Growing ginger is far easier than I imagined. In fact it has been said that in tropical climates you can plant it at the beginning of the growing season and not look at it again until the day you harvest it. If you live in tropical places, you can pretty much take this approach. However for those of us who don’t live in the tropics, and I feel that we are the majority in this instance, ginger will take a little more care than this.
The edible part of the ginger plant is called “ginger root,” yet this is an error. The part of the plant that we eat is actually a rhizome [ry – zome], similar to those that irises grow from. The roots grow from the rhizome.
Likes and dislikes
Ginger grows best in well-sheltered places—in filtered sunlight, warm weather, high humidity, and rich, moist (but well drained) soil. What it hates is frost, direct sunlight, strong winds, and soggy, waterlogged soil. If your growing area has the things that help ginger to grow, than feel free to plant your ginger root outside in your garden. Otherwise you should consider growing it indoors.
Choosing your root
When shopping in your local grocery store’s produce department, look for a large, healthy root with well-defined eyes (growth buds). Make sure that your tuber (rhizome) is plump, has a tight skin, and is not mushy, shrunken, or wilted. It should have almost no shine and its coloring should be light, sandy beige.
Preparing the soil
Ginger loves light, moist, well-draining soil, and grows in a manner similar to bamboo and irises – just below the surface of the ground and growing out from tubers you plant in fingers of various sizes and shapes. Make a light soil using three parts soil or potting mix to one part sand. Mix it well, filling your planter three quarters full.
Planting the rhizomes
Break apart the ginger root you bought, making sure that each finger has at least one growth bud on it. Push aside some soil and lay the ginger root on its side, making sure that the growth buds are pointing upward. These buds will be the new stems. Cover lightly with the soil that was pushed aside (it should be no more than an inch deep). Place your planter on a good drainage tray, in a window where it is warm and has lots of indirect sunlight. Ginger’s biggest requirement is warmth.
Feeding your plants
Be sure that you feed your ginger regularly with an organic fertilizer that is a balanced mixture of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – like 10-10-10 or something similar, as ginger is a heavy feeder. Your ginger should be watered daily, but not left sitting in the water. It should be moist but not soggy. Keep some distance between your planter and the drainage tray by putting pebbles on the tray for the planter to sit on; this will help it to drain well. But if the water starts to touch the bottom of the planter, remove it. The ginger grown from most roots obtained in your local grocery store will not produce fruit and only rarely will it have flowers, so the more leaves that it grows, the more photosynthesis occurs. This causes the rhizomes to grow even faster.
When you have several weeks of growing good strong stems, you can check below the surface for plump, new rhizomes. New rhizomes will be just below the ground where you see the young, green shoots breaking through. You can slice off one of these new rhizomes for your first taste of fresh ginger. Use a sharp knife and make a clean cut. This first fruit will not be as strong as the more mature rhizomes that you will harvest later in the growing season. The typical growing season for ginger is about ten months, and then the leaves start to turn yellow and die off. This is the time to stop watering daily, cutting back to a light watering about once a month to keep the rhizomes from drying out. Each year, if you do not over-harvest your ginger, the mat of rhizomes will get thicker. This will allow you to dig up the mat in the fall, break it into fingers, and replant some for next year. The others can be used fresh or dried out and used in your favorite recipes.