Chapter 7. Shading and Blight.
In several years experience growing Ginseng, says a well known grower, I have had no trouble from blight when I shade and mulch enough to keep the soil properly cool, or below 65 degrees, as you will find the temperature in the forests, where the wild plants grow best, even during summer days.
Some years ago I allowed the soil to get too warm, reaching 70 degrees or more. The blight attacked many plants then. This proved to me that growing the plants under the proper. temperature has much to do with blight.
When fungus diseases get upon wild plants, that is plants growing in the forest, in most cases it can be traced to openings, forest fires and the woodman's ax. This allows too much sun to strike the plants and ground in which they are growing. If those engaged, or about to engage, in Ginseng growing will study closely the conditions under which the wild plants flourish best, they can learn much that they will only find out after years of experimenting.
Mr. L. E. Turner in a recent issue of "Special Crops" says: We cannot depend on shade alone to keep the temperature of the soil below 65 degrees—the shade would have to be almost total. In order to allow sufficient light and yet keep the temperature down, we must cover the ground with a little mulch. The more thoroughly the light is diffused the better for the plants. Now, when we combine sufficient light with say one-half inch of clean mulch, we are supplying to the plants their natural environment, made more perfect in that it is everywhere alike.
The mulch is as essential to the healthy growth of the Ginseng plant as clothing is to the comfort and welfare of man; it can thrive without it no more than corn will grow well with it. These are plants of opposite nature. Use the mulch and reduce the shade to the proper density. The mulch is of the first importance, for the plants will do much better with the mulch and little shade than without mulch and with plenty of shade.
Ginseng is truly and wholly a savage. We can no more tame it than we can the partridge. We can lay out a preserve and stock it with Ginseng as we would with partridges, but who would stock a city park with partridges and expect them to remain there? We cannot make a proper Ginseng preserve under conditions halfway between a potato patch and a wild forest, but this is exactly the trouble with a large share of Ginseng gardens. They are just a little too much like the potato patch to be exactly suited to the nature of Ginseng, The plant cannot thrive and remain perfectly healthy under these conditions; we may apply emulsions and physic, but we will find it to be just like a person with an undermined constitution, it will linger along for a time subject to every disease that is in the air and at last some new and more subtle malady will, in spite of our efforts, close its earthly career.
Kind readers, I am in a position to know thoroughly whereof I write, for I have been intimate for many years with the wild plants and with every shade of condition under which they manage to exist. I have found them in the valley and at the hilltop, in the tall timber and the brambled "slashing," but in each place were the necessary conditions of shade and mulch. The experienced Ginseng hunter comes to know by a kind of instinct just where he will find the plant and he does not waste time searching in unprofitable places. It is because he understands its environment. It is the environment he seeks—the Ginseng is then already found. The happy medium of condition under which it thrives best in the wild state form the process of healthy culture.
Mr. Wm. E. Mowrer, of Missouri, is evidently not in favor of the cloth shading. I think if he had thoroughly waterproofed the cloth it would have withstood the action of the weather much better. It would have admitted considerably less light and if he had given enough mulch to keep the soil properly cool and allowed space enough for ventilation, he would not have found the method so disastrous. We will not liken his trial to the potato patch, but to the field where tobacco is started under canvas. A tent is a cool place if it is open at the sides and has openings in the top and the larger the tent the cooler it will be. Ginseng does splendidly under a tent it the tent is built expressly with regard to the requirements of Ginseng.
In point of cheapness a vine shading is yet ahead of the cloth system. The wild cucumber vine is best for this purpose, for it is exactly suited by nature to the conditions in a Ginseng garden. It is a native of moist, shady places, starts early, climbs high and rapidly. The seeds may be planted five or six in a "hill" in the middle of the beds, if preferred, at intervals of six or seven feet, and the vines may be trained up a small pole to the arbor frame. Wires, strings or boughs may be laid over the arbor frame for the vines to spread over. If the shade becomes too dense some of the vines may be clipped off and will soon wither away. Another advantage of the wild cucumber is that it is very succulent, taking an abundance of moisture and to a great extent guards against excessive dampness in the garden. The vines take almost no strength from the soil. The exceeding cheapness of this method is the great point in its favor. It is better to plant a few too many seeds than not enough, for it is easy to reduce the shade if too dense, but difficult to increase it in the summer if too light.
This disease threatens seriously to handicap us in the raising of Ginseng, says a writer in "Special Crops." It does down, but is giving us trouble all over the country. No section seems to be immune from it, tho all seem to be spraying more or less. I know of several good growers whose gardens have gone down during the last season and this, and they state that they began early and sprayed late, but to no decided benefit. What are we to do? Some claim to have perfect success with spraying as their supposed prevention.
Three years ago I began to reason on this subject and in my rambles in the woods, I have watched carefully for this disease, as well as others on the wild plant, and while I have now and then noted a wild plant that was not entirely healthy, I have never seen any evidence of blight or other real serious disease. The wild plant usually appears ideally healthy, and while they are smaller than we grow in our gardens, they are generally strikingly healthful in color and general appearance. Why is this so? And why do we have such a reverse of things among our gardens?
I will offer my ideas on the subject and give my theories of the causes of the various diseases and believe that they are correct and time will prove it. At least I hope these efforts of mine will be the means of helping some who are having so much trouble in the cultivation of Ginseng. The old saw that the "proof of the pudding is in chewing the bag," may be amply verified by a visit to my gardens to show how well my theories have worked so far. I will show you Ginseng growing in its highest state of perfection and not a scintilla of blight or any species of alternaria in either of them, while around me I scarcely know of another healthy garden.
To begin with, moisture is our greatest enemy; heat next; the two combined at the same time forming the chief cause for most diseases of the plant.
If the soil in our gardens could be kept only slightly moist, as it is in the woods, and properly shaded, ventilated and mulched, I am sure such a thing as blight and kindred diseases would never be known. The reason for this lies in the fact that soil temperature is kept low and dry. The roots, as is well known, go away down in the soil, because the temperature lower down is cooler than at the surface.
Here is where mulch plays so important a part because it protects the roots from so much heat that finds its way between the plants to the top of the beds. The mulch acts as a blanket in keeping the heat out and protecting the roots thereby. If any one doubts this, just try to raise the plants without mulch, and note how some disease will make its appearance. The plant will stand considerable sun, however, with heavy enough mulch. And the more sun it can take without harm, the better the root growth will be. Too much shade will show in a spindling top and slender leaves, and invariable smallness of root growth, for, let it be borne in mind always, that the plant must derive more or less food from the top, and it is here that the fungi in numerous forms proceed to attack.
The plant will not grow in any other atmosphere but one surcharged with all kinds of fungi. This is the natural environment of the plant and the only reason why the plants do not all become diseased lies in the plain fact that its vitality is of such a high character that it can resist the disease, hence the main thing in fighting disease is to obtain for the plant the best possible hygienic surroundings and feed it with the best possible food and thus nourish it to the highest vitality.
I am a firm believer in spraying of the proper kind, but spraying will not keep a plant free from disease with other important conditions lacking. Spraying, if heavily applied, is known as a positive injury to the plant, despite the fact that many claim it is not, and the pity is we should have to resort to it in self-defense. The pores of the leaflets are clogged up to a greater or less extent with the deposited solution and the plant is dependent to this extent of its power to breathe.
Coat a few plants very heavily with spray early in the season and keep it on and note how the plants struggle thru the middle of a hot day to get their breath. Note that they have a sluggish appearance and are inclined to wilt. These plants are weakened to a great extent and if an excess of moisture and heat can get to them, they will perhaps die down. Another thing: Take a plant that is having a hard time to get along and disturb the root to some extent and in a day or two notice spots come upon it and the leaves begin to show a wilting. Vitality disturbed again.
The finest plants I have ever found in the woods were growing about old logs and stumps, where the soil was heavily enriched with decaying wood. A good cool spot, generally, and more or less mulch, and if not too much shade present. Where the shade was too dense the roots were always small. I have in some instances found some very fine roots growing in the midst of an old stump with no other soil save the partially rotted stump dirt, showing thus that Ginseng likes decaying wood matter. Upon learning this, I obtained several loads of old rotten sawdust, preferably white oak or hickory and my bed in my gardens is covered at least two inches with it under the leaf mulch. This acts as a mulch and natural food at one and the same time. The leaves decay next to the soil and thus we supply leaf mold.
This leaf mold is a natural requirement of the plant and feeds it also constantly. A few more leaves added each fall keep up the process and in this way we are keeping the plant, wild, which we must do to succeed with it, for Ginseng can not be greatly changed from its nature without suffering the consequences. This is what is the matter now with so many of us. Let's go back to nature and stay there, and disease will not give us so much trouble again.
One more chief item I forgot to mention was the crowding of the plants together. The smaller plants get down under the larger and more vigorous and have a hard struggle for existence. The roots do not make much progress under these conditions, and these plants might as well not be left in the beds. And also note that under those conditions the beds are badly ventilated and if any plants are found to be sickly they will be these kind. I shall plant all my roots henceforth at least ten inches apart each way and give them more room for ventilation and nourishment. They get more chance to grow and will undoubtedly make firm root development and pay largely better in the end. Corn cannot be successfully cultivated in rows much narrower than four feet apart and about two stalks to the hill. All farmers know if the hills are closer and more stalks to the hill the yield will be much less.
At this point I would digress to call attention to the smallness of root development in the woods, either wild or cultivated, because the trees and tree roots sap so much substance from the soil and other weeds and plants help to do the same thing. The shade is not of the right sort, too dense or too sparse in places, and the plants do not make quick growth enough to justify the growing under such conditions, and while supposed to be better for health of plants, does not always prove to be the case. I have seen some gardens under forest shade that blighted as badly as any gardens.
So many speak of removing the leaves and mulch in the spring from the beds. Now, this is absolutely wrong, because the mulch and leaves keep the ground from becoming packed by rains, preserves an even moisture thru the dry part of the season and equalizes the temperature. Temperature is as important as shade and the plants will do better with plenty of mulch and leaves on the beds and considerable sun than with no mulch, dry hard beds and the ideal shade. Roots make but little growth in dry, hard ground. Pull your weeds out by hand and protect your garden from the seng digger thru the summer and that will be your cultivation until September or October when you must transplant your young roots into permanent beds, dig and dry the mature roots.
That Ginseng must have at least some shade is a foregone conclusion but just the exact amount it needs is still debatable. From long experience I find the more sun it has up to the point of turning the foliage from green to a reddish or bronze cast the better will be the root growth. In New York state, we have found that much less than seventy-five per cent of shade would allow so much sunshine as to turn the leaves to a sort of bronze green and sometimes a yellow and seriously injure the plant. Farther south, I think, the shade should be greater than here. For practical all around work about eighty per cent shade is about right for this climate. If the shade is too dense, you will get more seed and less root growth.
Good results have been secured from tree shade, selecting deep rooting trees. but the tendency of all trees to throw their fiber roots up into the mellow and enriched soil is so great that we hesitate to advise plant of trees for this purpose, Should our growers, however, decide to adopt the Korean plan of lifting and resetting their gardens every year, the objection to the rootlets from the trees would be overcome as they would be kept back by the constant digging up of the beds. There is in my mind no question but green shade is the coolest of any shade ever used. Some resort to vines, especially the wild cucumber and grape vines. The wild cucumber is too late here in coming to a point where it really shades. The grape vine is objectionable as it saps the ground worse than tree shade does. The majority of growers adopt lumber in some form, varying from a lath to inch lumber. For lath shading a series of posts are usually set in the ground and these support a framework on which panels of lath are placed. These panels are made in various ways and sizes. Some are made by nailing lath on strips four feet long and still others on strips much longer. Of course, the framework should be made according to the length of panel used. If your lath are one and one-half inches wide the space between each lath should be close to one-half inch. This lath shading in the north where there is liable to be heavy snows, would break it down. Care should be used to have all shading at least six feet above the ground as low shading makes the garden too hot and causes blight and other diseases. Lath is also woven with wire, as used by some farmers for fencing. When used this way it is made in long rolls and rolled out on the framework overhead. Some of the older gardens were shaded with brush and even old fence rails have been used with success. Other hinge their lath panels to a horizontal scantling, fast at the top of the posts, and in summer hook the bottom of one series of panels to the bottom of the next, making the shade in the form of the letter V, the lower point of the V coming in the path and the posts from which the panels are suspended coming in the center of the beds. In winter these panels are unhooked and allowed to swing beside the posts to which they are hooked or tied to prevent swinging in the wind. This shade allows of a sun bath in summer as it is very quickly lowered or raised. This shade is known as the Hetrick shade and I think is patented.
In the March number of Special Crops for 1912, Joseph Hines describes his shade, which is similar to the Hetrick shade, but not patented. We give his letter.
The above is a rough illustration of the way I shade my Ginseng garden.
I make my beds four feet wide and highest in center of beds, making the paths lower than the surface of the ground and about 18 inches wide.
The posts are set before the beds are made, the tops of the posts being seven or eight feet above the surface of the ground and set 8 feet apart, running lengthwise of the beds, and all posts in the center of the beds, out of the way of wheelbarrow going through the paths. The posts will be 5 ½ feet apart, running crosswise from bed to bed.
For the framework on top of the posts, to support the shade, I use strips of boards 3 or 4 inches wide and 1 inch (or more) in thickness, nailing the strips that run crosswise of beds, first, 2 or 3 inches below top of posts and then the strips that run lengthwise of beds to the top of posts resting the bottom of these strips on the upper edge of the strips that run crosswise. Then lay a board, flat, on top of the posts, across both ends of your beds and run a two-strand cable or fence wire over the center of your paths, letting the wire rest on the boards that run crosswise of beds. Each end of the wire will be fastened to the boards which are nailed on top of the posts, crossing the ends of the beds, and should be drawn sufficiently tight to prevent the wire sagging too much.
The shade, or covering, is in sections, 4 feet long and 2 feet 8 or 9 inches wide, one side being hooked to the board which runs over the center of the bed and the other side is hooked up to the wire which runs over the center of the path. The shade may be unhooked from the wire in the fall and allowed to hang during the winter, avoiding the danger of breaking down when loaded with snow and permitting the sun to shine on the beds during the fall and spring when the shade is not required.
I use no side boards around my beds as I consider them a needless expense, a convenient harbor for snails and very much in the way of cultivation.
My experience in Ginseng culture has not been very extensive, and I do not recommend my method of shading to anyone who knows of something better. I am attending this convention hoping to learn something to my advantage, and we have been advised to come prepared to give, as well as take, and if I have an idea of any value to others they are welcome to use it.
Yours very truly,
Athens, Pa. JOSEPH HINES
A Good Shade
The time for planting is here again and many growers will be building additions to their gardens or re-arranging their old shade. The writer gets many inquiries relative to shading, and most of our questioners ask for the best shade. Now, I am not qualified to tell you which of many good schemes for shading is the best, and in fact, it is quite possible that what would be the best shade for me would not be the best somewhere else. Nearly all the soils near Skaneateles are of a heavy loam. Very little sand and very little heavy clay soils. But in practically all our fields here after a heavy rain the soil will crust over, and in very dry weather, if not mulched or cultivated, will crack open so you can put your fingers in the open crevices. With plenty of humus in the soil and under shade this soil retains moisture and becomes at times quite water soaked. This is quite apt to happen in June and July, just the time when blight is the most prevalent. This shading, you will notice, is so arranged as to carry most of the rainfall into the paths. That is what we need here.
You will see by the picture that this method of shading, uses a series of shed roofs all facing one way, and the high or open side should face the north. We arrange our beds east and west; starting on the south side of the first bed we attach a 2 x 4 scantling to a line of posts set firm in the ground. This row of posts is for the fence that goes around the garden, but we use it to attach the first support for the roof. After this first row of posts no more are used save at the ends of the beds, where again we attach the roof supports to the posts. The uprights that support the roof are 2x4 inch, eight feet long, made something like this:
The notches are cut into the upright two by four inches to receive the pieces on which the roof boards are nailed. There are two lines of stringers on each upright after the first one, the upper line-has the upper part of the roof of one bed nailed to it, and the lower line has the low side of the roof of the next bed nailed to it. Each upright is set upon a common brick and is not let down into the ground at all. The uprights stand just in the edge of the bed. The low side of the roof boarding is allowed to project over the lower stringer just enough so the line of uprights may stand in the edge of the bed and still the drip from the roof falls in the path.
The uprights being eight feet long, gives six feet in the clear from the top of the beds to the lowest point of the shading. And, of course, in our soil the paths are six or eight inches below the top of the beds. Then we have two feet from lower to upper stringer, and on this two feet of open space we depend for ventilation. This open space, as we have already said, opens to the north, and as it is all open and the roof slants up to it, it makes an ideal manner of getting rid of the warm air. Of course, you all know warm air rises as it comes up to the underside of the roof boards, it very naturally follows them up until it comes to this open space and then passes out.
We use hemlock lumber, one inch thick by four inches wide and eight feet long and place these boards about one and one-fourth inches apart. The roof boards being eight feet long and one side of the roof two feet higher than the other side makes our beds about seven feet wide from one row of uprights to the next, and with the path out of this we have a bed not over six feet where the plants stand. This is easily reached for weeding. The uprights are braced by nailing a 1 x 4 inch board at an angle of forty-five to both the upper and lower roof stringers. This makes the posts stand upright and at the same time supports the roof stringers so there is no danger of snow breaking it down, even though the garden is in a snowy country. We have had drifts between two and three feet deep on our shading of this kind, but have never had any breaks. This shade is rather costly but not as much so as one would first think. In this locality a ten-foot fence post will cost you from twenty-five to thirty cents and in this shading, as a 2 x 4 scantling is all that is used, the cost is only about ten cents for each post or upright. Again, the length of the roof boards (8 feet) is the cheapest length of lumber we have. It being one inch thick gives it strength and stiffness as well as durability. We have found that this high shade with the ventilation it gives and the fact that it throws a large part of the rainfall into the paths, makes a garden almost blight proof without spraying.
I think the Hetrick shade also gives all the advantages of this shade that we have described, but aside from that I know of no shade that suits our soil and climate as well. I should imagine that a sandy soil would not require that rainfall to be turned to the paths the same as our soil does. No matter what the soil or what the shade, good drainage is absolutely essential.
There is also another shade which the writer esteems very highly. This was described in Special Crops, September 1912, as follows:
Cloth has been used as shading material, largely in the form of burlaps stretched over a framework. Any shading of this nature, however, will ruin any garden, from lack of ventilation. I was in a garden of two acres, once, all shaded with burlaps, both on sides and top and it was so warm in there and the air so humid, that I absolutely had to get out of the garden or faint. About two weeks after that I learned that the plants had all gone down with blight, and a little later, still, a heavy wind storm took the burlaps all off and ended this useless shade. No material that shuts out the air is desirable. The only way that I know of that a cloth shade can be used is to draw pieces of cloth through the meshes of wire netting. The same result may be accomplished by weaving through the meshes cat tail flags, or, for that matter, almost anything that will stand the weather. The wire makes the foundation and I can well believe, for a flat shade, this to be the peer of any, both in efficiency and cost.
Ginseng and Other Medicinal Plants, 1936, was written by A. R. Harding.