Sometime starting in summer, the hops plant starts to prepare for winter. The carbohydrates that are collected through photosynthesis are fueling the growth of branches, leaves, and flowers. At the same time, some of those future energy packets are being sent back to the root ball in the form of starch for storage. When the hours are dwindling from the day, and the plant is past its peak leftover carbohydrates will flow back down into the roots. During the spring months, this future energy will be largely consumed by the shoots and bines as they march on to succeed for the next growing season.
After harvest the bine has likely been chopped off at some level for picking the cones. The remainder, or any exposed bine from the plant should be cut to ground level. Even though the roots are going into a perceived dormancy, it still requires a balance of air and moisture through the winter. Not enough moisture can dry out the roots and damage them for next year. At the same time too much moisture can damage the plants and form rot. It is a good idea to cover the rooted area with compost. The leftover bines, branches, and leaves are ideal, and already on hand.
Once the bines are removed from the trellis, there will likely be a few more end-of-year preparations. Depending on your type of trellis, it may be a good idea to take down the ropes or wire used in the supports. The trellis should remain sturdy over the winter, and be able to withstand the winds and weather of winter. Also, this will prolong the life of your materials.
Over the winter months, as your working on your strong ale recipe, the root ball is relatively active underground, although at a much lower level than the growing season. The starches are slowly being converted to soluble sugars. Vernalization is the process that happens during late winter to early spring. Its what signals the plant to switch from this fallow period to a time of growth and flowering. Some plants require vernalization. Without it hops will prosper in the coming year, but will be at a disadvantage to those that were properly stored or maintained.
Watch the progress of growing hops on video. The video shows growing hops in an urban setting on the side of a house and on an arbor. The varietals include Glacier, Nugget, Zues, Horizon and Sterling.