Growing your own hops can be a great extension of your home brewing adventures. Not only are you making something of your own, you are even using ingredients that you grew. Not to mention that you can save a lot of money by using your own hops!
However, not all of us have a big sunny yard with plenty of room for a garden and the 18-feet of vertical space needed to give your hops room to grow. Some of us poor folks are living in apartments with a balcony that only has about 9 feet of vertical space. And you don’t want your hops creeping through the floorboards of your upstairs neighbor! They might steel your delicious harvest.
The good news is that there is still hope. You can still grow your own hops, even on an apartment balcony. Just find yourself a nice big pot/planter.
Growing Hops in a Container
Growing hops in a container is very similar to growing hops in the ground, except you can’t grow as many. If you have a large enough planter, you can probably plant a couple of rhizomes successfully in each pot, but probably no more than that, or the roots will start to tangle and run out of space, limiting the amount of growth and hop production.
You can also find some great info on planting hops in a container from both of these links:
Brew Your Own Magazine Article
Growing Hops in a container blog post
The big problem though is the limited vertical space. Hops want to grow straight up a piece of twine that goes 12 to 20 feet in the air. However, there are ways go teach them otherwise. I personally found great success in setting up a trellis that allowed the hops to grow at a 45-degree angle wrapping around a circle. The trellis was only 8 or 9 feet tall, but it allowed the hops to grow to be about 15 feet!
How did I build it, you say?
First, I purchased three 12-foot garden stakes and put them in the pot as I filled it with dirt to hold them steady. Because they were so tall and flexible, I also cut some PVC pipe to create a triangle at the top and drilled holes for the stakes to go into. This held them apart and decreased the amount they would bend.
Once this was built, I used my hop twine and wrapped it in a clockwise, circular pattern from the ground going up to the top of the stakes. I did this with two pieces of twine so that I could grow two bines in this pot.
Training hops to grow at an angle
The only downside to this is that the hops do still want to grow straight up, so you have to continually tend to them and train them to grow along the twine. It’s not much work, but you just have to check them every day or two when you water them.
In my first year, the bine grew all the way to the top of the trellis and past the PVC pipe! I don’t know exactly how long that would be, but I estimate it to be over 15-feet. So I would say that even growing at an angle, I had great success.
There was not a huge hop harvest, but it was about the amount you would expect in the first year of a new plant. Next year, I plan to transplant them into the ground and hopefully produce a LOT of hops. I will let you know how it goes.