It was a very mild winter and because of that we have seen early growth in our hop yards. Here in NYC, we seem to be about 2 weeks ahead of the normal cycle, so it is the third week of April and I have already cut back my hop shoots twice!
That said it is important keep the first sprouts trimmed back until the end of May. It is also critical to begin feeding the hop yard, to prepare it for the upcoming stage of rapid growth. Here is how I do it….
As you can see here, there is substantial growth-more than a foot-on some hop plants.
You want to cut the shoots right down to their base, flush with the soil.
Being that these shoots contain essential nutrients, such as nitrogen, I like to cut them up into small pieces and return them to the top of the hop-bed instead of discarding them. The more nitrogen the better!
Now it’s feeding time!
I have been busy building compost with kitchen scraps, spent grains, and leaves since last fall, in preparation for this planting season. I even composted the hop bines from last years hop-harvest as well as the left-over hop debris from brewing. This is pure organic nitrogen!
I then spread a generous amount of this “Black Gold” on the hop yard. Make sure to completely cover the plant. If you don’t have the ability to compost, you can purchase organic compost at your local nursery, or pick some up at a community garden–if you are in the NYC area.
At this point I do not water the hop yard because I’m not trying to encourage vertical hop growth. This addition of organic matter is primarily to help the plant store nitrogen in preparation for its 120 day growth cycle. There will be more additions of macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K) (10-20-10) as well as some micronutrients over the next few months, nutrient requirements change when hop cones start to develop.
That’s all for now, next installment will be on setting up your trellising system!
Till next time…