To use hops as an aid for insomnia and restlessness the dried flower cones can be used in tea or stuffed in a hop pillow.
For a Hop Pillow:
Simply stuff a small muslin bag with some dried hop flowers, first sprinkling them with either alcohol, water or scented oil to reduce the crunchy sound. Other fragrant herbs may also be added to your pillow such as mint and chamomile or add mugwort for dreams too.
For Hop Tea:
Pour one cup boiling water over 1/2 - 1 tsp. of dried hops and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Can add honey and drink hot at bedtime.
Helpful Information About Hops
We have enjoyed growing hops organically for over thirty years to produce organic rhizomes. It is absolutely fascinating to watch hop plants grow so vigorously, reaching lengths of up to 25 feet. Their use as ornamentals is limitless. They can be easily trained to grow up trellises to provide shade and privacy in the summer when it's hot, then because they die back in the fall, they are gone when we want all the sun we can get! I have seen them work really well trained to grow up poles to form a teepee.
Brief History of Hops
Characteristics of Hop Plants
Hops, Humulus lupulus, are hardy perennials that grow best in zones 3-8 and in latitudes between 35 to 55. They do best with a cold period when they can go dormant and re-group. They produce vines up to 25’ long that die back in the Fall to return again in Spring. The vines are technically called ‘bines’ because they climb wrapping around a support using stiff hairs or bristles to grip with as opposed to vines that wrap around and hold themselves up with tendrils or suckers. At a certain day length the bines will quit growing and establish side arms where the cones will be produced. Hop cones or strobiles are the female flowers of the hop plant. When they are mature the scales of the cone will turn yellowish-green and papery to the touch. Lupulin glands are located under each scale and produce yellow pollen-like powder with a wonderful hoppy aroma. This golden powder contains alpha and beta acids and essential oils responsible for the bittering, flavor and aroma characteristics of each variety of hop.
There are two main types of acids in the hop cone, alpha and beta. Alpha acids add the bittering to beer and have a mild antibiotic and antibacterial effect against certain bacteria. Beta acids add aroma and are added at the end of brewing to preserve the volatile oils. Bittering hops have high alpha, aroma hops have low alpha and high beta. Noble hops used to brew pilsners have an equal amount of alpha and beta acids. Examples of nobles are be Hallertauer, Saaz, Tettnanger and Spalt. Saaz can be hard to find so I recommend Sterling, a cross between Saaz and Mt. Hood as a substitute with an alpha/beta ratio that is close to equal. Another group of hops that has distinguished the American craft beer industry and its Pale Ale’s and IPA’s are the “Three C’s”: Cascade, Centennial and Columbus (also known as Tomahawk or Zeus.) They are combined in varying amounts to add citrusy, fruity and earthy flavors with a balance of bitterness. See our Hop Characteristics & Substitutions Chart for a complete comparison of hop varieties.
Hops are dioecious or unisexual, meaning the plants are either male or female. Only the female plants are grown to produce flowers for brewing. New hop plants are started by planting 4-6” cuttings with growth buds from the rhizomes the mature plants produce underground. We generally have two year old rooted rhizomes available each year and sometimes three year old rooted stock. The rooted stock substantially speed up the time it takes the hop plant to get established. Plants can be started by seed but the new plants may be male or female. By taking cuttings from a female plant you are 99.9% sure to get a female plant. On rare occasions a female plant will produce a male rhizome or a male bine on a female plant.
Information about Growing Hops
We harvest our rhizomes in February and begin shipping at the beginning of March. Pre-ordering helps to insure you get the best selection. When you receive your rhizomes you can keep them in the refrigerator in the plastic bags they came in for up to three months. Take care they don’t dry out or make them too moist and cause them to rot.
A well-drained, sandy loam with a ph of 6 to 7.5 is best for hops so if you have heavy clay soil you will need to add some compost to break it up. Till the soil where you intend to plant your hops so it is pretty fine and loose and free of weeds and grass. I always dig a hole 18-24” in diameter and 8-10” deep where I’m going to plant the rhizome and add aged compost to the soil as I fill it back in. We plant our rhizomes 3 ½’ apart in the row with the rows 7’ apart. A common spacing for commercial growers is 7’ apart in rows and rows 7-10’ apart to allow for equipment to pass through. I would keep different varieties at least 7’ apart so they don’t grow together and get mixed. Remember they are all female so you don’t have to worry about them cross-pollinating. An acre, which is 66’ by 660’ planted in the 7x7 grid would take 950 rhizomes. An acre with the dimensions of 208’ by 208’ would take 900 so amounts will vary depending on the shape of your hop yard.
You can either plant your rhizomes horizontally or vertically. I prefer vertical because they come with two growth rings; the advantage of planting them vertically is that if the top buds get destroyed, the bottom ones can take over. Either way, plant them with the buds about 1 ½ inches under the surface (a little less if you are going to top dress with mulch to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.) Keep them watered the first year so they can produce a good root system. The roots can eventually go down 15 feet. Don’t expect much cone production the first year while they are establishing a root system and crown. Second year growth will begin a more serious cone production. Rooted rhizomes require a slightly different planting technique; watch a short video to see how we plant our rooted rhizomes.
In spring, feed your hops with fertilizer high in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. Add a layer of aged manure to retain moisture and reduce the amount of commercial fertilizer needed. Your second year hops won’t require much watering because they will have gone deep with their roots. To avoid spread of disease drip irrigation is recommended.
A common practice is to cut off the first growth of bines. Three to four weeks later a new batch of healthier more vigorous bines will be produced. This also has an added benefit of eliminating vegetation during a period when downy mildew is active. Select two to three bines per string and four to five per mound. Remove the rest. The plants will need to grow up something. Happy hops will grow 20-25 feet tall. The most common approach is to use twine for them to wind around (keep in mind they naturally twirl clockwise!) Then, in fall, when they turn yellow and die back, you can cut it all down and discard it. We have them growing on the fence that lines our driveway along our herb garden. The fence is only six feet high, so it takes a little effort to train them to grow horizontally and it’s also a bit of a pain to get the dead bines off the fence. I say a bit of a pain, because I don’t do it — Bethany does.
Diseases and Pests of Hops
Cutting off the first round off bines helps control pests and diseases. Allow the next set to grow choosing four to six of the most vigorous and healthy bines and removing the rest. In July, carefully remove the lower three to four feet of leaves and side shoots. Downy mildew spreads when water drops splash up from the leaves and ground spreading spores farther up on the plant and is most active in the spring when it is wet and rainy. In August allow new vegetation to remain. If you are having trouble with mildew keep your eyes open for infected leaves. Pick them off and dispose of them. Remove any stunted bines or side shoots. Cascade, Fuggle, Magnum, Newport, and Perle are among the most resistant to downy mildew.
The most common pest problem we have with ours is spider mites and aphids. We control ours with 4 Tablespoons each of insecticidal oil and pyrethrum in one gallon of water. There’s also beneficial insects like Ladybug Beetles, Praying Mantis and Spider Mite Predators that feed on mites and aphids.
There is plenty of information about identifying and managing hop diseases and pests in the “Field Guide for Integrated Pest Management in Hops” published by a cooperative of Oregon, Idaho and Washington State Universities and U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://ipm.wsu.edu/field/pdf/HopHandbook2009.pdf
One of our often asked questions is "Which hop rhizomes will do best where I live?" Even though my wife and I traveled through most of the states back in the sixties in our hippie van I don't remember enough about the growing conditions of every state to help me make those recommendations. Actually we had things other than hops on our minds at the time. So we sent a request along with our hundreds of hop orders this year and asked if they'd be willing to take the time to share their experiences with growing hops in their area of the country. This might be more accurate than me guessing. I'll be adding their stories below as we get them. Email me your experience - we'd love to share it.
~ Hop Growing Map! ~
Click for customer's experiences growing hops in your region.
If you can't view this map try a different browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Note: We are unable to ship to Hawaii - sorry!
If you would like to see a little video of The Thyme Garden in action packing your hops click on this link - Happy Hoppers. This is most of The Thyme Garden family. Husband and wife Rolfe and Janet Hagen and daughter Bethany. Daughter Emily is missing. We aren't always this crazy, but maybe most of the time. We just love working together and doing the work we do. We send along a little of our good energy with each of our orders.
Useful Hop Links
Wikipedia Their hops page has all kinds on information about hops. Their history, biology, specific varieties etc.
There is some great information from the OSU Extension Service and the Oregon Hops Commission about growing hops at their site.
Brewer's Friend is an awesome website with just about everything you want to know about brewing beer to how to build your own brew house. Check it out!
North Carolina Hops Project - NC State University Hops Research and Variety Trial is experimenting with how well various varieties of hops will do in North Carolina.
University of Kentucky Extension Service - College of Agriculture - Great information about growing hops.