Bines usually begin to grow from the underground rootstock in early April. Choose five or six of the most vigorous shoots and pinch off the others. When the shoots have grown to about 50 centimetre bines, wind them clockwise around a support (string or trellis). This ‘training’ of the bines should usually be completed by the end of May.
Hop plants are heavy feeders and need plenty of water to produce the 6 to 9 metre bine. In proper soil, with bright light and consistent water, hops can grow up to 30 centimetres a day and get bigger every year as their roots grow.
Hops are hardy plants and can survive tough conditions once established. However, if you are looking to maximise your crop at the end of the growing season and you’ve noticed your hops plant has stopped growing and it isn’t a first-year plant, look at how much water you are giving it on a weekly basis. Some growers recommend watering twice per day in the heat of summer, but this may be excessive, depending upon your soil type. A good rule of thumb is to water deeply, frequently, and let the top couple of inches (5 cm.) of soil dry out before watering again.
Fertility can be improved with farmyard manure or proprietary brands of general fertiliser.
Hop plants produce the flower cone that (along with grain, water, and yeast) is one of the four essential ingredients in beer. However, hops are long, fast-growing bines that require some strategic pruning to get the most out of them.
Hop plant pruning is a process that needs to be kept up throughout the summer if you want your bines to be healthy. Hops are fast growing and tangle easily and pruning hop plants strategically encourages air circulation and seriously discourages disease, bugs, and mildew. In midsummer, once the bines are firmly attached to the trellis above, carefully remove the foliage from the bottom 50 to 75 cm. Cutting back hop bines like this will allow air to pass through more easily and protect the bines from all the problems associated with damp. To further prevent tangling and dampness, keep pruning hop plants down to the ground whenever they send up new shoots out of the soil. At the end of the growing season, cut the whole plant down to ground level to prepare for next year.
Disease and Pest Control
Hops are susceptible to mildews, aphids and red spider. These can be controlled with various garden sprays available from most Garden centres.