HOW TO GROW GOLDENSEAL, Hydrastis canadensis
To understand how to grow Goldenseal, we need to imagine what life is like for them in the wild. The plant has a life cycle of five to seven years from seed to maturity.
Goldenseal thrives best in mature deciduous forest, with dappled shade, a gentle north facing slope, a soil of wood loam and leaf mould, in a river valley providing constant moisture. To grow successfully in cultivation we need to simulate these natural conditions by compromise and adaptation.
After many years of trial and error, we arrived at a method that works, and can be replicated.
If we treat this herb like any ordinary garden plant, it will not thrive. When we get conditions right it is a home from home, and it loves it.
We grow Goldenseal in raised beds to contain and protect the soil. Garden soil is not ideal and so we amend this in several ways. The soil we want to create is fungal dominant wood loam. Goldenseal thrives among Oak, Birch, and Alder, so we collect leaves of these species, along with bracken and twigs as we find underneath them.
In spring and summer we spread these leaves on the grass and run over them with the lawn mower to chop and mix them together, then bag them to store, punching holes in the bag to let air through. The leaf and grass is then mixed in equal parts with composted bark and green waste compost. This is then our fibre component of the soil.
The basic soil mix is 3:2:1. that is three parts by volume of loam, two parts fibre and one part grit sand.
We make the raised bed, 9 inches deep, 30 inches wide, and 10ft or as long as you wish, we fit weld mesh under the base to keep out moles and mice, and attach a frame above to rest our shade screen on. We stand the bed on gravel and soil at ground level. Copper tape around the bed will help keep out slugs. The loam used must be known to be free from root or leaf rot. A little fish blood and bone may be added. An ideal ph would be 6.0.
The lower third of the soil should have a higher proportion of grit sand and gravel.
The top two thirds should be 3 loam, 2 fibre, 1 grit sand.
The whole should be top dressed with leaf mould.
To this we add an inoculant of wood loam from Oak and Birch old growth forest. This soil will provide the correct decompositional fungi and bacteria to mature this mix. Only a small amount is needed.
If this work is done in the autumn, a few weeks before transplant time, the fungi will work all winter in the soil.
The best planting time is October. We supply 2 year old plants unwashed, in the hand full of soil that they were grown in, this is important as it provides the correct symbiotic fungi the plants need to thrive.
Mark the planting positions at ten inch spacing.
Scoop out a bowl shape of soil about three inches deep. Put the soil provided as a small mound in the centre, place the rhizome on top of this, with the rootlets trailing at 45 degrees downward, and the bud to be just one inch or less from the surface. Mark the place with a stick. Water in. You may cover the whole bed with leaves for the winter, but uncover the buds to a depth of one inch in spring.
What is needed now is patience....
When the leaves emerge in spring we put the shade screen in place to protect them from full sun, two thirds shade is good. If it has not rained for a week, water the soil, this mix is free draining but will retain moisture. Keep weed free.
Try not to disturb the soil surface as this may disrupt the fungal network. Add a little more top dressing of compost in summer, and leaf mulch in winter.
Apply more patience
Harvest after three growing seasons.
If you have any questions, get in touch.