24 February 2015
Selecting the right trellis height for a one acre hop yard
Hop Pole Height ConsiderationsAs we looked at the environment that we were growing in we, realized the sandy loam that we were developing was likely to lack the structure required to support a "high" hop trellis in the 20' - 22' range. This got us looking at a medium height hop trellis in the 16’-18’ range as a solid compromise. We then calculated that at that height we would need a hole depth of roughly 3 1/2 - 4’ giving us a total pole height of 20’ - 22’. With this basic range in place I began to look at other factors that would help us decide on an exact hop pole height.
The Expected height of a mature hop plant
- Due to our our slightly contracted growing season and potential for temperatures below optimal during the 120-day season I felt that 18' was a reasonable height for our hop poles. I know in the valley commercial hop trellises are often 20' - 22' in height more closely matching the maximum height the plant can achieve in a growing season. For us that was not reasonable.
Hop Pole Price Considerations
- This turned out to be basically a non-factor as the difference between a 16’ hop pole and an 18’ hop pole (above ground) was only a couple bucks per hop pole and even calculated over an acre still only amounted to nothing more than pizza and beers on a Friday night.
Ease of access to the trellis for harvest and maintenance
- Ok now this turned out to be an important factor in our final decision. When you look at your ability to access the hop trellis on a regular basis its amazing how much difference 2’ in your hop poles make. Consider this a typical 3-point orchard ladder is 12’ in height putting a 16’ foot trellis in reach and an 18’ trellis out of reach… Why is this important, I mean who will ever use a ladder to access the trellis instead of a lift? The answer is me. I know that their will be times when the lift is in use and some project at the far end of the yard will require attention - something little like checking bug traps, spot inspecting cones pre-harvest or a myriad of other things.... so 16' wins for accessibility.
The X factor
- We often see 30+mph winds associated with late summer thunder storms (Just when bio mass is at its highest) and a near constant evening breeze in the summer. The winds blow straight off the eastern slopes of the cascades sweep across the high-desert where our farm is located making blow down a very real concern for us. Here the 16' hop pole wins for stability in high winds.
The Hop Trellis Height we ChooseSo for us 16' (above ground) Hop poles and the trellis that results from that decision made the most sense. We will continue to evaluate this as we move forward - who knows perhaps the ground will prove to be more capable of supporting the trellis than we anticipated and allow for a taller hop pole to be used in CHF-2 and 3 but for now I am very confident that we made the right decision.
Below I've listed some of the sites that I found useful when researching, planning and ultimately building our initial hop trellis.