Vines and Other Climbing Plants




The plant from which we get Hops, that have been used by the brewing industry for some 1200 years, or more is called "Humulus Lupulus" and is a member of the Hemp family. This long lived, twining, herbaceous perennial, grows rampantly often producing shoots up to 25 feet long and roots up to 15 feet straight down. It is said that in the right conditions it will happily grow 6 inches in one day. Hops do not like heavy wet soils and need slightly milder conditions to thrive. Hence they are usually grown in south of the UK with Kent being the favoured county.

Commercially, Hop producing plants have always been grown from root cuttings and not seed to ensure uniformity of crop and the resultant flavoured beer. Planting is best done early in the season, or even in late winter. An unusual feature of the Humulus Lupulus is that female plants will produce the seed cones without the presence, or fertilisation, of male plants. However, if wind pollination does occur bigger cones will result, so traditionally one male plant is grown with every 200 females.

Hop plants may well need irrigation and are very greedy feeders that will rob the soil of all its goodness and as such need a rich soil that is manured regularly. Care must be taken to prevent fungal type infections to which they are prone such as sooty mold and mildew etc. After harvest, the hops contain 65 - 80 % moisture that has to be reduced down to 10% before they can be baled and used in the brewing industry. Traditionally hops were dried in large specially built kilns that were as big as a house and were called "Oast houses." These unusually shaped buildings used to be a common site in the south of England and many still exist, but have been converted into real houses as the beer industry has moved on with modern technology.

To grow hops commercially might need a lot of expertise, but they are relatively easy to grow in your own garden. In fact my mother grew some successfully many years ago in the Midlands, on a wire fence down one side of the Garden Centre that we used to have. Customers were always fascinated and asked us many times if we made our own beer from them!

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