How to build a HOPS Tree
Hops have become the most popular plant to hit the airwaves and marketplace, since marihuana. Hop is the KING of the micro-breweries, and the more hops from dried to wet ( green ) the better! Double hops, triple hops, wet and dry hops, etc. this is where the beer industry has ventured.
We need more hops!! NOW
I can remember the day my oldest son announced that he wanted to grow hops in the backyard and he researched how to obtain the plants, as he dreamed of a field of hops in the backyard. What variety of hops, did he decide on? Cascade, Willamette and Nugget were the hops of choice back in the early 2000’s. Of course the selection has increased, according to the popularity of India Pale Ale and my son’s original choices are the vanilla picks of all our brew-masters of 2016. Just to keep you all honest, if you decide to build the Hops Tree as described on this webpage, my son recommends that Cascade be used, if you are in the Northeast, due to its ability to grown in the climate of New England. I have to agree that the result of my son’s selection was very exciting and we had the healthiest crop of hops, during our feeble attempt to grow our own in the backyard. Of course, what did we know at the time?
I am a relatively proficient gardener, and I have to admit that the result of our attempts to grow hops in the backyard was both exciting and very satisfying. The hops were very healthy, easily grown, and certainly a conversation topic, as we sat on the back deck and overlooked the multiple hops trees that we had created.
OK, you want to construct a hop tree, or several hop trees and you think I have the way. Maybe I do, however I initially had NO idea how to set up this application, nor how hops actually grew. Having been a 4-H gardener as a child, and very interested in growing my own vegetables, I was especially interested in the growing of the hops, especially since my oldest son was so interested. Tomatoes and beans did not seem to stimulate the father son interaction that the possibility of growing hops did! I look back at this, and have to smile, as I think of my son informing me that he would like to grow hops, certainly an alien crop for me, but something that appeared very doable. Why not, pole beans, hops, can’t be that different?
Why I thought of this specific technique to create a hop tree, is something that only someone that has a very practical and “I can do it “attitude will understand. My son had informed me that the hops he was thinking of was a plant that liked to grow as a vine, and needed to follow some type of support that would allow it to continue to grow without any type of confinement.
I honestly can still remember the assembly of material, as well as the day that we actually started to create our hops garden with several of our hops trees. My son had researched and ordered the hops that he felt would be the most prolific type of hops, to be grown in our area. Just to keep the record straight, we lived in Connecticut and our climate was certainly a New England type of climate. Therefore the selection of the specific hops that flourished on our hop tree, was based upon our limited growing season, and according to my son was the Cascade variety of hops.
So after all of this reminiscing, the hops tree is created as follows;
- First, the space that you have available to plant the hops, must be evaluated. We will assume that there is a space of at least 16 feet by 24 feet available for the installation of your hop trees. This would allow a placement of hop trees every 8 feet. Allowing a matrix of 2 by 3 trees or 6 total trees.
- The initial step is to layout the area of 16 by 24 feet in the backyard. This will allow the spread of the hop trees, as well as an area that will allow the sunlight to penetrate and promote the growth of the hops. The overall spread of the tree is 8 feet; therefore the support of the tree should be laid out to be 4 feet from the perimeter and then another 8 feet. The idea is that the trees from vertical post to vertical post should be 8 feet. This will enable the proper growth of the hops as well as the ability to access the tree for picking of the hops.
- Once the layout has been determined, the area of the vertical support should be excavated, to allow the installation of a 2 inch piece PVC tubing that is 24 inches long, to be installed in the earth. This tubing should be backfilled to support the tubing in the ground flush with the surface of the grounds surface. If the area is a 16 foot by 24 foot area, then the installation of the 2 inch pieces of PVC will be 8 feet apart in all directions, allowing a total of 6 vertical posts.
- Once the installation of the 2 inch pieces of PVC are installed in the earth, then a piece of 1 ½” galvanized tubing, at least 8 feet long, should be installed in the 2 inch piece of PVC embedded in the ground. This vertical support can be much longer, if the area will allow, and the material can be found. Our installation had vertical supports that were over 12 feet high.
- At the top of the vertical support, should be installed an eyebolt, that has at least a 6 inch shank. This eyebolt is inserted in the top of the vertical support. If the eyebolt is too small to be supported in the top of the vertical support, then a washer of the appropriate diameter should be used to support the eyebolt on the top of the vertical support.
- 3/8 inch nylon rope, or cord, should be attached to the eyebolt, prior to the vertical support being set in the ground. The number of cords to be attached to the eyebolt will be determined by the number of initial hop plants ordered and received. For example, this discussion involves only ( 6 ) hop trees. Therefore if ( 4 ) cords are attached to each eyebolt, there will be 4 times 6 areas around the spread of the cords for planting hops. Each area, at the base of the cord, could have at least ( 4 ) hops plants. Therefore this configuration could allow the growth of 4 plants times 4 cords, times 6 vertical posts, or up to 96, actual hop plants. Of course this can be changed to allow more plants around each cord, or less. This is a customization that only the individual planting the hops can determine.
Once the cords are attached to the vertical support, the vertical posts should be inserted in the 2 inch pieces of PVC that have been installed in the ground. Once this occurs, you will have 6 posts with 4 cords each hanging down. This analytical evaluation is based on an area of 16 feet by 24 feet, if additional real estate is available, who are we to restrict you?
- Once the posts are erected and the cords are hanging down non secured at the ends, these loose ends of the cords should be tied off with tent post stakes. These stakes can be found in any camping store, or the actual ends of the cords can be tied off with pieces of rebar driven into the earth. Rebar is a piece of steel, that is used to insert into concrete, as reinforcement, and can be found in a local hardware store or big box builder’s supply store. What needs to occur is that the ends of the cords that have been tied to the eyebolt at the top of the vertical support must be supported at an angle, to allow the hops to have a path of travel as they grow. The best angle for the cords is 30 degrees from the vertical. If his is accomplished, then depending upon the height of the vertical support, the actual end of the cord will be approximately 4 feet from the base of the vertical support.
- Once the cords are secure around the base of the vertical support, the hops are planted in a circle around the end of the supporting cord. The number of plants provided for planting, should be evenly divided up, to allow the same amount of plants per supporting cord of 3/8 nylon cord.
That is the method that we established to construct our hop trees. I am sure that there are several other methods and solutions to how to support hops as it grows. Of course this type of application can have several different customizations, and special applications, to more easily achieve the same results. The following thoughts are provided, however, I am sure that being creative and beer crafty will allow the development of different means of supporting your hops.
- Instead of using the galvanized tubing for the supports, pieces of tree branches or the trunks of small saplings in the woods could be used.
- The simple process of forcing the post down into the ground can be used, if the earth will allow. Our procedure that is described in this webpage is based on rocky and less than cooperative soil that is located in most of New England. We in the Northeast cannot insert a post into the ground more than 2 inches, before we hit a rock or another obstacle. So the installation of an insert to allow the post support is recommended in our area. If you are in the Midwest or other parts of the US, where the soil is more consistent, the simple insertion of the support post may actually work.
- The item used at the specific ends of the cords, such as a stainless steel clip, would allow the miscellaneous reuse of these cords as needed. The simple tying, is the easiest and fastest method, however the use of specific end pieces, and applications, will allow the individual to specifically customize their hops tree. Customization is the key to success and creativity. There is NO real and specific correct method for supporting the crops of hops. Be creative and original, and maybe you can develop some type of insight that no one has thought about.
- Of course, the use of an entire framework of supports that allow the installation of the 3/8 inch cord along the top of the vertical supports, as well as down to the earth, will also allow total customization of the framework of the hops support. Whatever type of customization can be used to support the hops as they grow.
This hops tree creation was totally customized for my son. I am sure that there are several different methods of growing hops, as well as supporting the vines that they produce. The actual crop is an exciting plant, that appears to be extremely easy to grown and propagate.
This is a wonderful opportunity for a father to interact with their sons, in a more mature manner, as well as be totally creative in their development of various ways to support the growth of the hops vines and the creation of hops for beer making. The actual plant is beautiful, and the hops themselves are very impressive.
Good luck and I would hope that you can have the same great memories of creating the hop tree for your son, that I certainly did!
Grow hops, make beer, maybe you will find the ultimate combination, but if not, you will have a wonderful time, and memories that will certainly last a lifetime!!