We have received a lot of calls lately on when to plant hops and how to store them until they are ready for their permanent home. Most of you who have ordered rhizomes to be planted this year will have already received them. When you plant them depends a lot on how cold and wet your soil is. In Vermont you can still go snowshoeing in places, while other folks are already out in the fields. If there’s still frost in the ground, needless to say, it’s probably best to hold off for a bit. If you can’t plant your rhizomes right away, you have a few options. If you have the space, you can pot them and put them in a greenhouse or under a plastic tunnel. This way, when you put them in the ground, the hops will already have a head start on the growing season. This is definitely your best option. When transplanting, be careful to not break off the growing tip, as it will set the hops back. If you don’t have the space or resources to pot your rhizomes, you can keep them in a plastic bag in a cool environment. They should be kept moist, but not wet. To regulate the humidity, you can surround them with damp shredded paper towel, and spritz them every once in a while.
Your rhizomes or potted hops should be planted once the soil is warm and has dried out a bit. If you know your soils are heavy and the soil is soggy, the rhizomes won’t be able to breathe and will drown. Wait until the soil can be easily worked. Now is the time to get a head start on making a weed-free bed and to add a healthy dose of compost to the planting site. Approximately a spade shovelful per hill is ideal, which comes to about two tons of compost per acre. Rhizomes should be planted two to four per hill and covered with 0.25 – 1” of soil, with a bud pointing upward. Water in short increments frequently. A late hard frost can nip the growing points, which will set the plants back a bit, but shouldn’t kill them. We heard a few reports of this last year with that late snow fall in mid-May, but folks still had a decent harvest.