We made our decision in 2014 to go with a full-height hop trellis and to try and produce as much volume as possible. The initial investment convinced us not to waste any ground space with a shorter structure and hop varieties that would prefer a height of 10 to 14 feet as opposed to a full 18 foot height.
On one hand, this means that we can earn more on the same footprint and grow many more varieties that prefer full height. On the other hand, this meant finding a vertical access solution…even beyond renting a scissor lift a few times each year. The Central Oregon sun would draw up our hundreds of hop plants; now we just had to figure out how to follow them.
A full-height trellis was our plan from the beginning…but we learned quite a few things during our first year building a two-row 144ft long trellis:
- Once we began to add new rows we could change our stringing layout. Ropes would no longer be positioned straight up and down directly over the hop plant. By changing the overhead cable layout and emulating the larger farms in the Willamette Valley and Yakima, we could string the ropes diagonally out into the rows so that the hop bines grew away from each allowing sunlight to reach more leaves and allow the wind to keep things dry and prevent mildew.
- We wanted to plant our rhizomes a few feet closer together. This now made more sense because of the previous mention of changing the way positioned our ropes. We moved from six feet apart to four feet apart, and although this matters little on layouts less than 1/4 acre, when are working with a 1/2 acre or more, the space savings starts to add up!
- To make the new rope stringing work, we had to reconfigure the way we ran overhead cables. When you have only two rows…they are both outside rows so this doesn’t mean as much. But in 2015 we expanded to 16 rows, 12 of which were full length at 278ft. So we removed the 5/16″ heavy cable we ran in an east-west direction on top of the poles and changed it to run north-south on top of the poles. Then we ran thinner 3/16″ cable down the middle of the rows…two runs that are four feet away from the poles. These support the ropes and allow the rope to run from the base of the hop plant out four feet into the row. Bines grow away from each other, out into parallel rows, and the diagonal gives them an extra 6″ to grow, making their total growth structure 18.5 ft.
- By changing the direction that the heavy cable was laid out, that changed the side of the yard that we would install the auger earth anchors on. We also made the decision to only install anchors on a single side since our hop yard is relatively small.
- Lastly, we changed our irrigation system by removing spaghetti tubing and just having emitters suspended above the location that the hop rhizome is planted. This saves money and eliminates one more object that can become clogged over time.
Building a hop trellis is definitely a learning process from the moment you starting planning and designing to the actual installation. No matter how much advice you receive, you need to walk your field a hundred times and get your hands on the poles, cable, and ropes to really understand how it all fits together. Feel free to email us or call with any questions you might have. We love to share what we have learned!