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Gardening Tips: Ginseng growing class Sept. 19

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September 6, 2019 11:36 am Updated: September 6, 2019 11:41 am

 

I will be teaching a ginseng growing class 4-6 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Agroforestry Resource Center of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene/Columbia County on State Route 23 in Acra, just a few miles west of Cairo. This workshop will discuss how you can get started growing American Ginseng on forested land in the Hudson Valley/Catskill Mountain region.

Ginseng is a longterm forest crop that can potentially be very profitable for successful growers. It is not a “get rich quick” crop since it generally requires from six to 10 years to mature in a forested environment. New York state and the Catskill mountain region, in particular, are world famous for producing the finest wild ginseng that is available.

Wholesale prices paid to diggers of high quality wild Catskill ginseng have averaged well over $1,000 per pound, dry weight, for the past four or five years. Retail prices in Chinatown are closer to $5,000 a pound and I have seen it sold for as much as $17,000 a pound. Wild simulated ginseng, such as would be intentionally cultivated in our forests, is almost identical in appearance to wild ginseng and commands similar prices. Woods cultivated ginseng is not quite as valuable, but still commands very good prices!

The class will begin by discussing basic ginseng biology and botany, but not its medicinal uses. That subject alone would require its own workshop! Wild ginseng rules and regulations will also be covered, as well as a bit of history of this remarkable plant in New York. Next, I will cover the steps needed to properly evaluate a wooded site for suitability, using my Visual Site Assessment tool. I will explain a procedure for planting test plots and then discuss specific ways to plant.

There are two systems for growing ginseng in the forest. Wild simulated production requires very specific site conditions that mimic the conditions where wild ginseng grows or grew once upon a time. Many excellent ginseng sites in our region have had their wild ginseng extirpated in the past, but still have optimal growing conditions. For these sites, a wild simulated approach would be the best tactic and once established, the ginseng requires little to no maintenance.

Ginseng roots grown on these sites are virtually identical to truly wild ginseng and are most valuable.

Most woodland areas do not have the same ideal conditions that are required for wild simulated production, but they can still be utilized for “woods-grown” production. This system requires a great deal more preparation work and maintenance, but still can produce highly valuable ginseng.

If you are interested in just growing small quantities of ginseng for your own personal use, I will also discuss “backyard” cultivation that almost anyone can undertake.

Class participants will receive a copy of my bulletin, “The Practical Guide to Growing Ginseng.” I will also have stratified “ready to plant” ginseng seed for sale at the class. Ginseng is always planted in the fall in upstate New York between September and November, so you can go home and start planting immediately!

If you want to attend this class, you must preregister by calling the Agroforestry Resource Center at 518-622-9820. Space is limited and this class often fills up quickly. I am only offering one other similar workshop in New York this fall on Oct. 12 in Ithaca.

Growing ginseng on forested land is a fun way to learn about forest ecology as well as offering a possible financial reward in the future. The best time to plant ginseng in the woods was 20 years ago. The second best time is this fall!

Reach Bob Beyfuss at rlb14@cornell.edu.