Small Farmer's Journal

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Ginseng Culture

Ginseng Culture

Ginseng Culture

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer’s Bulletin No. 1184 Issued 1921, Revised 1941

INTRODUCTION

Ginseng is a native product of recognized importance. The export trade in dry roots has existed for more than a century and for the last 10 years has attained an average value of about $1,000,000.

The natural production of ginseng, diminished by overcollection and the contradiction of suitable forest areas, has dwindled to such an extent that prices have risen to levels warranting cultivation, which has proved successful in judicious hands. The plant, however, has little domestic value except for the exploitation of amateur cultivators and depends on a distant oriental market (China) for its standing as a commodity. As a commercial product it would appear particularly liable to overproduction, which danger, however, is greatly lessened by the slow development of the plant and the inherent difficulties of its cultivation.

Under the present conditions of production ginseng offers attractive possibilities to patient cultivators who appreciate the limitations of growth and the slow development of woodland plants in general and are willing to make a material outlay with only scanty returns in view for several years to come, but it holds out no inducement for inexperienced growers looking for quick profits from a small investment.

The culture of ginseng and of special crops generally is best begun in an inexpensive and experimental manner, enlarging the equipment only as reasonable success seems assured. “Plunging” in ginseng is likely to prove disastrous as in other forms of business.

Ginseng is adapted best to the Northeastern, North Central, and North Pacific Coast States and can also be grown successfully in the Appalachian Mountain region. Its culture is not recommended for the South, the Great Plains, or the Southwest.

Ginseng Culture

Figure 1 — Branch, root, flower and berries of American ginseng.

THE GINSENG PLANT

American ginseng (fig. 1), botanically known as Panaz quinque-folium L. of the family Araliaceae, is a fleshy rooted herbaceous plant; growing naturally on the slopes of ravines and in other shady but well-drained situations in hardwood forests, in varying abundance from Maine to Minnesota and southward in the mountain regions to the Carolinas and Georgia. In its wild state it grows from 8 to 20 inches high, bearing 3 or more compound leaves, each consisting of 5 thin, stalked, ovate leaflets, pointed at the apex and rounded or narrowed at the base, the 3 upper leaflets being larger than the 2 lower ones. A cluster of from 6 to 20 small greenish-yellow flowers is produced in midsummer, followed by as many bright-crimson berries, each containing from 1 to 3 flattish wrinkled seeds the size of small peas. The berries of northern ginseng rarely contain 3 seeds are very common.

The root is thick, spindle-shaped, 2 to 4 inches long, and 1/2 to 1 inch or more in thickness in the older specimens generally branched and prominently marked with circular wrinkles. Branched roots of the wild Manchurian and Korean ginseng having some resemblance to the human form are said to be in particularly high favor in China, but this feature gives no special value to American ginseng. The seeds (fig. 2) are slow in germination and should never be permitted to become dry. As soon as they are gathered they should be mixed with twice their bulk of moist sand, fine loam, sawdust, or woods earth, stored in a damp, cool place until they are planted. As a rule the seeds do not germinate until a year from the spring following their ripening, and this fact must be borne in mind in purchasing seed for planting.

Ginseng Culture

Figure 2 — Seeds of American ginseng (natural size).

Ginseng seedlings grow about 2 inches high the first year, with 3 leaflets at the apex of the stem. The second-year plants may reach a height of 5 or 6 inches, bearing 2 compound leaves, each composed of 5 characteristic leaflets. A third leaf is generally added the next year, when fruits may be expected. In succeeding years a fourth leaf is formed, and the fruiting head reaches its maximum development. A single plant of southern ginseng sometimes produces as many as 300 seeds, but northern ginseng very rarely produces more than 100 seeds to the plant, and under cultivation, the average seldom exceeds 40.

VARIETIES

There are various recognizable geographical races of American ginseng, not all of which are of the same value to the grower. Plants from the northern range, particularly those indigenous to New York and Wisconsin, appear to possess the most useful characteristics and form the best basis for breeding stocks. Southern ginseng, though vigorous and forming roots of good size and shape, does not seed well at first in northern localities, but after a few years it becomes adapted to the climate and will mature seeds before frost. Some of the western types have long, thin roots of undesirable character, and another local form, dwarf in growth, has small, round, and almost worthless roots. The beginner should endeavor to procure from reliable dealers the best commercial types of ginseng as a foundation for his breeding stock.

The culture of native ginseng has been too brief to induce varietal changes, but liberal fertilization and continual selection of seeds from individual plants having superior commercial characteristics will doubtless in the end favorably modify the wild type of plants.

SUITABLE SOILS

Soil and location are very important in the culture of ginseng, as it is a plant that grows naturally on the slopes of ravines and in other well-drained situations where the soil is formed from the acid leafmold of hardwood forests. The soil should be naturally dry, fairly light, and in a condition to grow good vegetables without the addition of strong manure. An absolutely new soil with the best of natural drainage is to be preferred. Very sandy soil should be avoided, as it tends to produce hard, flinty roots of inferior value. Although almost any fairly good soil can be brought into a condition suitable for ginseng by proper treatment, the cost of satisfactory sterilization is usually heavy. In numerous cases the addition of leafmold from hardwoods has given best results, since ginseng requires an acid soil. For seed-beds the soil should be half woods earth free from fiber, and, if it is inclined to be heavy, enough sand should be added so that the mixture will not bake or harden even after heavy rains.

GROWING THE CROP

Before the diseases of ginseng became such a menace to the industry, practical growers advised the starting of ginseng plantings with both young roots and seeds. By planting roots 3 or more years old a moderate seed crop may be had the first year, and a stock of 1-year or 2-year roots set at the same time will start the rotation which is necessary to provide for a marketable crop of roots each year after the first crop is harvested. However, the grower who purchases roots for planting incurs the risk of introducing diseases into his bed, and it appears to be the better policy not to take chances with roots but to depend entirely upon seeds.

Ginseng seeds are advertised for sale by many of the older growers and are usually procurable at prices varying from 50 cents to $1.50 per thousand. Seeds are often sold by weight, and it is estimated that 1 pound of average northern seed should produce 7,000 to 8,000 plants, and 1 pound of average southern seed 10,000 plants or more. Stratified seeds usually cost more than fresh seeds, but are regarded as far more satisfactory. Dealers almost invariably supply seed that is at least a year old unless new seed is specially requested. As the output of seeds is likely to become greater than is necessary to extend the plantation, it is well to restrict seed production by nipping the flower heads unless a good market for the seeds is assured. Roots gain more rapidly in size and weight if the plants are not permitted to seed.

Planting

Except in the far Northwest it is best to plant ginseng seeds in the fall. If they are held until spring, growth may start before they can be planted, in which case many may be lost. Only cracked or germinated seeds should be used. They should be planted 8 inches apart each way in the permanent beds, or 2 by 6 inches in seedbeds and the plants transplanted when 2 years old to stand 8 inches apart. The seeds should be covered 1 inch deep with woods soil or old rotten hickory or basswood sawdust; that from pine or oak trees should not be used. The roots may be set in October or later in the fall so long as the soil is in suitable condition, the crowns being placed about 2 inches below the surface. The most approved distance to plant is 8 inches apart each way, when roots are to be grown until 7 years old in permanent locations.

Many planters round the surface of the beds, making the center several inches higher than the sides, since they find space for more plants on the curved than on the flat surface; but others claim that the possible injury from drought in very convex beds more than offsets this advantage. It is important, however, to have the beds well built up with centers high enough not to retain water after a rain. The paths or alleys should be much lower than the beds, and if they decline from one end to the other they will serve as a surface drains during heavy rains. For roots the beds should be worked not more than 6 to 8 inches deep if on ordinary soil. Very heavy soils may be worked more deeply if necessary to obtain better drainage. Seedbeds need not be deeply stirred, as it is not advisable to have them settle to any marked extent.

Ginseng Culture

Figure 3 — Lath shed affording partial shade, well suited for growing ginseng, goldenseal, and other woodland plants.

Shading

Ginseng grows naturally in rather dense shade, and under cultivation it must be shielded from direct sunlight by some construction that will reduce the light to about one-fourth its normal intensity. When it is planted in open ground this may be accomplished by erecting sheds open on all sides, but covered at the top with lath or boards spaced as to cut out nearly three-fourths of the sunlight. It is not advisable to use burlap or muslin for shading, as these materials interfere with the free circulation of the air.

There are many methods of constructing shade, but the most common is to set posts firmly in the ground 8 feet apart each way and about 8 feet high above the ground. Scantlings 2 by 4 inches in size are nailed on top of the posts so as to run the long way of the shed. The shade is usually made in sections 4 by 8 feet long, using common 4-foot laths or slats nailed on strips 2 by 2 inches and 8 feet long. The laths should be spaced from one-fourth to one-half inch apart, according to locality, whether in the North or in the South. These sections of shading are laid on top of the 2-by-4 inch runners and so nailed to the posts that the laths run about north and south, thus giving the plants below the benefit of constantly alternating light and shade (fig. 3). Owing to the high cost of lumber, some growers advocate replacing the runners with No. 4 wire, which is run over the tops of the posts and securely fastened thereto.

In the constuction of artificial shade it should be borne in mind that free ventilation is very necessary for ginseng. “The higher the shade the better” is a maxim worth following, as gardens with a free circulation of air are apparently less likely to become diseased.

SmallFarmersJournal.com is a live, ever-changing subscription website. To gain access to all the content on this site, subscribe for just $5 per month. If you are not completely satisfied, cancel at any time. Here at your own convenience you can access past articles from Small Farmer's Journal's first forty years and all of the brand new content of new issues. You will also find posts of complete equipment manuals, a wide assortment of valuable ads, a vibrant events calendar, and up to the minute small farm news bulletins. The site features weather forecasts for your own area, moon phase calendaring for farm decisions, recipes, and loads of miscellaneous information.

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

LittleField Notes Spring 2013

LittleField Notes: Spring 2013

by:
from issue:

If we agree that quality of plowing is subject to different criteria at different times and in different fields, then perhaps the most important thing to consider is control. How effectively can I plow to attain my desired field condition based on my choice of plow? The old time plow manufacturers understood this. At one time there were specific moldboards available for every imaginable soil type and condition.

Blacksmith Forge Styles

Blacksmith Forge Styles

from issue:

Blacksmith Forge Styles circa 1920.

Sleds

Sleds

by:
from issue:

The remainder of this section on Agricultural Implements is about homemade equipment for use with draft animals. These implements are all proven and serviceable. They are easily worked by a single animal weighing 1,000 pounds, and probably a good deal less. Sleds rate high on our homestead. They can be pulled over rough terrain. They do well traversing slopes. Being low to the ground, they are very easy to load up.

Disc Harrow Requirements

Disc Harrow Requirements

by:
from issue:

One of the most important requirements is disc blade concavity, that is, correct concavity. Further along we set forth the purposes of disc concavity. We feel it is important enough to devote the extra time and words in a discussion of the subject, because seldom is disc concavity talked about, and very few know that there is difference enough to cause good and bad work.

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

by:
from issue:

To select a Model 8, 10 or 10A for rebuilding, if you have a few to choose from – All New Idea spreaders have the raised words New Idea, Coldwater, Ohio on the bull gear. The No. 8 is being rebuilt in many areas due to the shortage of 10A’s and because they are still very popular. The 10A is the most recent of the spreaders and all three can be rebuilt. The 10 and 10A are the most popular for rebuilding as parts are available for putting these spreaders back into use.

A Hidden Treasure

A Hidden Treasure

When David and Gus visited Mr. Hemmett they had an unexpected find. Not only was there the small tip-cart but other full sized farm wagons. The first that David looked at was a double shafted Lincolnshire wagon designed for the flat lands of that county and too big and heavy for his Suffolk mare of 16.2 hands. But tucked at the back under a tarpaulin was the ideal vehicle – a Norfolk wagon that could take either a single or double shaft and was suitable for the smaller draught horse.

Living With Horses

Living With Horses

by:
from issue:

The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.

New Horsedrawn Minimum Till Seed Drill

New Horsedrawn Minimum Till Seed Drill

The physico-chemical degradation of the soils world-wide by so-called “conventional” farming methods is considered as one of the major problems for the world’s food supply in the coming decades. Organic farming systems, refraining from the use of genetic engineering and chemically-synthesized sprays and fertilizers, can help resolve this situation. However, a better protection of the soil is also closely linked to agricultural engineering. By that, minimum tillage or no-till seeding is gaining popularity among tractor farmers around the world.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

by:
from issue:

We had experimented with unrolling the bales the year before and had decided to make a device that would let us move them with the horses and then unroll them. I used square tubing to make a simple frame with two arms attached to a cross piece which connected to a tongue. Small diagonal braces made the arrangement rigid and the arms had a right angle piece of square tubing on their ends which allowed a pin to be driven into the middle of the round bale from each side.

Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn

Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn

by:
from issue:

The inside of the barn can be partitioned into stalls of whatever size we need, using portable panels secured to the upright posts that support the roof. We have a lot of flexibility in use for this barn, making several large aisles or a number of smaller stalls. We can take the panels out or move them to the side for cleaning the barn with a tractor, or for using the barn the rest of the year for machinery.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

Bobsled Building Plans

Bobsled Building Plans

Befitting Labor Day, here are two, old-style, heavy-duty, bobsled building plans featuring the sort of sleds you might have found in New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. (In fact you might get lucky and find them still.) These are designed to haul cord wood on the sled frame.

Cultivating Questions Cultivator Setups and Deer Fencing

Cultivating Questions: Cultivator Set-ups and Deer Fencing

We know all too well the frustration of putting your heart and soul into a crop only to have the wildlife consume it before you can get it harvested let alone to market. Our farm sits next to several thousand acres of state game lands and is the only produce operation in the area. As you can imagine, deer pressure can be intense. Neighbors have counted herds of 20 or more in our pastures.

The Tip Cart

The Tip Cart

by:
from issue:

When horses were the main source of power on every farm, in the British Isles it was the tip-cart, rather than the wagon which was the most common vehicle, and for anyone farming with horses, it is still an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment. The farm cart was used all over the country, indeed in some places wagons were scarcely used at all, and many small farms in other areas only used carts.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

by:
from issue:

One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

by:
from issue:

The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

McCormick Deering (eventually International Harvestor) made what many believe to be one of the outstanding potato digger models. This post features the text and illustrations from the original manufacturer’s setup and operation literature, handed to the new owners upon purchase. This implement, pulled by two horses or a small suitable tractor, dug up the taters and conveyed them up an inclined, rattling chain which shook off most of the dirt and laid the crop on top of the ground for collection

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT