I am just going to say, Growing Ginseng is a project I started on a whim. This is something I have no experience in. Nor do I know yet if the techniques will be successful.
I do know that ginseng needs 70-80% shade and a moist but well drained soil.
My raised beds along my fence row sure meet those criteria. I cannot seem to get anything else to grow them because of the shade.
So I figured I would invest $20 in seeds to gamble on harvesting ginseng in 10 years or so for upwards of $500 a pound.
I have several beds along my rear fence line. They run up a slope, and their real purpose was to keep the dog from digging out under the fence.
When I put them in, I felt any plants would be a nice addition in addition to keeping the dog in the fence.
Ginseng Needs Shade
However, after doing an internet search for shade loving medicinal plants, the good idea fairy smacked me with a gamble that costs little but patience and may pay off in a decent return of cash. The idea is that each year I plant another 1 oz of seeds in a new bed and after 7-10 years I can get a harvest each year. Since I am trying to simulate wild conditions, once I plant a bed my idea is to leave it alone. I am not a ginseng expert but I do know it is a perennial plant, which has the unusual characteristic that some years it is and does not grow new tops every year. The root does not die, and will come back the following year. If I don’t touch it I cannot kill it.
I will say that my plan is not to spend a lot of money on this project, This is intentionally small scale because like all prepping the most important thing is to START. Hopefully I will keep growing and planting more every year.
The Fight To Survive Makes the Ginseng Stronger
Each year some of the plants in a bed will not survive, and other plants will start growing in the beds also. This natural selection and completion for space ensures that the best and strongest ginseng roots survive; this is why that wild ginseng sells for a premium price. After three years of growth the plants will start to seed.
Those seeds need to stratify (lie dormant through several growing cycles) for 2 years before they will sprout. So after about 5 years I can stop buying seeds and begin selling the extra seed on the open market. If all goes well I will get my first fruit harvest, my first ginseng seed harvest, and send my boy to kindergarten all the same year – If I had waited for a perfect time to do any of that planting I never would get the chance to be blessed by any of that…
Ginseng can be planted in any hardwood forest or backyard that is mostly shade. Plant seeds or roots in the fall from Sept. 1st through February and it will sprout up in the spring.
Ginseng Can Grow Throughout the US
Ginseng can grow in almost any US growing zone (3-7 with 2 and 8 on the borderline) and soil (except southern Florida).
The closer the seeds are planted to its natural environment the more like wild ginseng the roots will be. When planted under wood lath sheds or other artificial shade, the roots are heavier in weight, are shaped differently, and they grow faster.
One method being used is to find a well shaded place in the woods and rake all the leaves to the side and broadcast the seed lightly, then rake it in a little and cover it with mulch or use the leaves that you raked to the side. What I did was to plant in a mix of screened topsoil and the gunk under my rabbit cages. I basically made small troughs, inserted the seeds, covered lightly, (I dumped the rest of the seeds randomly on the top) and covered it all with a topping of straw to much it.
If any seeds come up in the spring, I will post a video. My plan is to make an update video on this each year to document my learning process. This is probably something that you cannot learn in a book, and the idea is to try it and learn from the process. If I don’t get any roots I will be fine with it, as I am learning, but if I get a couple pounds of roots then I will be ecstatic. If you have any tips or advice on how I should be doing this (and have done it yourself) I am very open to advice.
People have been asking how my ‘sang is doing. I planted the ginseng in oak raised beds along the back of my back yard. It is on the edge of a grown out area and kind of simulates ginseng natural growing area.
I then left the ginseng alone and let nature take it’s course. Of course weeds and bugs and rodents have taken a toll on the plants as other natural plants have self seeded the beds and fight with the ginseng for growing room.
In this ginseng update I don’t have nearly the plants I growing as I planted. However, this makes the plants I have much more potent. It is the natural fighting to survive that makes the ginseng roots strong.
I only have 4 or 5 more years before I can harvest my roots and see what I want to do with them. Personally I want to try my hand at making Ginseng wine. I could sell the roots, but I won’t have enough to make it profitable for all the years spent waiting on the plants to grow.
Ginseng Update 2017
The goats ate the plants (and all other plants) to bare nubs…. I guess I have another 10 year wait sorry….