Spring has sprung a bit sooner than I anticipated. I saw the hops buds peeking their noses out; it seemed like only a week or so ago. Now all of a sudden they’re 3-4′ long.
I decided I needed a higher hops trellis this year, since last year’s yield wasn’t that good. I suppose another way to look at it is: I haven’t actually used last year’s hops yet, so what does the yield matter anyway? But where’s the fun in that? This is all about the process and not the result.
In past years, I saw others’ complicated trellis systems, but didn’t think much about building anything similar. But I brainstormed a bit since last weekend, and came up with a plan for a taller trellis that lets me lower the top beam for picking.
My previous trellis was made from 1″ galvanized pipe, and it seemed strong enough. It was about 9′ high in the center, with twine running horizontally from there. However, the main hops bines don’t like to grow horizontally, so that was mostly a waste.
The new trellis uses a 12′ 2″x4″ with a metal ring on top, screwed to my fence post. A rope is attached to the top beam, through the ring, and down to a rope cleat mounted on the post. I raised it above the ground somewhat, so the total height is closer to 13′. The twines are tied tightly to the top beam, but they’re lashed at the bottom so I can tighten or loosen them there if necessary. I also left a small amount of slack in the main rope in case it needs tightening. The twine goes slacker and tighter depending on the weather, and needs adjustment throughout the season.
Until the hop bine grows to the top, the weak link is the twine. The bines are much thicker than the twine, so once it reaches the top the main concern will probably be with the pulley ripping out at the top.
Unfortunately, many of the strongest looking bines had their tops broken off before I could train them. I cut a lot of spare bines off, and trained about 7 bines up the twine.
We’ll see how well it works as the season progresses, but I’m happy with how inexpensive and easy this was to set up.