Alright, alright, year two of hop growing started a couple of months ago, but I’ve been busy and haven’t had a chance to write about my progress thus far. The good news is, my second year Chinook plant is doing exceptionally well and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll see a decent crop of cones come harvest season. Even better, is that a lot of the changes I made to my growing set up seem to be the reason this plant is doing so well, so I thought the best way to jump into this year’s Grow Hop Series is to summarize those changes.
1) Bigger Planters
This goes without saying – bigger planters allow the roots more room to grow. Last year I was using 18 inch pots, while this year I have expanded to 24 inch pots. The difference was immediately noticeable, as I know have three main bines with dozens of off-shoots that are growing 3-4 inches each day. While I started the year hoping to build a custom plater box out of scrap wood I had lying around, I eventually opted for a cheap black plastic planter I purchased at Home Depot.
2) Don’t Let ‘Em Start Too Early
I learned a valuable lesson last year in terms of an appropriate growing season. California weather allowed my plants to start growing to full height as early as March and that really screwed with the plant’s growth timeline. This year I replanted the chinook roots around the end of march again but I trimmed the vines back right up until the beginning of May in order to let the vines grow properly throughout the summer. While last year I was getting blooms in May and full cones by early June, I don’t expect blooms for another month, which I’m hoping will allow the cones to grow to full maturity at the appropriate time in September and October.
3) Anticipating Pests!
I had a hell of a time last year with white flies and spider-mites. While spider-mites eventually destroyed my Saaz plant, my Chinook was resilient enough to make it to harvest season. This year, I knew what to expect and did some research on how to best prevent spider-mites from attacking my precious hops. By the time I started getting a healthy vine, I had already made a garlic, onion & cayenne spray and started spraying down the leaves a couple times a week. I’ve found this pretty effective overall and much more helpful than insecticidal soap or other organic options. I’m not totally against using pesticides but why go down that path unless you need to?
Overall, these three things have really helped my plant as the main vine is already close to 20 ft high, with countless side shoots developing into a thick tangled mass. The two secondary bines were slower to start, but are now almost 6 feet each and growing consistently every day.
Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be sure to post updates on how the hops are growing and (fingers crossed) this year I’ll end the series with a homebrew recipe using my homegrown chinooks.
Catch up on last year’s Grow (h)Op Posts below!