I went to a Cornell Co-op Extension workshop with Bob Beyfuss this spring and got the ginseng bug. I ordered 2 oz. of stratified seed from Beyfuss and 8 ozs. of 3 yr.old roots from WildGrown.com. The hilltops in WNY Finger Lakes are typically rocky with low pH. My sugerbush tested out at 4.7 pH with Calcium at 1060/lbs. per acre- not real encouraging. Its a decent sugarbush with mayapple, jack-in-the-pulpit, baneberry, and sarsaparilla so i've decided to take the challenge anyway. I prepared several 5' square test plots by clearing out the understory brush and debris, raking back the duff, and forking up the soil to remove the larger rocks and cut out the tree roots. I also raked all the fine feeder roots out. Its a good workout, but I only do 25 sq. ft. at a time. I'm one step away from using a Troy-bilt but I'm still shooting for wild-simulated roots.
I plan to add 10 lbs. of lime per 100 sq. ft. Even if the pH rises a little I should still be in good range. When I work the lime in, weeks before I plant, i'll add maple leaf compost from years of accumulated lawn rakings. I'll add calcium probably in the spring. In addition, I've got some mycorrhizal fungi for seed coat and root dip. I figure its just extra insurance to have some other kind of good juju in the ground. I am a little worried about a few of the ash trees, since the emerald ash borer seems to be killing all the ash trees; a few more each year. That and the army caterpillars have opened up the canopy a little more than i want. One thing leads to another- I've been transplanting wildcrafted ginger, ramps, and blue cohosh to my place as well. Goldenseal can't be far behind.
Thanks Billy. Ramps don't mean the same to NYers. Most folks don't know about'em and those that do call 'em wild leeks. My Amish neighbors pickle them in a real salty brine. We have vast green carpets of them in the spring.
If you are after wild seng looking roots, i wouldn't spend a lot of time making the soil too soft and \"perfect\" for seng. If you get too carried away you may end up with roots that have the cultivated look from growing too fast and actually be worth less on the market. If your soil is low in calcium, as yours appears to be, you can add calcium nitrate to bring that up. Seng likes calcium at 2,000lbs or better to the acre. That is why it is typically found in sugar maple stands in the north and tulip poplar stands in the South. Those trees leave a lot of calcium in their leaves and thus supplant the soil with it. Black walnut is another tree that does so to some extent.
If you are finding the other indicator plants you described, the site should at least support seng. Good luck and keep us posted.
Thanks for the tip Dieselrider. I'm working the lime in this summer just because its cheaper. I'll add gypsum in the spring. My soil isn't as loamy as the places I'm digging cohosh and ginger. I can't imagine digging a seng root from my rocky soil, which is why I'm trying to loosen it up a little. But like you say, I'm hopreful my site will at least support some ginseng. I'm anxious to report back some success.
ebrown after reading your last post I wanted to tell you something.Dont remove all the rock,I know there pesty to some degree,but I have found some of the best seng patches in rocky areas,and have had to nearly fight with a rock to get my root away from it.Also the rocks give the roots a definate wild seng /verses/ tame seng look and feel.The seng around rocks may have a flat spot or ridge different from other seng you find,letting the buyer know that it is wild seng.Just a tip I wanted to give you G/L in your growing
Thanks for your kind advice Billy. I guess its hard to weed out the gardener and start thinking wild seng. Some of my test plots will be untouched, except for the addition of Ca. Rake off the leaf layer, scatter seeds, walk on 'em and cover 'em up. This way I hope to be able to compare the differences. The nicest worked plot is for my 3 yr old seed stock roots. In the meantime, I'm collecting ramp seeds.