One plant that is vital to the craft beer industry has made a successful transition from commercial fields to backyard gardens. It is the humble hop vine. Not only do they enhance the landscape with their distinctive appearance, but their sought after cones wind up in the kettles of home-brewers.
Hop vines need plenty of room to grow. They grow much higher (longer) than most other vining/climbing garden residents, such as grapes, climbing roses, and clematis. Depending on the variety, mature hops can reach a length of 25′ or more, far higher than trellises found at local nurseries and garden centers. If not trellised, these vines could overtake sections of a garden.
A simple solution to trellising hops, is to allow them to grow on a structure. For example, in my backyard, hops are planted along the wood and hardware cloth chicken run. No chicken run? A garden shed will work just fine. But in order to get the hop shoots to grow up on the structure, you will need to provide some trellising assistance.
- 2 1/2″ eyelet screws
- garden twine/jute
- 24 gauge wire (optional)
- existing structure, such as garage, garden shed, chicken run, pergola, etc…
NOTE: we use wire initially due to our neighborhood fox. He bites through jute and/or garden twine, destroying our trellis. However, if we use wire, he leaves it in tact. After initial trellising with wire (but before the vines grow significantly, we then wrap garden twine around the wire. The garden twine provides a rough surface that is easier for the vines to cling to and wrap around. If you do not have a pesky fox, please feel free to use garden twine and save the wire for other projects.
Pre-drill holes into the structure about 2′ apart (vertically) from each other, starting at one foot above the soil line. For this example, the wooden frame of the chicken run. Continue drilling holes until the roof line is reached. If the angle of structure’s wall changes (if it slants up to the roof), add eyelets to continue the trellis system. Once the roof is reached, add an eyelet above the roof line (above the point where the angle changes from the wall to the roof).
Space the eyelets (horizontally) about 3′ – 4′ apart (same as the spacing for backyard hop plants) so that a row of eyelets is centered over each hop.
Thread the wire (or garden twine) vertically as well as horizontally through the eyelets. Pull the wire tight so it does not sag.
NOTE: since hardware cloth is the primary material of the chicken run, eyelets also keep the hop vines from growing into the interior of the chicken run in addition to providing a basis for a trellis system of wire (or twine). (While the chickens wouldn’t mind stray shoots in the run, my goal is to maximize my hops harvest.)
Thin the hops shoots (also known as bines) to 4 per plant. Select the healthiest and most vigorous looking bines to trellis. Cut off the remaining shoots.
Gently wrap the shoots around the wire (or twine).
After training the hops on your trellis structure, you can now sit back and watch your hops take off.
Hops are a wonderful addition to your backyard garden or homestead. The vines are attractive and the cones can be used in beer. Get creative with trellising. Take advantage of existing structures, but some trellising support is needed to get the hops growing upwards through the use of eyelets and garden twine. With a little time and a few materials, you can create a unique hops trellis for your backyard garden.