Do's and Don'ts
One of the ways to increase hop's potential for winter damage is to cut bines too short during harvest. If you remove the energy-producing top growth completely prior to dormancy, the plant may not have adequate energy to initiate vigorous spring growth. A harvest cutting height of 2 to 3 feet is recommended for most hop varieties. Ideally, allow 6-8 weeks of top growth to remain after harvest before removing remaining bines to ensure adequate storage of carbohydrates for winter. A final fall cut bine height of 2 inches above visible crown buds is recommended. Cover any visible crown buds with a shallow layer of soil for winter protection. Read our previous post for more on minimizing crown damage.
Initial spring growth comes from crown buds formed in the previous fall, which get their energy to grow from the stored carbohydrates. These stored carbohydrates are used for initial spring emergence and growth until the hop plant has 6 to 8 feet of growth. After this primary stage, energy produced by photosynthesis and nutrients gathered by the new feeder roots fuels more rapid growth up to the wire. Potassium applied in the spring season plays a small role in primary spring emergence of the bines.
Avoid late season pot-harvest applications of nitrogen in excess of 80 to 100 pounds N/acre; this can delay proper dormancy and increase disease susceptibility. In addition to K fertility, continue to monitor the boron, zinc, phosphorus and sulfur status of the soil so the levels don't become yield limiting. Read more about micronutrients.
In conclusion, fall applications of potassium are one of the best practices to ensure a great spring start and healthy growth in your hopyard.
Lynn, the head hop grower at Great Lakes Hops has over 30 years of experience in the horticultural field. Browse the blog articles here to find useful growing information for humulus lupulus, based on personal experience and observations at Great Lakes Hops.