Friday, February 29, 2008

Growing Hops From Seed

I have successfully grown hops from seed by planting in the fall about 1/8th to 1/4 inch deep in potting soil in mid winter and setting the moist planter out on my unheated porch. Covering with plastic to prevent drying will reduce your need to water. Seeds will come up in the spring at the proper time. Seeds can also be planted in the ground in winter or fall. This is commonly called the winter or fall sown method. Some seeds may not come up the first year but will the second.

To prep the seeds for spring, you could also place them in a plastic baggie of moist peat/sand or perlite/potting mix or even a paper towel (if you can squeeze more than a drop of water out its too wet)in your refrigerator crisper. Pre-chilling at 0°-5°C (32°-41°F) for between 5 and 10 weeks is required to promote full germination of dormant seeds. You will want to check regularly in case there is mold that needs to be removed from the bag and for sprouted seeds. If seeds begin to sprout in the bag, you will want to commence planting immediately (otherwise wait at least 6 weeks). This technique is commonly called stratification.

Plant 1/8th to 1/4 inch deep in well drained seed starting mix and once leaves appear keep in a well lit location with at least 6 hours of bright light per day. Plant outside at the same depth after last frost for your area, as seedlings will be tender for several weeks. Protect them from deer, rabbits, etc., and provide a trellis of some sort for them to climb. About the second year, your vines should be hardy enough to produce hops cones and you can then determine the males from the females by the presence of lupulin in the cones. In extremely cold or dry areas a layer of thick mulch will help.

Without a period of cold treatment, you can expect about 15% germination. I have not had much success without a cold treatment. If you do this and seeds do not come up you can initiate a cold treatment assuming the seeds have not rotted or otherwise become damaged. With cold treatment, germination rate is usually much higher but can still be quite variable. Some seeds will be stubborn and will not come up until a second cold treatment, and they may come up in the second year.

For more information on various scientific germination treatments see:
Bioversity International: Handbook of Seed Technology for Genebanks - Volume II. Chapter 48. Moraceae

To purchase seeds, please visit our shop at Etsy:
Infinite Gardens: Hops Seeds

There are many other pages that can be found through Google with different methods for achieving good germination rates.

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