Monday, May 25, 2015

A Short Discussion about Shade for Your Forest Medicinal Herb Garden

Many gardeners are interested in planting shade gardens, especially to grow native forest botanicals such as ginseng, goldenseal, and black cohosh. Many questions arise about how to provide that shade, how much there should be, and what to do if there is no natural shade on the property. That topic is covered in detail in the new home gardener section of my book, Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals. Here is a small excerpt: "Do you have a naturally shaded area to plant your garden in? The ideal site has a hardwood canopy with trees such as poplar, sugar maple, white ash, oak, beech, maple, and birch, and an understory of trees and shrubs such as dogwoods, elderberry, and witch hazel. Is it all deep shade? Are there open areas? Are there different degrees of shade, e.g., dense, light, or partial shade? Partial shade means the area has direct sunlight for three to six hours each day. Pay attention to when the area gets that sun. Three hours of direct late afternoon sun can be hot and damaging to shade plants. Light shade or dappled light is filtered light that works it way through the canopy of deciduous trees. There are patches of direct sunlight that get through at different times of the day, but they are small. This is a preferred state for many of the plants covered in this book. Areas of dense or full shade get less than three hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered light the rest of the day. Dense shade is not totally dark. Few plants grow on the forest floor under dense shade. If you have full shade, you will probably have to open up the tree canopy a bit through some judicious pruning or tree removal. If your canopy is very open and there is too much light, now is the time to think about planting some trees that will add more shade in the coming years.
     "If you don't have any shade right now, you can create some that is temporary until the trees you plant fill in, or it can be the permanent shade. Construct an arbor or pergola and let vines cover it to simulate the natural opening and closing of a tree canopy that occurs when leaves come out in the spring and fall off in autumn. Use lattice fencing to protect an area from late afternoon sun or put up a shade sail or canopy made of woven polypropylene shade cloth. If you can't afford to build shade right now, consider planting on the north or east side of your house."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Collecting and Germinating Ramp Seeds

Depending on where you are located, ramps are starting to yellow or soon will be. If you look closely at a patch of ramps, you will probably see flower buds just beginning to show on some of them. Now is the time to plan for seed collection. When ramp seeds are mature, the leaves of the plant are usually gone and the base of the plant is often covered up by the foliage of other plants. It is not uncommon for the only evidence of the ramps to be the seed heads. They can be REALLY difficult to find unless you know exactly where to look.

So, if you want to collect and sow ramp seeds, I suggest that mark your ramp patches now. This can be done with flagging, rock formations, or you could just get a GPS coordinate for the location. Then, in late August to early September, you can return to collect the mature seed. Be sure to wait until the seeds are black.

There are several methods for germinating ramp seeds, and a number of them are described in my book. But here is the easiest procedure that has worked for me. As quoted in the book, "Collect the mature, black seed from the plants in late August before the seeds fall to the ground; then, either immediately plant the seeds in a nursery bed or store the seeds in paper envelopes in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them in a moist site. Little seedlings should emerge after exposure to one warm season and one cold season in the soil. This usually means after 18 months. If you planted the fresh seed early enough in the season for the seeds to get a long period of warm temperatures before the soil cooled down for the winter, you should obtain good emergence the first spring after sowing-in about seven months."

There is a whole section devoted to ramps in the book Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals.. You can order a lead author signed copy of the book by clicking on one of the options in the right sidebar.