Checking Soil Requirements

Ginseng, Goldenseal and other medicinal plants require a well-drained soil, which means a steep to moderate slope. Too much standing water will generate diseases and cause the roots to rot. Creating terraces by taking downed lumber and putting it on the up-hill side will create a flatter area to plant but will not cause the water to stand. These terraces are desirable for keeping the newly created soil from eroding.

One of the most important elements for good ginseng and goldenseal growth is the soil. Soil testing is essential. I consider myself a convert of Dr. Elaine Ingham from Oregon State University, author of the Soil Foods Web concept (

To simplify here, soil mixture required for growing healthy plants in the woods and soil mixture for growing in the sun are different. The two elements of the soil mixture needed are fungi and bacteria.

For growing in wooded areas you will need to make a soil amendment that provides a ratio of 75% composted pine bark mulch, and 25% composted bacteria (which can be horse, chicken, turkey manure, veggie compost or worm castings).

For growing medicinal plants in sunny gardens, the soil mixture needs to be the reverse, i.e. 25% fungi and 75% bacteria composted materials. This will give you a dark, moist medium in which to plant the seeds or roots.