The hops are settling in for the cold. They are setting their crown buds nicely- I checked them the other day. Heavy buds show the promise of a good up-coming spring season.
I plan on insuring a good start to next season by applying a late fall application of fertilizer. This may sound odd - fertilizing a plant that is totally dormant- but it works.
I plan on using a fertilizer like 8-5-15 at a rate of about 35 lbs Nitrogen per acre. (I'll apply another 35 lbs. in the spring of 8-5-5.) If the fertilizer numbers are the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and the bags weigh 50 lbs.; then there should be 4 lbs. N, 2.5 lbs. P, and 7.5 lbs. K in each bag. So I figure I will need roughly 9 bags per acre to get the job done.
Why did I select 8-5-15? I don't want the ratio of N too high - just enough to feed the soil microbes. The Phosphorus will basically sit immobile over the winter and hops don't need a lot of it. But it will be in place when I till it in next spring. The Potassium is the important one - it is taken up by the plant and acts like anti-freeze in the plant roots and buds by preventing the formation of ice crystals in the plant's cells.
The soil microbe activity will be in slow- mo, but they have all winter to break down the fertilizer into compounds the hop plants can use. The snow melt will slowly move the fertilizer deep in the root zone. When the plants start to stir in spring the nutrients will be there like a prepared buffet.
So I am going side dress the rows around the end of November - after Turkey Day.
I have posted a couple of really good guides for growing and fertilizing Hops. Check them out in our DOCS section.