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HOP PLANT PROPAGATION, PLANTING & GROWING

In order to ensure uniformity of cultural characteristics and brewing value, hops are always propagated commercially from cuttings which are taken during the dormant season in autumn or early spring. When the plant dies off at the end of the season (around October) the bine dies back to a few centimeters above the rootstock. This rootstock has, during the season, thickened and become swollen and remains alive over winter. During the growing season soil can be thrown up around the base of the plant to form a 'mole hill' which, when removed exposes lengths of roots with buds which are cut off near to the ground. These are known as 'strap-cuttings' and are typically about 150mm long and 10+mm in diameter. Strap-cuttings can be planted directly into their permanent position in the hop garden or transplanted into a nursery bed and allowed to grow on for transplanting the following spring or autumn. On a farm the transplanted strap-cuttings would be transferred to their permanent bed the following autumn as 'bedded-sets'. Commercially they are also sold in the spring (free of soil) as hop rhizomes. Unfortunately the number of strap-cuttings that can be obtained is limited so layering is used to increase the amount of suitable plant material available. The diagrams below show how the plants are layered and the material obtained by this method.


      


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                Diagrams: Hops by A H Burgess

At Willingham Nurseries we root all strap and root cuttings in pots. This practice may be more expensive with respect to materials and postage but it does ensure a longer period of availability and the opportunity to plant at almost any time of the year depending on the weather. It also gives the grower the distinct advantage of a growing plant with an undisturbed root system and the more rapid development of a mature hop plant. In addition to cuttings taken in this manner it is also possible to root stem cuttings taken from bine softwood in the spring. Timing is all important and maintaining leaf quality during rooting is essential if the cutting is to develop successfully. Cuttings taken in this manner are potted up as for root cuttings and are usually of sufficient size for sale in the autumn or following spring. Hop plants from Willingham Nurseries can be planted out at any time of the year as long as weather permits. It is surprising to see just how warm the soil is at 30 cm deep even in the depths of winter - certainly enough to allow some root growth.