Author Topic: Recommended Hop growing medium  (Read 1534 times)

Offline Jeff M

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Recommended Hop growing medium
« on: April 07, 2014, 04:16:37 PM »
SO we just built our hop beds.  They are 1 foot raised beds out of landscaping timbers and i am trying to figure out what to fill them with.  We where thinking about a blend of peat moss and organic compost with some vermiculite for drainage.  Anyone wiht experience that could weigh in would be great.  Also looking for a good fertilized suggestion.  Ive seen people mention a fish based fertilizer, but a brand and what to look for ( #-#-# suggestions) would be great.

Cheers,
Jeff
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2014, 05:57:36 PM »
I'm no expert on soil.  Hops are like weeds.  They'll grow very well in pretty much any kind of soil.  They love nitrogen.  Look for fertilizers like 10-0-0 or 20-0-0 or something like that.
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Offline Steve in TX

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2014, 06:05:09 PM »
Coconut core is more environmentally friendly compared to peat moss. If you care about that sort of thing.

Offline fmader

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2014, 06:21:37 PM »
They like acidic based fertilizers. Like said above, it doesn't take much to get them rolling. I planted some last year in 1 foot mounds of top soil mixed with manure and humus compost. They got watered regularly. They grew anywhere from 12' to 18' high and produced a nice yield of cones. I recommend getting them in the ground ASAP. If you're worried about freezing still, just cover with a heavy layer of mulch. You should mulch anyways, it's good for retaining moisture especially in dryer months of the summer.
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Offline kramerog

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2014, 06:35:10 AM »
I'm no expert on soil.  Hops are like weeds.  They'll grow very well in pretty much any kind of soil.  They love nitrogen.  Look for fertilizers like 10-0-0 or 20-0-0 or something like that.

Oregon extension recommends high N - low P - high K for soils in commercial hop growing areas of Oregon.  I believe that recommendation to be valid for other soils.
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Offline duboman

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2014, 06:39:01 AM »
My entire garden is basically a 70/30 mix of basic Illinois topsoil and composted manure and the hops grow really well. The site is regularly irrigated and once per month I hit them with nothing more than Miracle Gro through a jug sprayer. Last year was their second year in, 22' feet and each plant yielded about half a pound wet.

This year has been slow to take off, soil temperatures are still in the low to mid 40's below grade, just saw some tips emerging over the weekend, all looking healthy. They are pretty hardy plants and not really difficult to grow.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2014, 07:12:57 AM »
I agree with the above comments. If you have decent luck growing other vegetables/herbs/fruit in your native soil then you'll probably be fine using your topsoil mixed with compost and some mulch on top to retain moisture. If you have problems growing other stuff then you might want to look at buying topsoil to fill in the raised bed and mix that with compost. That's what I did.
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2014, 07:31:30 AM »
work in some beneficial fungus and the fertilizer needs will be reduced. the fungi will free up a lot more nutrients and make them available to the plants. plant some nitrogen fixers with them (you've got the trellis already, grow some peas!) that you have inoculated with the correct bacteria and the soil will fertilize itself over the years with generous top dressing in spring and fall
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Offline Jeff M

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 01:17:56 PM »
work in some beneficial fungus and the fertilizer needs will be reduced. the fungi will free up a lot more nutrients and make them available to the plants. plant some nitrogen fixers with them (you've got the trellis already, grow some peas!) that you have inoculated with the correct bacteria and the soil will fertilize itself over the years with generous top dressing in spring and fall

Wanna dumb that down a little for me?
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 03:21:56 PM »
work in some beneficial fungus and the fertilizer needs will be reduced. the fungi will free up a lot more nutrients and make them available to the plants. plant some nitrogen fixers with them (you've got the trellis already, grow some peas!) that you have inoculated with the correct bacteria and the soil will fertilize itself over the years with generous top dressing in spring and fall

Wanna dumb that down a little for me?

sure. Well I'll try anyway.

In a healthy balanced system insects, bacteria, and even more so, fungus break down dead organic matter and make the nutrients held in them available again for new plant life. There are some really good products available from Paul Stamets that are designed to introduce lots of fungus to the soil in your garden to help make these nutrients available so as long as you have plenty of available organic matter (compost) given time, air, and moisture, the fungi will make most of the nutrients your hops need available to them with out needing to add a lot of concentrated macro nutrients (fertilizer).

However the main macro nutrient that we as 'farmers' like our plants to have a lot of is nitrogen because it helps the plants get really big really fast. miracle grow has lots of inorganic nitrogen which is highly available so plants get big fast. 'Organic' fertilizers like fish emulsion do the same thing to a lesser. The problem there is that you are trapped in the cycle of feeding that way. the plants grow so fast that they start to use up all the other macro and micro nutrients in the soil and because you are of course carefully preventing mold and bugs and 'weeds' from encroaching on your garden very little of this is getting replaced through the normal pathways of nature. so you end up with soil that gets poorer and poorer until, without your inputs, it is totally dead and unable to support life.

Legumes, or more specifically species of bacteria that co-habitat with legumes and some other plants, have the unusual habit of taking nitrogen out of the air and 'fixing' it in the soil in little nodules which is good because the process of decomposition ties up nitrogen and can cause some loss of available nutrient as the dead organic matter is decomposed into soil.

Enter the fungi which will grow mycilium (the whitish fuzzy mold like part of a mushroom that grows in the substrate) around the roots of your plants. These mycilium take the larger compounds which are difficult for your plants to absorb, break them down into smaller pieces and use some of it. other parts that the fungi don't really need anyway are passed through to the roots of the plants. In return the plants will share some of their moisture and carbohydrates with the fungi.

you won't get quite the same level of rapid growth and huge yields you might get with a concentrated chemical fertilizer application but then, as Denny is fond of pointing out, after a few years you are likely to get more hops than you can use anyway. This way you don't have to wear protective clothes to care for your plants and if you forget to feed or water for a couple weeks they are more likely to survive on their own.

it's pretty hippie dippy and touchy feely but it works.

Check out this site. I am in no way affiliated with this company. I have used their grow your own edible mushroom kits and that's fun. But I've seen Paul Stamets talk and he's got some very very cool ideas.

http://www.fungi.com/

I apologize for any scientific simplifications of errors I might have made in the above post. It was some what off the top of my head.
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Offline fmader

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2014, 04:09:52 PM »
Yeah! What he said lol. No, really... This is great information. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten us, Jonathan!
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Offline el_capitan

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 04:45:22 PM »
Great mini-lecture there, Jonathan.  I hadn't thought about growing legumes in my hops bed, but it's a good idea.  Do you plant those on the off-season?  Here in MN, I might be able to start a fall crop of something before the frost sets in, but I'm not sure.  I'm usually harvesting in mid to late September.  That gives me maybe 6 weeks tops before things are done for the year. 

I started out with really clay-heavy soil wit plenty of rocks.  Glacial deposits.  I tilled the ground as deeply as possible, going back over it again after picking some rocks.  Then I added a large amount of composted horse manure.  My neighbor had a huge pile going back to 4 years old, so I chose the really well-aged stuff.  I also prepared the holes with a bit of wood ash, I think.  Some compost helped too.  Since then I've only added compost to the beds.  I typically feed mid-season by pulling back some of the mulch (dry grass clippings) and side-dressing with vermicompost.  The worm castings are a great soil amendment. 

The soil mix you suggested, Jeff, sounds like a basic square-foot-garden mix.  I've had really good results using that soil mix before, both in shallow beds and also deep beds.  We grew carrots in a deep bed with about 11" of that soil mix, and they were huge!  So I know you'd have good root growth that way.  The problem I see with that is that the soil is really loose and airy.  Your crowns wouldn't be anchored well, and once the wind starts whipping your hops bines around I'd think you could end up with some uprooting.  Hard to say.  Also, the rhizomes would travel really easily through that soil and completely take over the bed.  If you do use that soil mix, I'd keep it to one variety.  I've had one really vigorous plant send rhizomes out about 12 feet away along the border of my hops bed.  And that's through fairly heavy soil! 

Personally, I'd save the SFG mix for growing some veg, and go with amended native soil for your hops bed. 

Here's a shot of the whole garden:



And a zoom in of the hops beds:



And finally one from up top:


Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2014, 04:47:45 PM »
Whoa, very nice ! Love the trellises.
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Offline klickitat jim

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2014, 04:49:07 PM »
I hereby request that Jonathan give a presentation at 2015 NHC on sustainable hobby hop growing for homebrewers.

Offline Jeff M

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Re: Recommended Hop growing medium
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2014, 05:23:46 PM »
Thanks for all the great replies!

Mort,
We already plan to plant beans in with the Hops just because they thrive in a shaded arrangement(my buddy is the gardener, im sure he knew about your nitrogen stuffs.

El_Cap

Thats interesting about the soil being so loose the hops will stretch out a lot. 

Here are the beds we have built for the hops.


I ordered 4 rhizomes of 4 different varieties.  each variety will essentially have a 2x8 Section of bed to grow in. Im assuming we will lose about 25% of our rhizomes for one reason or another, but i dont think we will be overplanting to much.  Can you define the Amended Native Soil mix you mention?

Cheers,
Jeff
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