Ginseng has been a popular plant used in China for over 5,000 years. In the United States, American ginseng has almost disappeared in wild areas because of its value as an export. Today, wild ginseng is a protected plant and it is illegal to harvest. However, you can grow ginseng and harvest your own. The best way to grow ginseng is in a wild-simulated environment, or a woodland area on your property. It takes 3 to 5 years to produce a crop that is marketable.
Ginseng seeds need to go through a cold/warm cycle called stratification before they can be planted. The easiest method is to obtain stratified ginseng seeds from a supplier. You can also stratify seeds yourself, but you will need to build a wooden box with a screen top and bottom measuring at least 8 inches in length to stratify your seeds.
Steps to Grow Ginseng
What You Need
Wood box (optional)
Alternate between adding sand and layers of seed in the box. Make sure you put twice as much sand as seed in each layer. Cover the top layer of seed with a layer of sand. Moisten the sand with water so that it is damp.
Close the box and bury it in the ground so that the top is about 2 inches below the soil surface. Leave the box underground through the winter. Remove the box in early spring. Check your seeds for any decay.
Remove any seeds that have begun to sprout. Rebury the remaining seeds and check them periodically to see if they have germinated. All of your seeds should germinate by the fall. Plant any seeds that have germinated immediately.
Planting Germinated Seeds
Select an area to plant your ginseng seeds. The best areas are within hardwood forested areas that are well-shaded with soil high in organic matter. Add compost to the planting area if needed.
Till the soil to a depth of 10 inches, and remove any rocks from the planting area. Plant two ginseng seeds per square foot. Plant the seeds to a depth of ½ inch. Create walkways between your beds of about 4 feet in width so that you can get between plants.
Mulch fall plantings by adding 4 inches of leaves or straw to protect them from frost. Remove some of the mulch from new shoots in the spring.
Continually check how much moisture your ginseng is getting by squeezing the soil. Soil should not ball up in your hand or adhere to the skin. If it does, this is a sign of too much water. Dampen the soil as needed so that soil stays moist but not too wet. Mulch around your plants before each winter to protect the roots.
West Virginia University Extension Service; Woods-Grown Ginseng
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