Test Plots

When we first started this project we decided to start by growing six test plots to determine which variety of hops would grow best in our soil conditions.  We chose to go with the traditional method of using a center pole to support the trellis for the hops to climb up when they start to grow vigorously..

Laying out the hop circles

The hop circles were laid out using a trimmer tied to a string which was tied to a stake in the middle of the circle.

Laying out the circles Laying out the circles Laying out the circles

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Digging the holes

After we had laid out the hop circles it was time to dig the holes for the center poles. For this task we borrowed a PTO driven post hole auger from a neigbour to dig the 4 foot deep holes in our clay loam soil.  Much faster then trying to dig them by hand.

The MF 135 gets ready to dig Take it easy, not too fast Almost buried the post hole auger

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Preparing and putting up the poles

Once the holes were dug it was time to put up the 20 foot cedar poles. The trusty Land Rover came in handy to bring the poles to the site on the trailer.  Because the center poles are 16 feet tall we were determined not to use a ladder to attach the trellis so we designed a pulley system at the top of the pole which is used to raise and lower a "hops wheel" with 6 spokes to which the twine will be tied as a trellis for the hop vines.

The Land Rover brings the poles on the trailer Assembling the top pulley Sideview of the pulley brackets
The long view of 6 poles in 2 arched rows Three poles on this side Time to stand back and admire the results of our hard work

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Preparing the soil for planting

Time to prepare the soil for planting the hops. Our dependable 30-year old Troy rototiller comes in handy to till a 4 ft wide bed around the circle. Our soil test indicated that the soil was a little too acidic for growing hops so we sweetened the soli by applying dolomitic lime.  We also applied our own organic compost to the hole that we dug into which the hop rhizome was planted.

This is where the vintage Troy rototiller comes in handy Too early for snow, must be lime to sweeten the soil The lupins are raising their heads to see what is happening in the field

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Planting the hops

We decided to experiment with an organic paper mulch to cover the 3 foot area around the hops plant and mulch the rest of the circle with straw mulch.. We quickly discovered that the paper mulch was not compatible with the straw mulch as it quickly decomposed where it touched the mulch.  It is supposed to last for at least 6 months before it biodegrades into the soil, but here it was happening much sooner.

The hops plant transplanted into the paper mulch A closer look at that little hops plant The paper mulch is decomposing too soon and coming apart at the perforations

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Raising the hops wheel

It didn't take long for some of the hops to start looking for a trellis to climb up so we needed to add the twines and try raising the wheel..  We decided to try using short 18 inch cedar stakes, driven a foot into the ground, to secure the twine at ground level and then just knot the twine at the top spoke of the wheel.  Once the 6 twines were secured to the spokes the wheel was raised into position and then we secured the twines to the stakes.

The hops wheel with all the twines attached Starting to raise the hops wheel It looks like this may actually work!

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Training and pruning the vines

Once the hops vines are about 3 feet long they need to be trained to grow up the trellis twine. Each crown can produce dozens of shoots so we needed to be ruthless to pick the 2 or 3 strongest ones to reach maturity and prune the rest off at soil level.

OK, this is how you wind yourself around the twine Now is that clockwise or not? Trying to decide which ones to prune off

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