Hops delight in a good rich loam, with a deep sub-soil or stratum of a loamy brick-earth, in a southern or western exposure ; though they grow in almost any ground that is not wet. They are chiefly cultivated in the southern comities of England, and are propagated either by nursery-plants or by cuttings. These are set in hills, formed by digging holes in the spring, which are filled with fine mould, and the number of which varies from 800 to 1000, or 1200 per acre. One, two, or three plants are put in each hill; but, if hops are designed to be raised from cuttings, four or five of these, from three to four inches in length, are planted and covered one inch deep with fine mould.
At the end of the first year, it becomes necessary to put poles into the hills, round which the bines reared from plants are wound : at the expiration of the second year, full-sized poles from 15 to 20 feet are set (though the hop-bines will run to the height of 50 feet), in the proportion of two poles to each hill, and a similar number of hop-plants are fastened loosely round each pole, by means of withered rushes.
Hops begin to blow towards the middle of June, and about the end of August they are generally fit to be gathered. The most proper time of collecting them is, when the leaf rubs easily off the bine, when the hops have a strong scent, and the seed assumes a brownish colour.
The culture of hops, though profitable when it succeeds, is very precarious : as soon as the plant appears above ground, it is attacked by an insert somewhat similar to the turnip-fly, which devours the young heads. Hop-gardens, situated on chalky soils, are peculi-arly subject to its depredations; and the best remedy is to manure the soil highly with malt-culm, which adheres so strongly to the insects, as to prevent them from creeping over the plant.
In the months of June and July, the hops are liable to be blown by a species of aphis, or fly, that poisons the leaf, by voiding its excrement ; which is particularly injurious during hot, cloudy, and moist weather. This insect, however, does not endanger the growth of the plant, unless it be in a weak state, in consequence of the depredations committed on its root by the larvae of the ottermoth, or Phaioena Humuli, L. For the expulsion of these vermin, Dr. Withering recommends to cover hop-gardens with stones or flags ; because, when hops grow wild in stony places, where the moth cannot penetrate to deposit its eggs, they are never affected with the honey-dew.
There are two other distempers incident to hops, namely, the Fen and the Smitt, for which no effectual remedy has hitherto been discovered. Hops may, however, when gathered, be perfectly secured from the future depredations of insects, by putting a small quantity of brimstone in the fire, while they are drying in the kiln, by which means the vermin is not only destroyed, but the superfluous moisture is more speedily evaporated, and the hops acquire a brighter colour.
The hop is a most valuable plant: in its wild state it is relished by cows, horses, goats, sheep, and swine. When cultivated, its young tops are eaten, early in the spring, as substitutes for asparagus, being wholesome and aperiqnt; they are sold under the name of Hop-tops.
The principal use of hops, however, is in brewing, for the pre-servation of malt liquors, which are thus rendered more salubrious, and less liable to become sour. Hence vast quantities are consum-ed in Britain : but, having already pointed out the most proper methods ,of using them, under the head of Brewing, we refer the reader to that article.
A decoction of hops diluted with water, and given to cattle in very severe weather, is said to be of great service, and remarkably to improve their strength. In Sweden, the stalks of hops are successfully converted into strong cloth ; for which purpose they are gathered in autumn, soaked in water during the winter, and in the succeeding spring, after being dried in stoves, they are dressed like flax. This object has been attempted in Britain, and from an experiment made, in consequence of the premium offered by the patriotic Society for the Encouragement of Arts, etc. it appears that hop-bines afford a material for spinning yarn, Which may be woven into fine sacking, as well as coarse bags for hops. - The bines are also employed for binding the sheaves of corn ; and they have lately been converted into strong paper. - From the leaves and flowery stalks of this plant, when dried, Dambourney dyed wool of a fine cinnamon brown, having previously clipped it in a diluted solution of bismuth. - Ber-thollet remarks, that the expressed juice of hop-bines affords a very permanent red-brown colour.
In medicine, decoctions and syrups of hop-flowers are said to be attended with much benefit in pestilential fevers: a pillow filled wi them, and laid beneath the head, has been found to procure sleep to patients afflicted with delirious fe-vers. - The heads and tendrils' are likewise of considerable service in the scurvy, and other cutaneous affection-.