How To Determine The Best Location For Growing A Hops Yard
Judging by the title, you likely want to try growing your yield of effervescent hop children for a delicious beer. You are in luck, dear reader because I have done all the research for you, and luckily for me, you are the one doing all the hard work! So let's get your hands dirty and read a hastily compiled guide to raising hops.
Best locations to grow hops
First and foremost, let us not break the law. Where can we grow hops in the US? According to Scott Grossman, many states are very lax. He emphasizes the benefits of hops in climates like Florida; they are able to harvest four times the average crop yield from July to October.1 Wet hopping has benefits if you live in a warm and highly moist environment.
Another good hop-growing zone is Colorado, Grossman again states the pros and cons of specific elevations, daylight cycles, and latitude. “We’re at 6,000 feet and the sun is stronger, the rays are more intense,” DellaBianca says. Hops love heat and sun and with over 300 sunny days per year in Colorado, Billy Goat’s hops can grow a foot a day in prime season. The dry climate also reduces the risk of diseases like mildew.”2 Regarding the best places to grow hops, there is no perfect climate, only ideal ones.
Do not let your coincidental location discourage your farming dreams. It is not a question of where in the world, but when you have the drive and passion. Other poignant topics include the best growing conditions for hops. Just because you live in an ideal climate does not mean you can sit in the shade and sip a martini, farming is a job that never sleeps!
Growing hops in the city
If you are utilizing a small suburban or central cityscape, you aren't able to have a plot. Don’t worry, Jessica McPhail explains the hop’s ability to grow from a pot so long as it has something to climb on. Ideally, your hop plant needs a 20-inch diameter and depth with good drainage (no compact soil), some steaks, and twine, preferably reaching 8 feet in height so the hop can grow vertically.3 Hops are surprisingly adaptive given these or similar conditions and sometimes grow on light poles near highways. Hops are greedy for sunlight and good soil. As long as you meet those standards, the plant will grow.
You don’t need a full-on farm for hops, the sprouts only need attention, water, and love. “Hops are relatively high maintenance plants. They require lots of water and regular feeding to grow as vigorously as they do. You should water your hops daily when it’s hot. Always water enough so that water is running from the container's drainage holes.”4
Treat your hop growing as a learning curve. Your first harvest won’t be impressive, but trying is all part of the perennial vine process.
How quickly do hops grow?
Beer hop yards are able to churn out cones like nobody’s business; this is their secret sauce. Rob Sirrine narrates hop’s incredible growth. “Under the right conditions, vines can grow 4 to 10 inches a day.
Around the summer solstice (late June), hop plants develop lateral branches and produce clusters of 0.5-inch to 4-inch papery green flowers or cones."5 Thes cones are the beer’s best friend, growing bushels of these comes down to the bare bones. Small details like the elements in the soil make a monumental impact.
What conditions are best for growing hops?
Sirrine’s article detailed conditions for hop yards: The MSU’s site recommends testing hop soil annually, encourages compost for rapid growth, and supports different rates of nitrogen (0.33 pounds per 100 square feet), low quantities of phosphorus, and varying levels of potassium based on crop size. Micronutrients like boron, zinc, and manganese are also required in varying quantities. He also states that growers should provide six gallons of water per plant during June and July because of their rapid growth.6
While this information is too detailed for a casual backyard hop yard project, when your plant isn’t in top form, providing these conditions will help nurse it to health and give the hop longevity.
Another helpful tip the MSU study hinges on is the importance of pruning older hop plants. Similar to several florae –pruning is beneficial, like a nap during a hard day at work, or a reset on your computer. “Growers often prune second- or third-year plants back to the crown when the vines are about 2 feet high or have been growing for about 2 weeks. Such pruning helps improve the plants’ vigor, removes the previous year’s growth, and reduces disease pressure."7
Even if you are growing hops for fun and are not paying attention to every variable in its environment, pruning is the go-to and must-have. Hop Yard Farms will need to pay more attention to specifics like soil type, yield, proper harvest, etc.
Despite this summary, if you plan to make a living off your farm, I recommend doing as much research as you can. Even in my best efforts to make hops look like a seamless process, details can make or break your hopyard farm. I wish you luck, a speedy learning curve, and too many hops.
1. Scott Grossman. (2020). Hop Farming Spreads Across the US. Porch Drinking.com.
3. Jessica McPhail. (2022). A Beginner’s Guide On Growing Hops In Containers. Gardening Chores. https://www.gardeningchores.com/grow-hops-in-containers/
5. Scott Grossman. (2020). Hop Farming Spreads Across the US. Porch Drinking.com.
6. Rob Sirrine. (2015). Fresh: Growing Hops (E3210). Michigan State University. https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/michigan_fresh_growing_hops#:~:text=Hops%20will%20grow%20in%20a,nights%20during%20the%20growing%20season