Overwintering Hop PlantsBy
Protecting Hops From Winter
Here in Bloomington Minnesota, the winter temps can reach 30 to 40 degrees below zero fahrenheit. Hops are hardy plants, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. When the ground has an insulating layer of snow, there is no issue. Where I have my hops alongside my garage, the wind can roar through and blow away that insulating snow leaving the ground unprotected from a hard freeze. I lost a Fuggle container hop this way – the wind blew away the mound of snow I had surrounding the large container. Left exposed, the Fuggle root stock hard froze and died.
I leave the hop bines up after harvest so the leaves can gather additional energy for next year’s growth. I use a pulley system to lower the bines for harvest, then raise them again. The energy is stored in the root stock also known as the crown. After a couple of hard frosts and the leaves die off. then I cut the bines off just above ground level and bury the hop mounds with compost then cover with grass cuttings and leaves from fall mowing / leaf bagging. This extra insulation has helped to keep them alive through a couple of winters so far. They come back stronger and with more hop sprouts each year.
The leaves and grass also break down with the compost and supply some organic fertilizer for the hops. After my run in with a boron deficiency this year that almost killed my Magnum hops, I have and am going to supplement the soil with kelp and other organic mineral and trace mineral supplements to prevent any deficiency conditions. I also noticed that when I sprayed the hops bines with an iron and boron spray, the leaves became huge – up to 10 inches across! Apparently they have been deficient since day one even though I have had decent harvests.
If you live in a cold winter area, it wouldn’t hurt to do this your hops as extra insurance. Who knows, it may help keep a critter from digging up your hops root stock. The added nutrients will help too. That’s about it for this year’s growing hops updates. Unless of course my award winning hops win another home brewing competition – you’ll hear about it then!