I put down both gypsum and bonemeal when I planted mine this fall/winter.
My place is a little low on calcium (just under 1500) and also low on phosphorous per soil test.
On the beds I planted last fall (late Oct thru early Dec) I put on more this spring. On the beds I planted later in the winter I did not add any more.
I think I may just apply one time a year (like in late Jan or early Feb) after they are up and doing Ok and just see how they do and check soil test again and adjust if necessary.
The gypsum I get cost 6.25 per 40 lb bag (local Farmers Co Op).
I have a hand crank spreader that does a decent job of broadcasting it on top of the beds.
Below are some details on P & K.
Sounds like it would be good to have good levels of K (for disease resistance).
Phosphorus (P) is important for healthy roots and is used more heavily during blooming and seed set. Phosphorus is easily rendered unavailable to plants when the pH is slightly unbalanced. It is released in soil through decomposing organic matter.
Potassium (K), sometimes known as potash, is important for general health of plants. It is key in the formation of cholorphyll and other plant compounds. Potassium is also known to help with disease resistance.
I have found during the past three years, that by adding gypsum at the rate suggested by Bob Beyfuss in Scott Persons book. 5 lbs per 100 sq ft. If applied twice(fall and spring), my soil tests show an average calcium increase of 1800 ppa more than the amount before applying. This is what I have found with my type of soil. Gypsum plus bone meal may raise the calcium quicker. Then on established beds, test every two - three years
and apply more gypsum if needed.
Here's what Bob Beyfuss says about applying gypsum. Also says not to apply any Phosphorus or nitrogen fertlizers.
\"If soil calcium levels are below 2,000 pounds per acre apply 50 pounds of gypsum per 1,000 square feet. If soil calcium levels are below 1,000 pounds per acre, look for another growing site. Never add manure, compost, phosphorus or any type of nitrogen fertilizer to a ginseng planting. A one to two inch layer of well-rotted or shredded hardwood leaves (preferably sugar maple) from the forest floor may be tilled in the soil.\"
Mentions findings from ongoing research do suggest that levels of phosphorous below 10 ppa and levels of potassium below 250 ppa are weakly associated with poor survival of one and two year old plants.
The hollow that I have most of my planting in now tested at 1472 on calcium 11 ppa on phosphorous and 120 ppa on potassium.
There is some wild ginseng growing in that hollow but it is one of those locations where you can find 25 year old 3 prongs that are 8-10\" tall and have a 1/4 oz root.
Most of the land behind my home is like that, very rare to find a 4 prong or any seng that is really big and healthy looking and I expect the low calcium, P and K are what causes that.
But when I go on down to that bluff on the main creek, and find seng growing in that rock chip filled soil, wow they are big stout plants, with big roots, long berry stems and big berry pods. Completely different.
I never did make it down to that bluff this winter (about a 2 mile walk) but I may go down there this fall and look for more seng and collect a sample of that rocky dirt for testing. I really want to see just how much different it test than the dirt here closer to home.
In my case here where I am growing, I think it may be a good idea to add some P and K.
Bone meal is the least expensive option I have found so far for P.
I can get a 20 lb bag for around 12.00.
I checked on the price of rock phosphate (something else Scott's book mentions) but it was nearly a dollar a pound. 40.00 for 40 lb bag - Ouch.
It would be nice if we could find a good organic, slow release fertilizer that not only added calcium, but also boosted the P and K.
I believe bone meal is a good source of calcium and phosphorus. I have read several article about Phosphorus stays right where you place it. So it is important to place in down into the soil where you want it to be. I remember my dad applying bone meal to the garden before tilling the soil, so as to get it down deeper into the soil. If you place phosphate on top of the soil, thats where it will stay. I have read about a liquid Super Phospate that will move down through the soil.
From Kim Pritts ginseng book:
\"Bone meal contains phosphorus and calcium, both of which are critical to good root development in ginseng. It is vitally important to work the phosphate amendments six to eight inches into the soil during tilling. Phosphorus tend to stay where it is placed.\"
Here is some from the Canada ginseng growers manual:
All phosphorus fertilizers are phosphate salts. They
are water soluble, but tend to form insoluble compounds
when incorporated into the soil. Unlike
nitrogen and potassium, phosphorus does not
readily move in the soil. It tends to remain where it
has been placed. Therefore, it is important to place
phosphorus fertilizer in the rooting zone of the crop
before the crop is established, or to band it next to
the roots in the established crop. Surface applied
phosphorus without incorporation is the least
efficient way of utilizing phosphorus fertilizer.
Some phosphorus becomes ?tied-up? at low pH
(below 6.0) and at high pH (above 7.5). Very little
phosphorus leaches out of the soil.
Plant available soil phosphorus levels are expressed\"
I believe phosphate is good for our roots, but I'm not sure bone meal applied on top of the soil will supply it's needs.
I would be interested in the soil tests from that bluff.
Below is a cut from what you posted on my first post showing the seed bed I was making...
This is from Scott Persons first book \"Green Gold\"
\"The other soil nutrient that ginseng growers should monitor is phosphorus. In 1978, Dr. Tom Konsler initiated a four-year study to measure ginseng root growth response to P additions to the low P soils found at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station in Fletcher, N. C. Dr. Konsler found positive correlation of root weight with phosphorus additions. He also found that ginseng plants took up calcium more readily in soils that had available phosphorus so the interrelationship is important (Konsler, 1990). Growers should amend their low P soils so that at least 95 pounds per acre of actual phosphorus is available (Persons, 1994).
Since there is no tillage of the soil with wild simulated ginseng crops, all fertilizers are applied on the soil surface. Applications of gypsum and/or rock phosphate may have to be made every two or three years. Soil testing should be done every year to monitor available soil nutrients.\"
It mentions applying rock phosphate every 2-3 years depending on soil test.
I assume they applied it on top of the established beds.
All they mention is rock phosphate. I can't really see rock phosphate being better at working its way down into the soil than bone meal.
There is another rather new phosphorous source called bone char, which is supposed to have higher levels of P. Not sure if it would be any better if used in a top dressing type application.
I really can't understand how a powder cannot move through the soil and not be effective deeper down into the soil. But I do see many articles that say phosphorus must be place in the soil where it is needed and does not penetrate through the soil.
But when I research rock phosphate, I don't find anything that suggest it not able to move through the soil.
It's all a mystery to me. But when you find several statements related to ginseng and that phosphate does not readily move in the soil. You have to wonder that there is some truth to it. But I can't understand why it would be.
Here's something else that I found:
\"When there is an abundance of calcium in the soil, whatever rock phosphate you apply to the soil, the soluble phosphorus will first join with the available calcium to form a stable mineral. Only the phosphorus which is left over after the calcium bonding will be available to be taken up by the plants. When your soil test indicates over 5% organic matter, the activity level of all creatures in the soil is high enough to assist in breaking the bond and making phosphorus available to the plant.\"
Im trying to understand this too. It somewhat makes sense.
This is a good bunch of info you guys are spinning here. I wish i could contribute but i am new to all of this. I am learning alot though so i hope more is to come of this.
You two seem to have very established beds already and are thousands of miles apart, this could be a great chance to document different ammendments in different regions. Books and articles are a great place to start but you guys have a testing situation here that most do not have.
Great stuff guys, i look forward to learning from you and hopefully adding some of my own experience as i can.