If you are a beer aficionado, you may have done some research on brewing a batch of your own delicious elixir. If so, then you already know that the necessary ingredient in beer – hops, which can grow up to 12 inches (30.5 cm.) a day, up to 30 feet (9 m.) in one year, and can weigh between 20-25 pounds (9-11 kg.). Thus, these rampant climbers need a sturdy trellis of appropriate height to accommodate their size. The following article contains information on the best support for hops plants and building a trellis for hops.
Hops Plant Support
Most hops are grown for use in making beer, but the cones can also be used in soap, condiments, and snacks. With their reputed mild sedative effect, hop cones are also used in making soothing teas and pillows while the post-harvest bines are often twisted into holiday wreaths or used to make cloth or paper. This multi-use crop needs some careful consideration and planning, as the plants can live for up to 25 years, a long-term garden addition that needs some serious hops plant support.
When thinking about building a trellis or support for hops vines, you need to consider not only a structure that can accommodate its prodigious growth but also how to facilitate easy harvesting. The hop bines (vines) will spiral around nearly anything that the strongly hooked hairs can clamber.
During the first year of growth, the plant concentrates on gaining root depth, which will allow it to survive subsequent potential droughts. Thus, the vine size will likely only reach around 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m.), but given a healthy start, in later years the plants may reach up to 30 feet (9 m.), so it is advisable to build an appropriately sized support for hops vines at the get-go.
Trellis Ideas for Hops
Hop bines tend to grow vertically to the height of their support or trellis and then begin to grow laterally, which is where the plant will flower and produce. Commercial hops are supported by an 18-foot (5.5 m.) tall trellis with stabilizing horizontal cables. The hops plants are spaced 3-7 feet (1-2 m.) apart to allow the lateral branches to absorb sunlight and yet not shade the abutting bines. Eighteen feet (5.5 m.) might be a bit size prohibitive for some home gardeners, but there really is no best support for hops plants, they just need something upon which to scale up along with support for their lateral growth.
There are a couple of hops support options that can utilize things that you may already have in your yard.
- Flagpole support – A flagpole trellis design incorporates an existing flag pole. Flagpoles are usually between 15-25 feet (4.5-7.5 m.) in height and often have a built-in pulley system, handy to raise the line in the spring and lower in the fall during harvest, and eliminates the need for a ladder. The lines are set out like a tepee with three or more lines running from the central flag pole. The upside to this design is the ease of harvest. The downside is that the bines may crowd each other at the top of the pole, lessening the amount of sun they can absorb and resulting in a diminished yield.
- Clothesline support – Another trellis idea for hops utilizing something in the garden is a clothesline trellis. This uses an existing clothesline or can be made of 4×4 posts, 2-inch x 4-inch (5×10 cm.) lumber, steel or copper pipe, or PVC piping. Ideally, use heavier material for the central “clothesline” post and lighter material for the top support. The main beam can be any length that works for you and the support lines have the advantage of being lengthened so they can be staked further from the main support, which allows more growing room for the hops.
- House eave support – A house eave trellis design uses the home’s existing eaves as the main support for the trellis system. Like the flagpole design, the lines are set up radiating outward much like a tepee. Also, like the flagpole system, a house eave trellis uses a fastener, pulley, and twine or metal cords. The pulley will allow you to lower the bines for harvest and can be found at the hardware store along with metal rings and fasteners for very little cost. Heavy twine, wire rope, or aircraft cable are all appropriate for the vine support, although if this is a serious commitment, it might be better to invest in the heavier high-grade materials that will last for years and years.
- Arbor support – A truly beautiful trellis idea for hops is an arbor design. This design uses either 4×4 posts, or, if you want to get fancy, Greek-style columns. The hops are planted at the base of the columns and then once they grow vertically to the top, are trained to grow horizontally along wires that are attached to the house or other structure. The wires are attached with eye screws for wood or miter screws for brick and mortar structures. This design requires a bit more work but will be lovely and sound for years to come.
You can invest as much or as little into your hops trellis as you wish. There is no right or wrong, just a personal decision. As mentioned, hops will grow on pretty much anything. That said, they need sun and some vertical support followed by horizontal trellising so they can flower and produce. Allow the vines to get as much sun as possible without overcrowding or they won’t yield. Whatever you use as your trellis system, consider how you are going to harvest the hops.
If you don’t want to invest much in your hops trellis, consider repurposing. Supports can be made using more expensive but durable material or with just sisal twine and old bamboo stakes. Perhaps, you have an old trellis that you are no longer using or a fence that would work. Or just a bunch of leftover plumbing pipe, rebar, or whatever. I think you get the idea, time to crack a beer and get to work.