As promised, I’m documenting my first adventure into growing hops at home. I placed an order through BrewMasters Warehouse for cascade and galena rhizomes. While waiting on those to arrive I was given some rhizomes from a member of my homebrew club. These rhizomes are either Ultra or Crystal. He wasn’t sure and won’t be sure until he digs up his hop yard diagram he made 4 years ago. Both are low alpha hops used in flavoring or finishing of English ales so either way I’m sure they’ll get put to good use in my beers.
Now that I had a few rhizomes and since my ordered ones should be arriving soon I prepared a couple areas to plant them. I knew I would need an area that would let me run the twine up 15+ feet in order to let the hops have room to climb. Wanting to make this a growing experience that was as cheap as possible buying posts to put into the ground was out of the equation. My house on the other hand, is 3 stories on the front with a deck spanning the entire front on the main level. Placing hooks along the top edge of the deck gives me almost 20 feet (6 meters) from ground to hook. This should be plenty of room for the hops.
With the height problem resolved, I only needed to clear and prepare the ground. I had 2 areas in mind for the hops to grow. the front of my house is has a E/SE exposure and will get good sun from the morning until mid/late afternoon. That is area 1 where the donated rhizomes are planted. Area 2 where my cascade and galena rhizomes will be planted is on the front corner of the house which has a mostly southern exposure and will receive sunlight from morning until very late afternoon. With the areas picked out I borrowed a tiller from my neighbor and set out to turn some dirt.
Area 1 is a 7’ x 7’ (2.13m x 2.13m) area next to my wife’s rose bush. This bush is MASSIVE and was here long before we bought the house. Last winter I took my pruning shears to the rose bush cutting it back until I was afraid it would not recover. Thankfully it has recovered nicely. By trimming the rose bush I was able to free up an area for hops that was previously covered up with branches that had thrones big enough to cause arterial bleeding if you weren’t careful. The tiller did a great job of turning over the soil, which to my surprise was a nice dark rich soil. Why would I be surprised? This is Georgia, 99% of the soil here is red clay. I’m talking about the thick sticky red clay that could be shaped, dried painted and fired in a kiln to make just about anything. As a child we used to make bowls or cups and just about anything out of the stuff and let it sit in the hot Georgia sun for a week and it was hard as a rock.
Area 2 is 8’ x 8’ (2.43m x 2.43m) that again surprised me with nice dark dirt instead of red clay. You might think that by now I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. I tilled an area for my wife’s blueberry bushes 20 feet away and it was 100% red clay. It appears that the area right next to my house has some great soil while the rest is crap. This tells me that top soil was put into place on purpose when the house was built. YAY for me! For both area 2 and area 1 (and the wife’s blueberry area) I tilled in some Moo-nure ™ to add some good nutrients to the soil.
With the areas prepared I planted the unknown rhizomes in area 1 and watered them. Now I’ll just have to play the waiting game. Waiting for the remaining rhizomes to arrive and waiting for them to start to sprout. Time for a beer!