Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ginseng Expert, Scott Persons, Explains Why and How to Grow Ginseng

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Photo from Accem Scott's video (link provided in text below)
Scott Persons is my coauthor for the book Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals. He is the undisputed expert on growing wild-simulated ginseng and his books on the topic are treasured by ginseng growers around the world. For those of you who are new to growing ginseng, I thought you might be interested in reading the beginning of the American Ginseng section of our latest book where Scott introduces you to the section and provides a little advice for future growers to heed (from pages 3 and 5 of the 2014 edition):
     "For 33 years now, I have grown American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) in the woods not 30 yards from my front door. It allows me a healthy, comfortable, low-stress life that is a treasure to find in our hectic culture. An individual can cultivate a forest garden of this revered herb just to have the fascinating plant around or for his (or her) own consumption, but ginseng also has great potential as a small-scale cash crop with a ready market. With little capital investment, the small farmer can net a greater profit growing ginseng on a rugged, otherwise idle, woodlot than he can net raising just about any other legal crop on an equal area of cleared land. Of course, you have to be willing to bend your back and get your hands dirty, and to take a risk and persevere when the payoff is years in the future [Author's note: A non-commercial home gardening approach to growing ginseng is discussed in chapter 32, but the home gardener will certainly learn from the material covered in the first half of this book].
     "To guide the reader in growing ginseng, I have drawn from my own hands-on experience, from discussions with other experienced growers and agriculture professionals, and from my own observations of ginseng operations throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia."
     "As this revised edition of Growing & Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal & Other Woodland Medicinals is about to go to press, the prices being paid for wild ginseng are higher than ever before. While this certainly makes woodland ginseng growing even more attractive, should roots continue to bring such high value in the future, wild populations could be threatened by overharvesting, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service might well feel compelled to prohibit the export of wild ginseng in order to protect the plant. Growers are therefore advised to proactively document their purchases of planting stock and their growing operation in order to be able to prove that their roots were not foraged from wild populations. Increased production of high-grade roots by woodland growers is the best way to keep supply in balance with demand, thereby keeping prices down and protecting the still widespread populations of wild ginseng." 

The picture at the top of this post was taken from a video of an interview of Scott Persons by Accem Scott. I think you might find it interesting: Link to Video

You can purchase a lead author signed copy of the book on my Our Tiny Farm website or through any of the major online booksellers or at many bookstores with good gardening sections.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Caring for Our Older Horse

Our dear sweet Tennessee Walker, Little Man, is over thirty years old. He has Cushing's disease and arthritis. His teeth are worn and many are missing and he doesn't see as well as he used to. He grows a very long curly coat that we have to clip and trim regularly. We don't ride him anymore and he really prefers to just stay in his pasture with his two mini-donkey friends. We give him pergolide every day for his Cushings and put glucosamine and MSM in his feed. His diet during the growing season is fresh grass supplemented with a little senior feed in the morning. During the winter we feed him hay. Last year the hay was poor and we noticed he was losing weight. So we started feeding him more senior feed supplemented with soaked beet pulp. That got him through the winter and he bulked up again on the pasture over the summer.

This winter the hay was much better quality, but he started losing weight anyway. Once again we started feeding him senior feed with beet pulp and oil twice a day. We also started measuring him with a weight tape every week. The weight loss slowed, but we still weren't pleased with his condition. So hubby spent some time reading about old horse nutrition and came home one day with a bag of alfalfa cubes. We soaked a handful in warm water for a few hours and took it out to Little Man. He loved it!
So now, three times a day, we feed him several pounds of senior feed with beet pulp and oil in one bucket and well soaked alfalfa cubes in another bucket. He never leaves a speck behind. He comes across the pasture just as fast as he can when we head out to the barn and he calls to us if we take too long to come out and feed him. The change in him is remarkable. In just one week he has put back on a substantial amount of weight, is moving faster, and is much livlier.

Isn't this a lot of work for an old horse? You bet it is. But he is a dear friend and helped one of our children through a tough time in life. We will do what it takes to make his golden years the best we can make them. I know there are many of you who can relate to this.

Love you, Little Man.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Scott Persons, Author of American Ginseng Green Gold, Explains Why He Wanted Other Herbs Covered in the New Book



The other day an older man who has been a 'sang hunter and grower for over forty years asked me why Scott Persons would want to change what he considered to be the most perfect book on growing ginseng that ever existed as he held his well-worn copy of American Ginseng: Green Gold. He was referring to the book that Scott and I coauthored together. I was a little offended until I asked him if he had read the newer book. He said no, you can't improve on perfect so he had no intention of reading the newer book.

Scott Persons is a beloved authority on growing ginseng, speaking and consulting on the topic around the world. He is a humble, soft-spoken man who has earned the respect and affection of many people in the ginseng trade. His book, American Ginseng: Green Gold, is often referred to as the bible on the topic. So why did he team up with a co-author to write a second book? I did a post on a similar topic this past summer, but here Scott explains it himself in Preface I of the first version of Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals:

 “When I realized that my old book, American Ginseng: Green Gold, was rapidly becoming outdated and that a new book was needed, I thought that many of my potential readers would be interested in practical, detailed information and instruction on growing other valuable native woodland medicinal herbs-other species of green gold-as well as ginseng. I asked Dr. Jeanine Davis to be a co-author and cover the additional material. Dr. Davis and I have interacted professionally for many years. I grow American ginseng and a little goldenseal on wooded hillsides in western North Carolina at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountians. Dr. Davis is a professor at North Carolina State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, where she conducts research on a wide variety of native woodland botanicals. Dr. Davis works only about an hour’s drive northeast of me, and we often share information, and sometimes we find ourselves speaking at the same conferences-I on woodland ginseng production and she on the cultivation of goldenseal, ramps, and other native herbs. Our approaches to small-scale farming and our advice to prospective growers are similar and compatible.
                There is a great deal of material available, both in print and on the Internet that discusees growing woodland botanicals. Some of the information is excellent, but a significant chunk is partial disinformation. It is often not based on sound research-or even on more than one grower’s experience-and profitability is not forthrighthly assessed. Cultivating native woodland medicinal herbs in a sustainable manner is often advocated primarily as an enjoyable, even noble, activity. Of course, it is a noble and enjoyable activity (or it can be), but Dr. Davis and I have a more hard-core point of view: We are interested in using best management practices and in turning a profit.”

That quote is from the 2005 version of our book. We completely revised and updated the book in 2014. You can purchase it through this blog, local independent bookstores, and all the major on-line booksellers. It is available in paperback and as an ebook.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Special Collection of Woodland Medicinal Seeds!

My friends at Garden Medicinals and Culinaries in Virginia are offering a special collection of three full-sized packets of black cohosh, ginseng, and wild yam seeds. This is perfect for the beginning woodland medicinal herb grower. Wrap it up with an author signed copy of my book (see right sidebar) and you have a great holiday gift for the gardener and herb enthusiast. Because these are moist living seeds, they will be shipped in the spring just in time for planting. This is item 7801 (click here) and is available for $9.00.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

50% OFF Book Sale-All Books by My Favorite Publisher!!

                               Photo from the New Society website
New Society Publishers is offering 50% off ALL their books through December 12. New Society is my publisher and I chose them because they represent my values and publish on topics I am interested in. They have great books on farming, gardening, green building, energy, food, health, sustainable living, sustainable communities, and finances. And of course, you can order my book through them. Check them out at New Society Publishers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Choosing Plants for Your Woodland Botanical Garden-Are You a Purist?

When we talk about shade medicinal herb gardens, I find there are two distinct groups of gardeners: those who will only use native medicinal plants and those who like to "mix it up a bit". As I wrote in the new home garden section of my book Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals (you can order it by clicking on one of the "Add to Cart" buttons on the right sidebar of this blog) "As you make your shade garden plans, consider what kind of plants you want in it. Do you want to grow only native plants? Do you want mostly native plants with some exotics thrown in for color and interest? Do you want to plant only medicinal plants? What about designing a garden of medicinal and edible plants? Are you trying to create a particular garden that will need some specific trees and plants, such as Spanish moss hanging from tree limbs for a Southern garden ambiance? Don't take this all too seriously. Have fun. Collect plants from friends, festivals, and herbalists. If a plant is not a medicinal herb but you really like it, so what? Put it in your garden. And don't be afraid to make mistakes. You can always move plants!" 

Further along in that chapter, there are cautions about introducing invasive plants or potentially toxic plants, but I go on to describe a large number of medicinal herbs, vines, shrubs, small trees, big trees, ferns, berries, mosses, and non-medicinal plants to consider. The bottom line is this is your garden. You can make it whatever you want it to be. If you want it to look like a botanical garden with metal identification tags with common and scientific names in front of every plant, go for it. If you want it to be a whimsical fairy land with beautiful medicinal, edible, and decorative plants with gazing globes, a small waterfall, and wind chimes included, I love those, too. Gardening should bring us pleasure and make us smile-embrace it, have fun, and remember to share your pictures!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Growing Woodland Medicinals in the Home Garden

The 2014 revision of my book "Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal, and Other Woodland Medicinals" has a whole new section devoted to home gardeners. Gardeners have always found the book useful for learning how to grow and propagate these beautiful native plants, but the new section provides detailed information on how to design the garden, choose the best plants, and make use of what you grow. What a great gift for the gardener in your family! Here is a short excerpt from the beginning of that section:

"When I first moved to western North Carolina to take my position with North Carolina State University, we lived in a little house nestled in the woods on an oversized lot in a small neighborhood. For ten years we tried to grow vegetables in a small clearing near the house without much success, but we also planted native medicinal herbs and ornamentals throughout the woods, and they flourished. Over the years we built walking paths through the woods and created habitat for different kinds of plants. There was an area under the dogwoods near the “forest edge” planted with galax and shortia. Behind it grew a patch of mayapple that quadrupled in size while we lived there. We planted bloodroot, ginseng, goldenseal, wild ginger, blue cohosh, ramps, sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum). And I will never forget the excitement I felt when we discovered two pink lady’s slippers (Cypripedium acaule) growing in a corner of the lot far from our paths. We carefully guarded that area and watched for them to emerge each year.
My objective with this section is to help others create woodland medicinal herb gardens to enjoy with their families like we did. Woodland gardens fit well into busy lives, too. When properly established they will take care of themselves for the most part. Weeding is minimal and watering is usually only required in a drought. I have fond memories of walking the garden trails with my children looking for what had emerged or bloomed since we had last been through. My daughter, as young as four years old, always looked forward to finding the first “little brown jug” on the wild ginger plants each spring.
Keeping with the design of the previous two sections of the book I visited and interviewed six amazing gardeners. What a joy it was to spend a few hours with each of them. And then I was delighted when Scott said he wanted to add a chapter for growing ginseng in the home garden, too."