Chapter 17. Golden Seal Cultivation.
[Golden seal (Hydrastis) is endangered. Don't use it unless you know it's cultivated, not wildcrafted. --Henriette]
BOTANICAL NAME: Hydrastis Canadensis.
It has been proven beyond all doubt that Golden Seal will not grow in the open field. That being the case we have two general lines of cultivation open for us to follow. One is to use natural shade, which comprises forest shade and also orchard and vine shading, and, in fact, any kind of shading where plants, shrubs, vines or trees are used to make the shade. The other method is by purely artificial means and using materials for the shade proper that do not draw either moisture or fertility from the soil. This consists of wood, metal and in some cases, vegetable fiber. The only reason Golden Seal will not grow in the open field is that the plant needs and must have shade of some kind. Were it not for the lack of shade, seal would grow in any of our fields where our common grains will grow.
When we follow nature closely we are less liable to be troubled with disease such as blight and other fungi. In the cultivations of this crop, we must bear in mind that nature in this case is very slow and if we follow nature we must expect also to go slow. I think, perhaps, it would be best to first consider the natural way of growing seal. Wild seal propagates in two ways, principally by the formation of new plants on the long slim fiber roots some distance away from the parent plant. The rhizome of the seal plant sends out, according to the vigor of the individual plant, from a half dozen up to as high as one hundred or more fiber roots, all nearly of one size and all very long and slim holding their full size to near the extreme end. Some of these roots are two feet in length and I have seen them over three feet.
When the root becomes fairly matured small plants start on the long slim roots and after two or three seasons, when this new plant gets well started, the root on which it formed will perish away somewhere between it and the parent plant, thus forming a separate and distinct plant.
The other method of increase by the wild plant is by seed. The seed ripens the last of July or fore part of August and when first changing in color from the green into a bright scarlet, and later turning to crimson, and if not disturbed or shaken from the plant, often dries and then turns to a very dark brown. If the seed remains dry for any length of time, it kills it outright. If by chance the seed falls soon after ripe and is soon covered by leaves so it will not dry out, it will grow the following spring. From close and long observation, I am inclined to think very few seeds ever grow in the wild state. Birds do scatter a few and they are more liable to grow for the reason that they are taken from the parent plant before drying and stripped of the pulp surrounding them. They are more liable to find their way when dropped among the leaves and litter to a place where they will not dry up. This plant is purely a bedding plant and often is found as a thick compact mass of plants. It sometimes happens that they get so thick and crowded that rot sets in, usually where the roots are thickest. This starting in the center of a large old root rarely extends to the extreme ends and in that manner often makes several separate pieces of root with the center, and also the buds gone, but after a season or two, new buds will form on these pieces and thus practically new separate plants are formed. A plant from seed the first season in the forest is very small and does not have the proper seal leaf until the second year. The accompanying cut shows an average wild seedling the first season, both root and top.
If the grower decides to select the forest for his garden, he should first remove all fiber root, of trees and large plants that come in the bed. He should also be very careful to select the location of each bed so as it will be well shaded during the middle of the day. The large trees will throw their fiber roots into this mellow prepared bed and by the end of the second summer the gardener will find his beds crowded with them and the seal plants from that time on will make very slow growth, unless he again clears all these fiber roots out. To do this he will have to take up a few hundred first and heal them in some soft mellow soil where they will remain in good condition for some time without attention. Then clear out the roots and mellow up the plat of ground where he dug them and get it ready to plant again. Then, as fast as he digs up other roots, set or plant them at once in the prepared bed. In this manner he can dig and reset his plant and not harm them by drying or exposing them to sun and wind. By transplanting them after two years, they will again make a good growth and by the end of the fourth summer will be ready to harvest. That is, if good, fair plants were used to start with.
A much larger growth, however, can be secured by growing this plant in good garden soil under artificial shade. It has been supposed that virgin soil must be used; this is not the case. Any good soil that will grow a fair crop of garden vegetables is all right for Golden Seal. Select well drained, mellow, friable soil and if not rich, give it a heavy coat of stable manure, and work it all one summer by spading or ploughing and harrowing once a week. This will mix the manure and also sprout and get rid of weed seeds. By the first of September, your garden will be ready to plant. In preparing for planting, I advise that the ground be laid off into beds of a suitable width to accommodate whatever shading you use. I also find the plants to thrive better if the beds are raised somewhat above the level. We level the ground and then draw a line where we want the edge of the bed, and with round-pointed shovel throw out about eight inches of soil from the paths, placing this soil on the beds. I do not use the edge boards as they cost considerable and really are not needed.
In planting, we first determine how long we want the bed to stand before harvesting or resetting. Also much depends on the plants we have on hand. If we are planting good, strong plants and intend to dig them after three seasons' growth, we plant six by eight inches. Usually the rows eight inches apart and the plants six inches apart. If we desire them to remain four years, then we plant eight by eight inches, and if the bed is to remain more than four years undisturbed, they should be planted at least eight by ten inches. The reason for this is, that as this is a bedding plant and increases by adding new stalks from the rhizome and, also by new plants forming on the fiber roots, it, in time, becomes so thick that it would kill itself out if allowed to get too crowded. When it gets so thick that the entire ground is covered and the soil all taken up with little roots, it must be lifted. If not, the tops will decay close to the ground from lack of air and the roots themselves are very apt to decay. The crown or bud, in planting, should be placed about two inches under the surface and if the roots have many long, fibrous roots, we always, with a sharp knife, cut them off about two inches from the rhizome. This helps in arranging the roots and spreading them out in planting, and also makes the plant fully as vigorous. The little ends, where cut, will usually throw out each two tiny plants soon after being put in the ground.
Golden Seal is one of the few plants that can safely be planted any time of the year, when the ground is not frozen so it cannot be worked. During May and June is the time that most diggers of this wild root begin to collect it for planting. It is in blossom in this state in May. Some of the collectors of this root still leave the top on when they are collecting for planting in the garden, but this should not be done as the wilted top draws hard on the disturbed root. Take the top off as soon as dug and then if planted soon the roots will get hold and in about three weeks another top will appear and often this second top will bear seed that same season. The gardener has several sources of supply to select from when buying his plants for starting a garden. First, because as yet the most abundant, comes the wild root as gathered by the root collectors. Then plants grown from seed in gardens, but in this connection the practice of planting yearling roots from seed is not to be advised, as they are too small to stand it. Two year old, grown in garden, is an ideal plant for transplanting. Another good plant comes from cutting up older garden plants and still another choice is the small plants started from layering pieces of fiber roots. We will describe each of this separately.
Fig. 1 is from a photograph of a wild root but shows rather more fibers than the average wild root as received from the collector. It is a good root for planting and is about the size that you should expect when buying wild roots from a digger for your planting. Of course, some will be larger and some smaller but this is a fair average. Such roots as this should remain about four years after planting. They will bear to be planted about six by eight inches. If the ground is very rich and the plants do extra well, it may happen that at the end of the third summer after planting, that the roots will have fully occupied the ground and the tops also occupy all the overhead room. If this should be the case, you should harvest them, as another season's growth in, that crowded condition will surely invite decay and that will mean a heavy loss to the grower. Last fall (1913) the writer harvested a plot of this class of roots that had been planted three years and dried them and at market prices of dry root ($4.50). the roots brought some over $12,000.00 to the acre.
The next choice at the present time would be two-year roots from seed. See Fig. 2. This is not a two-year from the forest or from a forest garden for, as a rule, such would not reach the size represented in this picture from a photo, which was three-fourths natural size. The coming plant will be these two-year-olds from gardens. At present there are not enough of them to supply the demand and, of course, the price is high. As soon as the cultivation of Golden Seal is well established these will be, in my I mind, what will be sought for by the planters. I have not grown any of these two-year-olds to maturity but have seen them where they had been transplanted as two-year-olds and then grown three years and it is my opinion they are fully equal to the transplanted wild roots and probably will average to make a larger growth but at the present time the price of cultivated two year-olds is nearly twice that of good wild roots. With that difference, I think, it more profitable to buy the wild root for planting. As wild roots become fewer and the cultivated more plenty, the price will be changed and possibly reversed.
Another grade of roots for planting is shown in Fig 3. These plants are divisions of large plants. The reset wild plants make better root to divide than the strictly cultivated plants, as the rhizome is larger in proportion to the fiber roots. The plants represented in Fig. 3 were taken from mature roots by cutting into lengths of about one-half inch of the rhizome and the cutting was so planned as to give each piece a bud. Parts of the root where a bud could not be given may be dried for market or if plants are greatly to be desired these may be planted and they will form buds but will be about one year behind those that had good strong buds. While most of them will form buds and come up the first season, they will not be as strong and growthy as the others. To make this class of plants one need not wait for maturity of root but may dig up a plot that has had but one season's growth and they will be able to make at least two plants from one on an average. This class of plants are stronger than either of the two first named, but considering their value to dry and sell as dry root, they are really more costly than the others. However, I am planting these in preference to any others, when I can get them.
Still another class of plants for the gardener to consider are those represented in Fig. 4. The four little plants shown in the photo at Fig. 4 were produced by layering pieces of fiber roots in soft loam with a little gray sand added, but are identical with the little plants formed on the fiber roots of mature plants and in harvesting a crop of four-year-olds for drying, enough of these would be found to reset the plot. If the gardener is anxious to increase his garden he can, from one mature plant, cut from one hundred to five hundred of these pieces and by layering get from fifty to seventy-five per cent of them to form buds. The two upper ones in the cut have had one season's growth and another year they will grow rapidly. The two lower ones were cut from the parent plant ten weeks before the picture was taken and at the' time of layering showed no indications of forming a bud. At that time, out of two thousand pieces layered in November and placed in a warm cellar as an experiment, about two hundred had formed buds. It is, at this writing, about three weeks since we counted the two hundred that had formed buds, and today we find forty-five more. This process will continue for nearly a year but nearly all will form buds sooner or later. This class of plants grow slow the first year but after they are established, make good, thrifty stock. This is the favorite manner of increase of this plant in its wild state.
Caring for the Seed.
Golden Seal Seed is more difficult to handle than most seeds the gardener is accustomed to and the ordinary farmer or city man is doomed to failure unless he carefully posts himself, First, get it firmly fixed in the mind that at no time should this seed be allowed to get dry clear through. The seed ripens in July or August, according to the locality where it grows. The seed head contains from ten to thirty small shiny black seeds and is similar to a common red raspberry. As it begins to turn from green to red the color is scarlet and as it begins to verge on crimson is the best time to gather.
As soon as gathered, separate the seeds from the pulp. This may be done by placing the berries in a sieve, the meshes of which will not allow the seeds to pass through and then rub and crush with the hand; then with a copious supply of water wash out all the juice and pulp possible. By persistent rubbing and washing most of the juice and pulp can be eliminated; then layer the seeds with at least twice their bulk of fine sifted loam and let stand a month, when the seed will be ready to plant. Another method of getting rid of the pulp is to run the berries through an Enterprise meat chopper, being careful to use such attachments as will not crush very many seeds. Then wash and treat as above.
This seed grows the spring following the harvest and should always be planted in the fall. If the attempt is made to carry it over until warm weather comes in spring, it is almost sure to sprout and spoil. It can be kept over, however, by placing it layered in the loam in boxes with perforated tops and bottoms and burying the box in the garden, where it will be kept cold and even freeze. Fig. 5 shows the seed or upper leaf on the stalk and also the seed berry.
Harvesting, Drying and Marketing.
The digging of Golden Seal should not be undertaken when the soil is very dry, especially if soil is heavy, as many of the fiber roots will break off and be lost. The gardener should also wait until the leaves and tops have died down, as that is the time when they weigh the heaviest and are the strongest in medicinal properties. If the tops have been killed with frost, wait two weeks to let them harden and mature, as they were-killed before this process was completed. A spading fork is, a good thing. to dig with; shake off what dirt you can as soon as dug as it comes off better then.
In washing, great care should be taken to get them clean. An old splint basket or large sieve with a good stream of water running into it is all right. Very large roots will have to be broken apart in order to get the dirt clinging to the rhizome among the thick sprangles of fiber roots. This breaking and dividing does not hurt their market value as it does in the case of Ginseng.
If there are small roots to be saved for replanting, this should be done as soon as the roots are dug and the little fellows carefully healed in the garden or moist loam in boxes. The drying is very simple. Spread thin on floor of a warm room or place on screens over moderate heat. Be sure that the larger parts of the root are perfectly dry before putting away, as it will cause the whole to mould if these are still damp. The drying should be done in the shade.
This root needs no sorting or other preparations for market after it is dry. Select a clean, light box to pack it in, line the box with paper, put in a few inches of roots and fibers, just as they grew, and then press down firmly. I do this by setting box on the floor and using my feet, placing my whole weight on them. This breaks many of the fiber roots but it does no harm.
Wild roots are worth the most because they have the least fiber in proportion to the weight of rhizome. In other words, the rhizome is the strongest part of the root and the price is based on the proportion of that part of the root as compared with the fiber roots.
That the general reader may get an idea of the difference in growth of the cultivated root and the wild, we give two illustrations, life size.
Fig. 6 is a yearling, cultivated from seed, and has had one season's growth. Fig. 7 is precisely the same age but is a wild, or forest grown, plant. Note the difference in the leaf; the wild seedling has not as yet developed the true seal leaf and has only the two little round baby leaves, while the garden plant has two distinct seal leaves. This marked difference in growth will follow throughout the life of the plant unless great care is taken to keep the roots of the trees and larger forest plants from robbing the seal of moisture and fertility. To give some idea as to what can be done we have known cultivated seal roots to reach fourteen, sixteen, and in one case, eighteen ounces, dry weight, and this in only six years, from the wild plant and in a country where seal does not grow wild. The above large grow th occurred on the Pacific Coast. The largest we have seen grown in the north was one pound, green weight, at five years.
The seal grower, however, should be cautioned against high fertilizing, as it is liable to cause disease. Acid Phosphate should not be used, as we have known several cases where it caused the immediate death of the plants. Neither should raw manure be used. Well rotted stable manure is the best fertilizer we know of and is also best mulch. It is not necessary to use mulch but in many cases it is advisable as it conserves moisture and keeps back many small weeds. Our own gardens of seal we cultivate the top about one and one-half inches deep and keep it very fine and mellow all summer. This acts as a mulch and keeps the soil always moist and the plants growing. Care should be used in mulching seed beds as too heavy a mulch will cause a vacant spot in your beds the next summer. One inch of saw dust or buckwheat hulls is the limit and one and one-half inches of well rotted manure. Leaves, unless well rotted, should never be used on seed beds unless taken off early in the spring.
Golden Seal is unlike Ginseng, in that the market for it is based on its real value. From this plant are extracted the alkaloids, Hydrastinine and also Berberine, two preparations used by every physician in the country. Besides there is a large export demand. The growing of this plant must be resorted to if the drug trade is to be supplied with these alkaloids, and it is opening a very large and, profitable field.
The cultivated root, when it attains age, becomes an irregular shaped chunked root or mass of roots. The first season after planting it usually throws up but one stalk but during the summer one or more new buds will start from other parts of the rhizome and the second summer two to four stalks will appear and this process continues until we find an old plant with as high as twenty stalks and as the root enlarges where each stalk comes out, we have a very irregular mass not at all resembling the one straight, little, wild root planted. Fig. 8 is a medium-sized root of this sort, weighing, green, six ounces.
This far no disease has attacked the seal plant, and if growers do not manure it too highly, we are not looking for any, but we should all remember that for ages and ages, this plant has been pinched for food and has been taught to rough it. Slow growth in nature means stability and if we reverse the conditions and force the plant by coddling and high feeding, we are liable to undermine the constitution, no matter how rugged.
In shading this plant, the general instructions given for Ginseng will suffice and I should add here that the more sun you give it, up to the point of burning, the larger root growth you will get and not only that but also the larger per cent of Hydrastinine, or Hydrastine, as it is usually spelled. The U. S. Official Pharmacopia calls for this roof to analyze two and five-tenths per cent of Hydrastine. The wild root, dug in the fall, will exceed this by four or fivetenths of one per cent, sometimes reaching three per cent of Hydrastine. Spring dug root, although wild, will barely reach the standard. Cultivated root, fall dug, rhizome and fibers as they grew, will exceed the standard, but the fiber roots alone will not come up to the standard. This root loses somewhat of its medicinal value if kept any great length of time, after it is dried. The rhizome, or root proper, and also the fiber roots, are the parts used in medicine. Of late years the tops of this plant have come into use and now command about the same price that the roots did twenty years ago, which is around twenty cents per pound.
Since 1894 the price has advanced from about twenty cents per pound until in 1911 the price reached $4.50 and for extra quality, a little above that. In 1912, owing to the high price of the year before more than usual was marketed and the price dropped for a time but recovered to $4.50 or better in 1913.
To properly plant and shade one acre, with good plants and good substantial lumber shade, cost at present a little over $2,000.00 This will vary some in different localities, as the price of roots and lumber and labor will vary, but will come close to this, estimate. The returns from one acre, at four years from planting, will average $10,000.00 or better and at five years would reach an average of at least $15,000.00 and in many cases will go far beyond this and, of course, with the careless and slipshod grower will fall far short of it.
I learned when a boy, by actual experience, that Golden Seal and Ginseng will not grow in open cultivated fields or gardens, I tried it faithfully. The soil must be virgin, or made practically so by the application of actual "new land" in such quantities that to prepare an acre for the proper growth of these plants would be almost impossible. And to furnish and keep in repair artificial shade for, say, an acre, would cost quite a little fortune. Of course one may cultivate a few hundred or few thousand in artificially prepared beds and shaded by artificial means, but to raise these plants successfully in anything like large quantities we must let nature herself prepare the beds and the shade.
When we follow nature closely we will not be troubled with diseases, such as blight and fungus. I know this by actual experience dear, and therefore dear to me.
Plants propagate themselves naturally by seedage, root suckers, and by root formation upon the tips of pendulous boughs coming in contact with the ground. Man propagates them artificially in various ways, as by layering, cuttings, grafting or budding, in all of which he must follow nature. The Golden Seal plant is readily propagated by any of the three following methods: (1) by seed; (2) by division of the large roots; (3) by suckers, or by small plants which form on the large fibrous roots.
The seed berries should be gathered as soon as ripe, and mashed into a pulp, and left alone a day or two in a vessel, then washed out carefully and the seed stored in boxes of sandy loam on layers of rock moss, the moss turned bottom side up and the seed scattered thickly over it, then cover with about one-half inch of sandy loam, then place another layer of moss and seed, until you have four or five layers in a box. The box may be of any convenient size. The bottom of the box should be perforated with auger holes to secure good drainage. If water be allowed to stand upon the seeds they will not germinate, neither will they germinate if they become dry. The seeds should be kept moist but not wet. They may be sown in the fall, but, I think the better way, by far, is to keep your box of seeds in a cellar where they will not freeze until the latter part of winter or very early spring. If your seeds have been properly stratified and properly kept you will find by the middle of January that each little black seed has burst open and is wearing a beautiful shining golden vest. In fact, it is beginning to germinate, and the sooner it is put into the seed-bed the better. If left too long in the box you will find, to your displeasure, a mass of tangled golden thread-like rootlets and leaflets, a total loss.
To prepare a seed-bed, simply rake off the forest leaves from a spot of ground where the soil is rich and loamy, then with your rake make a shallow bed, scatter the seeds over it, broadcast, being careful not to sow them too thick. Firm the earth upon them with the back of the hoe or tramp them with the feet. This bed should not be near a large tree of any kind, and should be protected from the sun, especially from noon to 3 P.M.
The Golden Seal seedling has two round seed leaves upon long stems during the first season of its growth. These seed leaves do not resemble the leaves of tile Golden Seal plant. The second and usually the third years the plant has one leaf. These seedlings may. be set in rows in beds for cultivation in the early spring of the second or third year. This plant grows very slowly from seed for the first two or three years, after which the growth is more satisfactory.
By the second method, i. e., by division of the large roots, simply cut the roots up into pieces about one-fourth inch long and stratify in the same way as recommended for seeds, and by spring each piece will have developed a bud, and will be ready to transplant into beds for cultivation.
This is a very satisfactory and a very successful method of propagating this plant. The plants grow off strong and robust from the start and soon become seed bearing.
By the third method we simply let nature do the work. If the plants are growing in rich, loose, loamy soil, so the fibrous roots may easily run in every direction, the whole bed will soon be thickly set with plants. These may be taken up and transplanted or may be allowed to grow and develop where they are.
This is the method by which I propagate nearly all of my plants. It is a natural way and the easiest of the three ways to practice.
As to the proper soil and location for a Golden Seal garden I would recommend a northern or northeastern exposure. The soil should be well drained and capable of a thrifty growth of deciduous trees. It should contain an ample supply of humus made of leaf mold. It will then be naturally loose and adapted to the growth of Golden Seal. Cut out all undergrowth and leave for shade trees that will grow into value. I am growing locust trees for posts in my Golden Seal garden. I do not think fruit trees of any kind suitable for this purpose.
In preparing the ground for planting simply dig a trench with a mattock where you intend to set a row. This loosens up the soil and makes the setting easy. Set the plants in this row four to six inches apart. For convenience I make the rows up and down the hill. In setting spread the fibrous roots out each way from the large main root and cover with loose soil about one to two inches deep, firming the soil around the plant with the hands. Be very careful not to put the fibrous roots in a wad down in a hole. They do not grow that way. Plants may be set any time through the summer, spring or fall, if the weather be not too dry. The tops will sometimes die down, in which case the root will generally send up a new top in a few days. If it does not it will form a bud and prepare for growth the next spring. The root seldom if ever dies from transplanting. I know of no plant that is surer to grow when transplanted that Golden Seal. I make the rows one foot to fifteen inches apart. It does not matter as it will soon fill the spaces with sucker plants any way.
The cultivation of Golden Seal is very simple. If you have a deep, loose soil filled with the necessary humus your work will be to rid the plot of weeds, and each fall add to the fall of forest leaves a mulch of rotten leaves.
Do not set the plants deeper than they grew in a natural state, say about ½ to ¾ inch. Spread the fibrous roots out in all directions and cover with leaf mold or some fine, loamy new soil. Water if the ground be at all dry. Then mulch with old forest leaves that have begun to decay. Let the mulch be about three or four inches deep and held on by a few light brush. The wind would blow the leaves away if not thus held in place. Be careful, however, not to press the leaves down with weights.
Remove the brush in the early spring, but let the leaves remain. The plants will come up thru them all right. This plants grows best in a soil made tip entirely of decayed vegetation, such as old leaf beds and where old logs have rotted and fallen back to earth. If weeds or grass begin to grow in your beds pull them up before they get a start. Be careful to do this. Do not hoe or dig up the soil any way. The fibrous roots spread out in all directions just under the mulch. To dig this up would very much injure the plants.
I think the plants should be set in rows about one foot apart, and the plants three or four inches apart in the rows. This would require about 1,000 plants to set one square rod. My Golden Seal garden is in a grove of young locust trees that are rapidly growing into posts and cash. The leaves drop down upon my Golden Seal and mulch it sufficiently. The locust belongs to the Leguminous family of plants, so while the leaves furnish the necessary shade they drink in the nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposit great stores of it in the soil. This makes the soil porous and loose and gives the plant a very healthy dark green appearance.
We have only to follow the natural manner of the growth of the Golden Seal to be successful in its culture. Select a piece of sloping land, so as to be well drained, on the north or northeast side of the hill—virgin soil if possible. Let the soil be rich and loamy, full of leaf mold and covered with rotting leaves and vegetation. This is the sort of soil that Golden Seal grows in, naturally.
It is hard to fix up a piece of ground, artificially, as nature prepares it, for a wild plant to grow in. So select a piece if possible that nature has prepared for you. Do not clear your land. Only cut away the larger timber. Leave the smaller stuff to grow and shade your plants. There is no shade that will equal a natural one for Ginseng or Golden Seal.
Now, take a garden line and stretch it up and down the hill the distance you want your bed to be wide. Mark the place for the row along the line with a mattock, and dig up the soil to loosen it, so as to set the plants, or, rather, plant the roots easily. With a garden dibble, or some other like tool make a place for each plant. Set the plants 4 to 6 inches apart in the row. The crown of the plant or bud should be set about I inch beneath the surface.
Firm the earth around the plant carefully. This is an important point and should be observed in setting any plant.
More plants are lost each year by carelessly leaving the earth loose over and around the roots than from any other cause. Do not leave a trench in the row. This may start a wash. Let the rows be about I foot apart. If land is no item to you, the rows may be further apart. They will, if properly cared for, in a few years, by sending up sprouts from the roots, fill up the end completely.
When you have finished setting your bed, cover it with a good mulch of rotten leaves from the forest and throw upon them some brush to keep the wind from blowing them away. By spring the leaves will settle down compactly and you will be pleased to see your plants grow luxuriously. October and November are the best months of the year in which to set Golden Seal plants. They are, also, the months in which it should be dug for the market. It may be set in the spring if the plants are near by. The roots will always grow if not allowed to dry before transplanting.
If your bed does not supply you with plants fast enough by suckering, you may propagate plants by cutting the roots into pieces about one-fourth inch long, leaving as many fibrous roots on each piece as possible. These cuttings should be made in September or October and placed in boxes of sand over winter. The boxes should be kept in a cellar where they will not freeze. By spring these pieces will have developed a bud and be ready for transplanting, which should be done just as early as the frost leaves the ground so it can be worked.
All the culture needed by this plant is to mulch the beds with forest leaves each fall and keep it clear of grass and field weeds. Wild weeds do not seem to injure it.
Golden Seal transplants easily and responds readily to proper cultivation. There is no witchcraft in it. The seeds ripen in a large red berry in July to germinate, if planted at once, the next spring. The fibrous roots, if stratified in sand loam in the autumn, will produce fine plants. Any good, fresh, loamy soil, that is partially shaded will produce a good Golden Seal.
You want soil that is in good tilth, full of humus and life, and free from grasses and weeds. It will stand a great deal more sunlight than Ginseng. It will also produce a crop of marketable roots much quicker than Ginseng. There is no danger of an over supplied market, as the whims of a nation changing, or of a boycott of a jealous people. I have my little patch of Golden Seal that I am watching and with which I am experimenting.
I want to say right here that you do not need a large capital to begin the culture of these plants that are today being exploited by different parties for cultivation. just get a little plot of virgin soil, say six yards long by one yard wide and divide it into two equal lots. Then secure from the woods or from some one who has stock to sell about 100 plants of each, then cultivate or care for your apron garden and increase your plantation from your beds as you increase in wisdom and in the knowledge of the culture of these plants.
The Bible says "Despise not the day of small things." Do not, for your own sake, invest a lot of money in a "Seng" or Seal plantation or take stock in any exploiter's scheme to get rich quick by the culture of these plants. Some one has written a book entitled "Farming by Inches." It is a good book and should be in every gardener's library. Now, if there be any crops that will pay a big dividend on the investment farmed by inches, "Seng" and Seal are the crops.