Love beer? Why not try growing the essential ingredient to beer in your own backyard this summer – hops! And if beer isn’t for your taste buds, hops also make a beautiful decorative feature with their lush green foliage.
In New Zealand the phytophthora resistant variety Smooth Cone is the most commonly grown variety in home gardens. Other varieties are only available to commercial hop growers. An ex-commercial New Zealand-bred variety, Smooth Cone produces seedless female flowers which can be used for brewing. As they are also super fragrant they are often grown for their scent or use in potpourri.
Famously grown in Nelson, the region provides the perfect climate for hop growing, but they do grow in other areas. They however require a reasonably cold winter, and not too high humidity – so Northland might be a bit too hot!
You can purchase hop plants in some garden centres, or through online stores.
HOW TO GROW
Hop plants grow incredibly fast – up to 20cm per day in the height of summer – so get up to 10 metres tall. The plants make fantastic vines for summer shade on a pergola, or will readily climb up a string or pole.
Choose a sunny spot to plant in. Once you have your hop plants it’s time to get the soil prepared - the better the soil, the better your hops will grow. Hops can be grown in a range of soil conditions including clay and more gravelly loam.
Waterlogged soil should be avoided. Add a layer of Tui Garden Mix before planting. This will add nutrient-rich organic matter to improve soil condition, for healthy hops.
Hops will grow best if fed with a balanced fertiliser like Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser to provide a good boost of nitrogen for lots of leafy growth.
Don’t forget to water your hop plant too – especially over the warm summer months.
The main harvest time for hops is from late February to March. Harvest when the flowers feel ‘sticky’. They will also have a lovely grassy green smell. Cut down the vines to harvest the cones. The crown of the plant remains in the ground, going into dormancy in winter.
Once harvested dry using a dehydrator or store in an airy location ready to have a crack at brewing your own beer!