How to Prepare Seedbed
Before you actually start planting seeds or seedlings, you must till the soil from 8 to 10 in. deep, then throw away any rocks. If you are going to plant root, the beds should be 12 in. deep. Consider mixing soil 1 to 1 with fiber-free woodland soil to ensure the best results. The beds should be 4 ft wide and make sure there are alleys between so you could walk and use farm equipment. Providing the bed sits on flat ground, the center should be mounded for better runoff. Sloped walkways will help drain water from the beds during the rain.
Ginseng grows better when in shade. You can arrange wooden lath sheds or polypropylene fabric about 7 ft above the ground for better air circulation. Avoid using burlap or muslin as they can hamper air circulation.
The Best Time for Seeding
Typically ginseng seed must be planted in the fall. The seed stays covered with mulch until spring. You can also plant seed in spring, but keep in mind that if you fail to plant it before May 1, the chances are that the seed can sprout too early.
When it comes to transplanting the roots it can be accomplished any time after the tops started to die back but before the ground has frozen. (read Ginseng's Environmental Requirements)
Method and Rate of Seeding
Seedlings grow best when planted from 1/8 to 1/2 in. deep and 4 in. apart in the row. The rows should be 6 in. apart across the bed. The rate of 80 to 100 lb/acre is advisable for a 4 ft wide bed. And don’t forget to leave 2 ft wide paths between beds. Once you have planted the seeds cover the beds with 2 to 3 in. of straw right away to prevent the seed from drying out.
The roots should be planted at a 30° to 45° angle so the crown of the root stays 3/4 to 1 in. deep. Then the bed must be covered with 1 to 2 in. of straw. If you plant in the fall make sure you add a 4 to 5 in. layer of mulch that will preclude heaving in frost. In spring you can take away the mulch before the first shoots appear.
Consider placing seedlings 8 in. apart in each direction to reduce the chances of disease in the plantation to minimum. Consider using light mulching (1 to 2 in. thick) to keep moisture during the period with lack of precipitation.
Fertility and Lime Requirements
Ginseng is commonly fertilized as most root crops. Generally acceptable rates constitute 15 lb P2O5/acre and 60 lb K2O/acre for soils testing in the optimum range for vegetables (30 to 45 ppm Bray P1 and 140 to 200 ppm soil test K).
Depending on how organic the soil is nitrogen needs mostly vary from 20 to 60 lb/acre, but some growers tend to use much more. Growers are also known to use a range of lower-salt fertilizers, including ammonium sulfate, potassium sulfate and potassium-magnesium sulfate. And while secondary and/or micronutrients are often used in fertilization, no research has confirmed their effectiveness.
Among other fertilizers used by some growers are leaves or old hardwood sawdust, ground-up rotted hardwood, as well as woodland soil or rotted leaves. Keep in mind that fertilizers should be used during the dormant season minimum several weeks before plants appear.
Ginseng that grows in different parts of America is known to vary in some characteristics, particularly in the roots. For instance, ginseng growing in Wisconsin and New York is characterized by quality root distinguished by good size, weight and shape.
How to Deal with Weed
There are two ways to control weeds: mechanically with mulching and hand weeding and chemically with Fusilade 2000. Check Table 1 below for information on how to use herbicide.
Table 1 - Pesticides Labeled for nationwide use on cultivated ginseng as of November 1, 1991.
|ALTERNARIA Left and
|Tankmix ROVRAL 50W or ROVRAL 4F (Rhone-Poulenc)
CHAMPION WETTABLE POWDER hydroxide (Agtrol Chemical)
2.6 lbs/acre in min. 100 ga/acre
|Best if applied 8 hours before rain. DO NOT apply ROVRAL within 36 days of harvest.
Also available as FLOWABLE CHAMP. Tankmix 3.5 pts/acre 2 lb ROVRAL 50W EPA REG NO: 55146-1
|PHYTOPHTHORA Root Rot and/or Foliar Phytophthora||No materials labeled for use on ginseng nationwide|
|(Soil)||DIAZINON 14G (Ciba-Geigy)||14-28 lbs/acre pre-plant and incorporate to 4-8" depth 21 lbs/acre broadcast over beds (Spring or Summer or Fall)||1 pre-plant & 1 broadcast treatment/year in 1st and 2nd seasons only. Recommended broadcast just before rain. DO NOT apply within 1 year of harvest. EPA REG NO: 100-46g|
|(Above Ground)||PYREZONE CROP SPRAY (Fairfield American)
DIAZINON AG 500 (Ciba-Geigy)
|Up to 12 oz/acre
0.75 to 1 pt/acre
|A broad spectrum contact spray. EPA REG NO: 4816-490
No more than 1 application/year. DO NOT apply during flowering on 3 and 4 year old plants. EPA REG NO: 100-461
|SLUGS||DEADLINE BULLETS (Pace National)||20-40 lbs/acre Apply at 3-4 week intervals as needed||Follow all label instructions for storage, application, and disposal of this product. EPA REG NO: 8501-34|
|WEED CONTROL||FUSILADE 2000 (ICI Americas)||1 qt Fusilade 2000/acre plus 1% crop oil (e.g., 1 gal/100 gal), or 0.25% surfactant(e.g., 1 qt/100 gal)||Apply when grasses are 2-8" tall; before tilling or heading. Direct spray away from ginseng foliage. DO NOT apply within 1 year of harvest. EPA REG NO: 10182-104|
Ginseng may suffer from various fungal diseases, such as Alternaria leaf and stem blight, Phytophthora root rot and foliar blight, seedling damping-off caused by Pythium and Rhizoctonia, rusty root and root knot nematode. Ginseng that grows in the woods is less susceptible to various diseases than plants protected by artificial shade.
Cultivating ginseng on a site with good drainage can help prevent diseases. It is also important to ensure good air circulation. Just leave walkways around the beds, and control weeds. Another preventive method is thin spacing which helps stop disease spread through foliar or root contact. Ginseng growers in Wisconsin typically refrain from reusing a ginseng field for succeeding plant crops.
Table 1 lists pesticides permitted for nationwide use on ginseng. However, the University of Wisconsin has been allowed to apply some other fungicides. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Sec. 18 and Sec. 24) has approved their use only in Wisconsin. For the latest data concerning which pesticides are allowed to be applied to ginseng in your area consider consulting your local County Extension Agent.
Insects and Other Predators and Their Control
Ginseng can be attacked by white grubs and wireworms. In addition, voles and field mice like to feed on the plant roots. Check Table 1 to find out what pesticides should be used.
Wisconsin growers typically harvest ginseng on the third year after planting from seed. In the fall they dig the roots and wash them well so no surface soil is left. They handle the roots with great care as it is extremely important to keep the branching forks intact.
Drying and Storage
Harvested ginseng roots must be dried on wire-netting shelves in the heated premises with good ventilation. Avoid overheating the roots as high temperatures have a negative impact on color and texture. It is recommended to start drying the roots at a temperature range of 60° to 80°F during the first few days, and then gradually increase the temperature to about 90°F for three to six weeks. Make sure you often turn the drying roots. The dried roots should be stored in a dry, airy, rodent-proof container.