Our Organic Hops

The family grew about 20 hectares of hops at Marden for more than 80 years. From the late 1970's onwards however, this rapidly reduced as the hop gardens reached the end of their lives and replacement became uneconomic; this situation was mirrored throughout the English industry and occurred as a result of a switch in consumption from traditional British beers to lagers and wine, the increasing size and global nature of the brewers and the demise of The Hop Marketing Board. 

In 1988, we were approached by a Scottish brewer wanting to develop an organic beer and persuaded to embark on the organic adventure we have lived ever since; our one hectare of organic hops was planted in The Summerhouse hop garden that year, and we have never looked back.

At the time, we were regarded as terminally insane by pretty well everyone, an opinion reflected in the fact that until 2006, we remained the country's only organic hop producer; we are still the only organic producer of traditional ‘tall' hops. During this period, hop production in the UK has fallen from about 8500 hectares to about 1000; in the parish of Marden we are the only survivor from over one hundred growers.

Hops don't have many pests and diseases but all are totally destructive! The Wye Target variety that we chose deliberately to grow  under organic management is moderately resistant to powdery mildew and resistant that scourge of the English hop industry, verticillium wilt. We have learned to control the damson hop aphid and the two spotted spider mite using soap sprays applied in the rain which will drown 75% of the pests whilst the abundance of insect predators clear up the remainder. Downy mildew is controlled by dusting the dormant plants with Bordeaux mixture.


We maintain fertility in the soil by growing field beans between the plants over the winter; these fix their own nitrogen, and are chopped into the soil in the spring as a green manure to be replaced with a white mustard crop. This has the dual purpose of attracting non-pest aphids into the hop garden so that the predator numbers build up in preparation for the main course of hop aphids, and of providing another green manure crop to incorporate. Further fertility is imported in the form of composted farm yard, and pelletised chicken manure from organic herds and flocks. Seaweed extracts are sprayed onto the growing crop.


The hops are harvested in mid September, and dried and packed in our own oast house at Little Mill Farm. This beautiful building, erected in 1896, has now also become the final resting place of the original 1830's Walker organ from Marden's Church of St Michael and all Angels. This has been lovingly restored on the top floor from whence the village Rogation Sunday service was staged on May the 5th 2013 - hopefully the first of many special occasions.

How we do it



Organic Hops in The Summerhouse hop garden

  • The hop garden is deep cultivated after harvest
  • Field beans are planted between the hop hills to provide winter cover 
  • The dry dormant bine residue is cut off at the ground before Christmas
  • In February, the hop hills are dusted with Bordeaux mixture
  • Wool waste is applied to each hill
  • The hops are manually strung with coarse coir string
  • The hops are trained up the strings in a clockwise direction
  • The beans are incorporated and mustard sown
  • In mid June, the Damson hop aphid arrives in the crop; this is drowned with soap solution applied in the rain
  • In August, the bines produce 'burr' - the embryonic flower
  • Burr turns to hop in mid August
  • Harvest time in mid September, and the hops are dried in our oast house

Many of these stages may be viewed in the gallery

Essential Facts
Our Organic Range
Hops Facts

Essential Facts

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