Here it is it’s October 15th and we’re
planting ginseng and you might say, why are you planting ginseng in the fall, why not
plant it in the spring like most things are planted? Well, the
problem is ginseng can’t really be planted in the spring… if you live in the north. The reason for
that is ginseng seed which has gone through an 18-month stratification period… once that seed
cracks – once that embryo’s fully mature, it requires one more cold treatment and
then the seed will germinate and you cannot hold it. You cannot store the seed. So if you were to hold on to that seed…
Let’s say it’s October 15th… if I would say I’m gonna plant the seed in April so I’ll store it in my refrigerator… sometime
in February or March that seed is actually going to start to
sprout anyway and once it’s sprouted, it cannot be
planted. So we really have no choice but to plant the ginseng seed in the fall proceeding the spring that’s
going to germinate. If you harvest the berries and plant
them immediately on site as you should do well though seed won’t
come up the following spring but they’ll come up the year after that. So it’s a little bit complicated, but
generally in the North, you have to plant ginseng seed usually sometime between August 15th
and October 15th or in this case probably November 15th
although that’s getting a little bit late. Any type of fall planting is fine until
the ground freezes. After that the seeds just tend to freeze-out. What sometimes happens is if you get your seed and you immediately
refrigerate it, you could sometimes put that seed back into dormancy and won’t
grow until the following year. But you can’t
hold ginseng seed over which is a real problem in terms of procuring the seed. It’s like, I can buy tomato seed that’s five
years old and it’s still gonna grow. You can’t buy five-year-old ginseng seed…it’s not gonna grow. It’s dead by that point. Preparing a ginseng
site in the forest can be quite a challenge. Depending on the site that you’re
working most wood-land sites, particularly up here
in upstate New York have lots and lots of rocks and you obviously can’t go in and
pick every single rock that’s in the forest so you have to kind of work around the
outcroppings of rocks. You also want to remove vegetation that’s
going to compete with ginseng which would include a lot of the understory
shrubs. Even if they don’t compete with them
physically for nutrients they’re providing in some cases too much shade So you try to get a rough idea of removing
enough small trees and brush so that you allow enough sunlight in for
the ginseng to grow well but not too much sun to get in so that
the ginseng burns up it doesn’t grow properly. Typically in the fall of the year the
ideal time to plant ginseng would be right before most to the leaves fall of
the maple trees, because you do need to mulch the ginseng with the fallen leaves. So typically in a wild simulated
situation, what we’ll do is we’ll rake back the leaves – generally rake them up hill…it’s
easier to get them back on the beds after that… as far an area as we can develop. If it’s
twenty-five-foot-long that’s great. If we can do a four-foot
wide by a twenty-five-foot long strip, rake the leaves above that and then
broadcast the seeds. We’re trying to plant about five seeds per
square foot with the hope that three or four years later through
natural attrition we’ll end up with one plant per square foot – that way the
foliage isn’t touching and we don’t have to worry so much about diseases. So let’s say a four-foot by twenty-five-foot area which would be a hundred square feet we will plant about an ounce of seed in
that – about 500-seeds in an ounce. So again, it works out to about five seeds per square foot. The seed is broadcast on the surface
of the soil, but as I said the leaves are raked off
and typically we’ll go in with a tool to scratch up the soil because you do want to ensure that
there’s contact between the seed and the soil. So after we broadcast the seed – try to
uniformly broadcast it by hand… we’ll then walk on those beds to make
sure that the seeds are pressed into the soil. You don’t want to plant the seed… say an
inch deep – they won’t grow at all so you really want the seeds to be just
lightly covered with soil maybe a half an inch of soil on top of them
and then it’s a matter of raking the leaves back on top, hoping it rains or hoping
that more leaves will fall to cover them and provide the the winter mulch. I don’t think you could
have too mulch – natural mulch on ginseng. I’ve
seen ginseng seedlings push up through six or seven inches of leaf – leaf tissue but the type of leaves is
also important. Maple leaves tend to break down and so
four, five, six inches of maple leaves is not a problem. Oak leaves tend to pack and compact so
ginseng seeds won’t push up through an inch or two of oak leaves will basically be smothered
but they will come up through five or six inches a sugar maple leaf so
the over-story trees are very important in terms of site preparation too. That’s another reason why we tend to avoid oak sites because of the tannic acid
that’s in the oak leaves. Sugar maple leaves have calcium and
that’s a good thing. Oak leaves have tannic acid in them… they pack down, they compact and that’s a bad thing.