-tie it. If I could do it over, I would probably have done it Tee-pee style and bolted the three poles together at the top.

  3. March 19, 2011

    Update: I am going to Lowes tomorrow to buy some PVC pipe to create a triangular “cap” to put on top of the 3 poles to keep them from bending forward with the weight of the hops. This will allow me to tighten up the twine to better support the hop bines. I’ll post a photo once it is built!

  4. April 6, 2013

    Cool idea! I think I’m going to try it. I have three rhizomes I planted — two chinook and one cascade. I like in Las Vegas, so they were the ones recommended that like lots of sun and can handle the heat. I’ll really have to stay on top of watering, too.

    Did you have luck with this system? I’m also growing mine in pots. I got three 24 inch pots from Lowes. I haven’t purchased a ferilizer. Any advice on that front, too?

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