Ginseng and Straw, Lifelong Friends

Wisconsin Ginseng Garden

60 semi loads.  That’s how much straw we will go through as we are finishing up our planting season.  The piles of straw bales form a mountain aside our fields as our modified shredders distribute them over the terrain.  Groups of workers led by Nick Sandquist, Farm Manager, send whole large bales through our shredders and plaster our gardens with a thick layer of straw.  The ginseng root itself is so susceptible to the elements that without the protective straw, our yields would simply plummet to pre-World War II capacity.

straw pile

Mount Straw – a mere fraction of the straw we go through during our planting season.

Groups of workers rake the straw with pitchforks to spread the straw evenly so that the seeds are well-hidden from wild turkeys, yet not too deep so that next year the plants can emerge from the ground.  The straw will remain there through the entirety of the plant’s life cycle.  It fills several needs:  protection from the elements of rain, ice, snow, and even wind; shields our ginseng from turkeys, slugs, and other creatures we run into in the fields; protects the root itself from additives applied to the plant that protects it from invasive pests and fungi.

straw spreading

Straw is applied with our customized shredding machines that can fit under our shaded cloths.

After the straw is evenly distributed by hand over the raised beds, we can begin to stretch our shaded cloth over the garden.  Shaded cloth is an upgrade over traditional wooden sections because it gives us more control of the drainage during heavy rains and it is consistently blocking out 78% to 82% of the sunlight at all times.  The shade structure is removed around our harvest season in October so our plants may go dormant.  None of this would even be possible though, if we did not have our straw.


This is what our garden will look like one year from the planting date.

You can watch the latest video of spreading straw here.

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