Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wild-simulated ginseng: sowing your seeds and applying gypsum

stratified ginseng seed
Picking up from my last post, let's assume you have your wild-simulated ginseng site all prepared. You are now ready to plant the high-quality, stratified seed that you have purchased or stratified yourself. But how much should you sow? Let's refer to what Scott Persons says in our book Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals:

"From my own experience and that of other growers, I am convinced that at least one, but no more than two, mature plants per square foot is best. Anything denser courts disaster by facilitating the spread of disease. Anything thinner does not optimize the financial potential of the operation, though I'd certainly recommend erring on the side of caution."

To get this density, you need to plant four to eight seeds per square foot. Why so many? Because even with the best of seeds, you can expect to lose a large percentage of your seeds to birds, insects, rodents, poor soil contact, drying out, being washed away, etc. During the first few years of growth you will lose even more to the same causes and to winter kill, being crushed underfoot, being covered too deeply with leaves and branches, and to other causes I can't even think of right now. By the time the plants are three to four years old, you should have just about the right density.

Scott estimates that there are 6,400 to 8,000 seeds per pound, or between 400 and 500 in an ounce. So, according to Scott's calculations "if you sow one ounce of seed on 100 square feet of land or, as I prefer, two ounces (between 800 and 1,000 seeds) on 200 square feet, you can achieve an average planting density of between four and five seeds per square feet, or about 25 pounds of seed to the acre."

Scott is a very practical and well-organized person. He plans his seeding trips out carefully so he can be quick and efficient when he reaches his planting site.
wild-simulated ginseng seed sowing
"Just before going into the woods to plant, weigh out your seeds into multiple plastic bags and place them in a small cooler, or at least a covered bucket."  If you prepared 200 square foot sections, weigh out 2 ounces per bag. Using one bag per section, you will have a final sowing rate of one ounce of seed per 100 square feet. Scatter the seeds to the left and right of you as you walk slowly over your section. After the first few times, you will get a good feel for how to get the seed spread evenly over the section.
gypsum on ginseng seed bed area
In another post, we will talk about gypsum (or you can read about it for yourself on pages 64-65 in the book), but for now let's assume that you have decided to apply 10 lbs of gypsum on your 200 square foot section of planting area. Scatter it evenly over the planted area. I just put the weighed out gypsum in a small bucket and scatter it by hand. Some people use a small hand cranked fertilizer spreader.
replacing leaves on wild-simulated ginseng planted area
Then, and this is the slick part of this method, "stand on the strip that you've just sown, reach straight uphill with your rake, and, again using the five-foot mark on the rake handle as a guide, rake down the next five feet of leaf litter directly onto the stip you've just seeded." In this way you are mulching (covering up) the area you just planted while at the same time, uncovering the next area to be planted. Sow seed and gypsum on that new section, and then pull down another five foot swath of leaves to mulch that area and expose a new planting area.  "Note that you have not moved any leaves more than once, and with the exceptions of the bottom and top sections, every rake stroke has accomplished two tasks." On steep slopes, you might want to lay limbs and small branches on top of the leaves to hold the mulch in place.

To get all the details about planting and growing wild-simulated ginseng, order our book Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals. Details about the book can be found on the book tab HERE. Ordering an author signed copy is easy. Just use your credit card and the appropriate Paypal button to the right (if you do not see any Paypal buttons, you are probably on your smartphone or tablet. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "View web version". The Paypal buttons will magically appear). 

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