Do you enjoy the fresh scent of gingerbread baking in the oven? Ginger is a root spice common throughout the world, used in many culinary and medicinal preparations. Ginger contains “gingerols,” potent polyphenol antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the body.
If you’re dealing with a sore throat, sucking on a ginger lozenge can help to relieve the discomfort and fast-track healing time. China and India have a rich history with the herb, with its use extending back for centuries.
Gardeners should note that while ginger has the formal title of a root spice, it’s actually a root vegetable. The spice is popular throughout the world, whether you’re using it to clear your palate between bites on sushi or mixing it up in a tonic to help reduce congestion.
Ginger comes in several varieties, with pink, yellow, orange, or white flesh. The rhizomes of the ginger plant have a rough texture with a knotted appearance. Since ginger prefers tropical climates, you won’t find it growing in the United States.
Typically, commercially grown ginger comes from tropical climates around West Africa, Indonesia, China, and India. However, there are plenty of home gardeners growing ginger throughout the US. When planting in the garden, ginger develops annual properties, requiring planting and harvesting in the same year.
In warmer climates like the southwest states, Florida and Hawaii have environments suitable for growing ginger throughout the year. This post covers everything you need to know about growing and caring for ginger in your veggie garden this year.
Growing and Caring for Ginger Root
Growing ginger isn’t especially difficult, provided you have the right climate conditions for the plant. Here are some tips for making the most out of your ginger crop.
Choosing the right planting site is crucial for growth, ensuring you get a bountiful harvest. Ginger enjoys growing in warm climates with lots of humidity.
Your planting site should allow for two to five hours of direct sunlight during the day, with the morning sun being the ideal option for growing ginger. It’s also important to choose a site that has protection from the wind.
When planting ginger, you have the option of growing from seed, transplants, and rhizomes. If you know someone growing ginger, they can give you a few rhizomes to start the propagation process. Take the rhizomes from the plant when it creates new shoots in the early spring.
You also have the option of growing ginger from the rootstock you purchase at the supermarket. Choose a piece of ginger root with plenty of rhizomes. Look for those roots with growth buds, otherwise known as “eyes.” These eyes look like small horns on the end of the root.
When planting rhizomes, we recommend soaking them in distilled water overnight to activate the growth phase. Some stores and producers treat ginger with a growth retardant. Soaking the root removes this chemical, allowing you to grow the root.
When planting out your ginger into the garden or containers, you need to ensure that you prepare the flowerbeds to receive the ginger. Loosen the soil to a depth of around afoot. This strategy allows the roots to penetrate the soil. Ginger struggles to grow in compacted or clay soils, as the rhizomes have a hard time pushing through the soil.
Your soil should be loose, rich in nutrients, and loamy to provide optimal airflow to the plant’s root. If you’re starting in lean soils, you’ll need to add liquid fertilizer every other week to give the ginger the nutrition it needs to thrive.
The soil also needs to drain well, preventing the ground from waterlogging. Waterlogged soils cause the onset of root rot in your ginger, killing the plant. If your garden already has fertile soil, you can grow ginger without any amendments.
Planting on the side of a hill is a great way to improve drainage in the soil, helping it run away downhill to prevent waterlogging of the ground.
When planting your ginger, we recommend you put it out in the garden in the late winter or early spring. Dig a hole around 6-inches deep and make your necessary soil amendments if required. Break up the ginger root into smaller pieces using your hands. Each piece should have several “eyes” on the root to inspire new growth.
You can also plant the entire root, burying it around two to four inches deep, depending on its size. Make sure you plant your ginger with the growing tip facing towards the surface of the soil.
Ginger grows underground, and the roots don’t get massive. Therefore, it’s suitable to grow ginger in close quarters to each other. Typically, the rhizomes you plant only develop a few leaves, and they all grow out of the same spot on the root.
As the plant grows, the leaves become dense, and they start to clump. The rhizomes in the ground don’t mind growing into each other. As a result, you only need to space your ginger a few inches apart for the best results at harvest time.
The ginger root only grows to lengths of around three feet in height above the soil line. Therefore, choosing a 14-inch pot for container growing is the ideal size for your ginger.
The ginger root comes from tropical climates where it rains 200 days a year or more. As a result, gardeners need to emulate these natural growing conditions. You’ll need to ensure that you keep the soil moist during the growing season, as dry roots turn woody and lose flavor.
You should ensure that the soil never dries out entirely, or you risk losing your crop. However, it’s important to keep your watering consistent. Never overwater the plant as this leads to the formation of root rot and the death of your ginger.
Since the ginger root hails from tropical climates, it requires high humidity in the air. If you live in a dry region, you’ll need to mist your ginger regularly or grow it in a greenhouse where you can maintain humidity levels.
Dry air can stunt the plant’s growth, and it also attracts pests and diseases to your plants. Growing ginger in pots indoors helps gardeners control the climate conditions around the plant. If you’re growing in pots, fill a water tray with gravel and sit the pot on top of the stones.
Fill the water tray, but don’t let the water level touch the bottom of the pot. During the day, the water evaporates around the container, increasing the humidity in the air.
Gardeners can retain moisture in the soil by mulching around the plant in the early spring after planting. Mulch is organic material like old leaves and compost from your garden. Spread the mulch around the base of the plant, giving good coverage for the soil.
The mulch helps to keep the moisture in the soil, limiting the effects of evaporation. The mulch also acts as a natural fertilizer, releasing nutrients into the ground every time you water the ginger.
Mulching also prevents weeds from getting the light they need to germinate, preventing them from crowding out the growing site, competing with your ginger for nutrients in the soil.
As mentioned, if gardeners plant ginger in fertile soil, it shouldn’t need any fertilizing during the growing season. However, growing in lean soils requires you to amend it with compost and other organic material before planting.
We recommend adding liquid fertilizer to the plant every other week during the growing season for gardeners growing in lean soils.
Gardeners will need to fertilize their ginger if they live in a region of the US experiencing heavy seasonal rains. The rain washes the nutrients from the soil, requiring the gardener to feed the plant.
Seaweed (kelp) extract and fish emulsion are good choices for feeding your ginger.
Pest and Diseases Affecting Ginger
The ginger root is a somewhat pest and disease-free plant to grow in your garden. However, ginger does experience a few problems in certain areas of the United States. Some of the pests affecting your ginger production include the following.
Gardeners can get rid of these pests by applying a diluted solution of neem oil to the plants. The bugs hate the taste of the neem, and they’ll leave the plants alone.
Some of the diseases affecting ginger root include fusarium fungus, bacterial wilting, and nematodes. Overwatering the ginger also leads to the development of root rot in the ginger.
Harvesting your ginger is easy – just dig it up with a garden trowel or fork. Rinse the ginger, and it’s ready for use. If you want to keep the plant growing, you have to leave a two-inch piece with rhizomes attached, and the plant will return the following growing season.
After harvesting your ginger, store it in the fruit and veggie drawer in your kitchen or a root cellar. Ginger can last for years in the right storage conditions.