Growing Your Own Hops
I’ve just recently moved to Arizona from NYC and began growing my own hops. If you haven’t dabbled in this, I recommend it! Arizona is dry and hot most of the year, which isn’t necessarily ideal for hops, so I wanted to share my findings and give you the west coast approach. I don’t believe any hops are grown commercially in the state of Arizona, so this should be an interesting experiment to say the least.
The two hops I chose were Chinook and Tettnanger. Chinook I chose because I love this hop! It grows in Southern California and does quite well in high heat climates. I figured it would be well suited for the Arizona summers. The Tettnanger hops I grabbed because I originally wanted Saaz but I couldn’t acquire them, and my research showed me that Tettnanger is quite close in character. Plus I wanted to see how this holds up in the heat.
Both are considered a dual-purpose hop although Chinook’s alpha acid content is much higher, around 12-14%, while Tettnanger has a low alpha acid content of 4-5% and a cleaner bitterness character. Tettnanger aroma is a floral spice and comes from the moderately abundant oils, including farnesene oil. Chinook also has a heavy aroma and somewhat spicy bouquet, but with piney and herbal notes.
The ideal planting time for hop rhizomes is between March and May – If you decide to plant your rhizomes early, I’ve read that using a bit of mulch will insulate the rhizome from freezing temperature until the frost has passed – Usually you want to aim for about 1-2’’ beneath the soils surface with the “eye” (the sprouting buds) of the rhizomes facing upwards.
I’ve also read that you want to keep different varieties at least 5 feet apart, but the same hop rhizomes can be planted under 3 feet of each other. I didn’t have enough space for 5 feet apart for each set of rhizomes, so this experiment will test whether planting different hops within a foot of each other still produces results.
The soil you plant them is also very important. Many recommended using a mixture of soil and sand because the sand ends helps water drain away from the young roots properly. I used combination of palm, cactus, and citrus all purpose indoor and outdoor mix soil. This soil drains amazingly well and there is no need for adding sand. Another addition is blood meal to ensure a nice level of nitrogen in the soil. Hop plants need a high level of nitrogen to help them grow strong! This addition will be well suited. An easy way to do this is when you dig your hole to plant the rhizomes sprinkle a nice even amount of blood meal ensuring that the rhizome will make contact with this “fuel.”
Watering is something to really think on when dealing with rhizomes. One of the biggest causes of failed rhizomes is over watering them in the beginning stages. The soil gets so moist that the rhizome will actually start to rot. Basically you drown your rhizome and it can’t take in the nutrients it needs from the soil. I just watered the rhizomes once about a ½ gallon of water when I first planted and it actually ended up raining twice so I just used that as another watering. Be sure to cultivate the soil after watering and every couple days to induce a proper airflow.
Hop vines naturally grow clockwise up the string or trellis once they break the surface, so be prepared for that! You do not want your vines laying on the soil because it can lead to diseases and infections. I bought two 6 foot stakes, which if all goes well, I’ll have to add to because the vines can grow up to 20 feet tall.
Once your hops are buried, as I stated earlier give it a proper soak and let nature “do its thing” as they say. Some interesting findings already are that it took about 2 weeks to start seeing sprouting. Surprisingly the Tettnanger has sprouted much healthier than the Chinook. I would have thought the Chinook would have sprouted first being more catered to a warmer climate. I will continue to keep you all posted as these two hops continue to grow and the different characteristics they show.
I miss all your brewmies, and the bottle swaps every month. I wish I could be apart of the experiments but keep a full steam ahead and perhaps when I’m back in NYC I can help out with some!
Keep up the great experiments and remember Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew!