Overwinter Hop PlantsBy
In cold climates it is important to overwinter hop plants / protect them from sub-zero temperatures. Hops do fairly well on their own but can be killed off if the ground is unprotected and hard freezes the ground. Snow will insulate the ground but occasionally the snow will be blown clear or animals may dig the snow away from the underground hop crowns (started as hop rhizomes).
No sense taking any chances of losing your hop plants to the weather. All it takes is a layer of mulch – I used 6 inches of leaves and grass I bagged while mowing. This also helps in the Minnesota climate to keep the ground cold enough in the spring to prevent hop sprouts from sprouting too soon and then freeze. Generally they will send up new shoots if the first hop shoots freeze and die off but why waste the root stock energy.
When sub-freezing temperatures have past in the spring, You just clear the mulch and and the hop crown will send up shoots as the ground warms.
Unless you want the hops to spread in all directions, you will want to trim the hop rhizomes by digging down and cutting the lateral running rhizomes and pull them up. You can plant these in other areas if you wish or give or sell them to friends and fellow hop growers and homebrewers. I will be cutting the rhizomes about a one foot radius from the center of the crown (two foot diameter to contain the hop plants). They are self propagating and will travel in all directions from the crown.
One problem with not containing the spread of hops is they will soon mix with other nearby varieties and can be hard to distinguish variety and/or you will have 2 or more variety of hop bines growing together and makes harvesting and separating the different varieties of hop cones difficult if not impossible. My varieties are 5 to 6 feet apart so with a little effort, I can keep them separate. You need to know which hops are which for accurate beer and ale recipes. You especially do not want to mix bittering hops with aroma hops.
That’s it, just a layer of mulch – leaves, grass, hay, straw or compost to protect the hop crowns and the organic material will also leach into the ground as an organic fertilizer. Next years hop yield will be even better!