Many growers choose the “rake and scatter method” to plant their seeds mainly because it’s the easiest of all methods. However, in recent years, through scientific research, I have been enlightened to the benefits of planting ginseng seeds .5-.75 inches in the soil. Here are the benefits of planting ginseng seeds at this depth.
First, and the most obvious to me, is the benefit of hiding seeds from ginseng predators such as mice and turkey. And while piling small branches on top of the leaves may deter turkey, it does nothing to prevent mice from destroying them. If mice find but one seed, they’ll search for others until they can find no more.
Second, I will talk about how seeding depth effects survival of seedlings in their first year of growth. Seeds sown on the soil surface germinate fairly easily with little effort. That’s something important to survival. However, once sprouted, the seedlings have to work to grow down into the soil. I call this “getting its leg’s established”. The roots have to grow down in the soil further to reach nutrients and moisture, pertinent to survival. If there’s a drought, many of these seedlings will not survive. They simply aren’t established enough for their roots to be in that happy zone where they can take up moisture in drought times. And trust me, though we’ve had record rain the past couple years, drought will come. Also, seedlings with root systems closer to the surface would be destroyed by forest fires, should they occur.
Last, and most importantly, planting depth of ginseng seeds determine the characteristics of their roots throughout their growing cycle. Seeds planted on the soil surface produce more longer roots with more hairs. The Chinese market desires more short bulbous roots with less hairs. Planting ginseng seeds at a half-inch to three-fourths of one inch under the soil would give a more desirable root. Hence, making them more valuable. In addition, I will add, planting seeds any deeper than one inch increases the chances of seedling death by soil-borne diseases. While both methods of planting ginseng seeds can be successful, the factors that helped me decide planting seeds under the soil outweigh the “rake and scatter method”. Some rake rows in the soil, plant the seeds at a desirable space in rows and cover with dirt and walk in. Then, covering with leaf litter. 2-3 inches of leaf litter is sufficient. Adding more than this can result in less germination. They simply cannot grow up through that much. Also, there are ginseng seed planters available to achieve the same results. With this planting tool, it is placed where you want the seed, a hole is punched through the leaves and the seed dropped in the hole. Rain and later winter frost heaves will finish covering the seeds to the proper seeding depth. There’s little disturbance to the planting area, decreasing chances of spreading fungal spores. To the eye, one can’t tell any seeds were even planted there. Also, many seeds are lost by close spacing with the rake and scatter method. Seedlings close together will compete for nutrients and water, ending in more seedling attrition. My hopes are to help growers, both new and old, better understand how these planting methods work to their advantage.
*Before planting any bought seeds, it is imperative to disinfect them prior to planting. Bought seeds carry blight and fungus that can be spread to new areas of the seeds aren’t treated properly. And sometimes, even inside the seed kernel itself. There are two ways to disinfect ginseng seeds. The first method requires soaking the seeds in a 9:1 ratio of water and bleach for a few minutes and rinsing with fresh water. The second method requires about a 4 hour soak in 4 ounces of 3% peroxide and one gallon of water. The only advantage to using the peroxide disinfectant is peroxide has been proven to help soften the seed kernel for easier germination the following spring.