Growing ginseng is one of the best ways to turn your backyard or acreage into extra income growing these high-value plants, which can produce roots worth several hundred dollars per pound. If you’re new to growing ginseng, you’ve got questions. Here are answers to the most common questions asked by folks who are interested in growing ginseng for profit.
1. Why grow ginseng?
Most new growers are attracted by the potential profits, as the prices for mature ginseng roots has been climbing steadily in the last few years. As I write this, prices for quality roots are going for between $300 to $600 per pound. Also, ginseng is an ideal crop if you’ve got a patch of hardwood trees, such as maple or oak, that you don’t plan to harvest for a few years.
2. Do I have the right climate to grow ginseng?
Ginseng can do well in most climates. You need to grow in an area that has a four-season climate and is exposed to some sub-freezing weather. Cold will help break your ginseng’s dormancy, and will lead to it sprouting in the spring. Ginseng also prefers a shady spot under a canopy of hardwood trees.
3. What kind of soil do I need to grow ginseng?
Healthy soil is important for any plant, and it’s certainly important for ginseng. A sandy loam is the best soil for growing ginseng, with plenty of organic matter and good drainage. Test the pH – it should be 6.0 to 6.5 for a healthy ginseng crop. This pH range allows the growing plants to use the nutrients in the soil effectively, and discourages bacterial diseases.
4. Which growing method should I use?
The artificial shade method can be a good one, but it costs several thousand dollars an acre for the shade cloth and poles to get started. If you have a few acres of hardwood trees, then the wild-simulated method can work great for you. Chances are the woods-cultivated method will be the one you’ll use. You simply use the natural shade of a forest canopy of hardwood trees, such as maple, oak and sycamore.
5. How is ginseng propagated?
Ginseng is grown from seed. At three years of age, the ginseng plant produces a abundant crop of berries each fall, which can be harvested, cleaned and planted or sold. Because the seed is free, many growers prefer to use their own seed for new plantings, rather than buying rootlets from other growers.
6. How can I tell when my harvested roots are dry?
Properly dried roots should make a crisp “snap!” sound when broken. You can dry your roots naturally by placing them in a covered area, spread out on a screened rack. If there isn’t proper air circulation, use a fan and keep it running for two to four weeks. At that time your roots should be dried. Break a few and see if you get that “snap” sound. Ginseng buyers insist on well-dried roots when they inspect a grower’s harvest, as they are paying by the pound.
7. How should I control pest and disease problems?
First of all, having a healthy, well-drained soil should stop a lot of potential pest and disease problems. If some problems do arise, only use natural pesticides to stop them. Try yellow sticky traps for most pest problems. Be sure to do regular weeding, but be careful not to harm your roots. Check for proper air circulation, and thin underbrush regularly, as that will keep the air moving and help keep disease under control.
8. How can I sell ginseng roots?
There are three main ways to sell ginseng roots. First is to sell directly to wholesale buyers. This gets you paid right away, and you can sell right out of your backyard nursery. Second is to sell to out-of-state buyers. Take good care in shipping your ginseng. Pack it like you’re packing fine china! Finally, you can sell to ginseng brokers, who buy ginseng in bulk and then resell it to other people.
9. How much does it cost to start a ginseng business?
You can start your own ginseng business with not much money. Using the wild-simulated or woods-cultivated method, you should be able to start a quarter-acre ginseng garden for less than $1,000. Using the wild-simulated method, the experts recommend a seeding rate of twenty pounds per acre. Using the woods cultivated method, a seeding rate of sixty pounds per acre is recommended. Over a six year growing cycle, that quarter-acre could produce as much as $50,000 worth of roots, seeds and rootlets.
10. Using the woods-cultivated method, how do I start my growing beds?
First clear away any underbrush in the area. You want underbrush to be at least 10 feet away from the growing beds. Next use a walk-behind tiller to work the soil over several times until you can loosen it to at least a depth of six inches. If you’re planting seeds, plant them one-half to one inch deep and three inches apart. Be sure to keep the rows about eight inches apart. For rootlets, plant them at an angle that is about 45 degrees from vertical. You want the bud to be an inch below the soil surface.
11. When will my mature roots be ready to sell?
In most cases, your mature roots will be ready to sell after five or six years. If you want to harvest mature roots sooner, plant rootlets, as that can give you a crop of mature roots in only three years.
12. Can I sell anything from my ginseng garden in the meantime?
Yes you can. Seeds and rootlets can be ready for sale as soon as three years after you started your ginseng garden. They can make you good money too. For example, seeds are currently selling for around $150 a pound and rootlets for $2 each.
Think about these 12 questions and their answers. Hopefully these answered the questions you might have. Now that you’ve gotten some answers, you’re ready to start growing ginseng for profit. Good luck! To discover more about growing ginseng, read Growing Ginseng For Profit.