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Growing Ginger – Definitely Worth a Try

Ginger is a super herb that’s worth looking into if you don’t already know about it.
 It’s been used in the culinary arts and medicinally for thousands of years by cultures worldwide.

Like almost any vegetable or herb, store bought ginger can’t compare to home grown ginger. The flavor and smell of what you grow in your own garden is so superior to what you buy in the grocery store.

Getting Interested in Growing Ginger

Jack, friend and reader, who lives in New Jersey started growing ginger for his daughter. She’s a big fan and uses a lot of it during the year. After tasting her Dad’s freshly harvested ginger she told him it was the “best ginger she’s ever had and far less fibrous than anything she’s ever bought in any store.”

Jack's freshly harvested ginger

Jack’s freshly harvested ginger

After growing it myself this year, I agree with her evaluation 100%!

Can you get a harvest of ginger without living in the tropics? YES!

Ginger is tropical and loves hot humid weather.  If you can provide warmth and moist, rich soil you can grow ginger even if you don’t live in the tropics.

In Tropical Growing Conditions

If you live in an area where temperatures don’t fall below 50ºF you could keep your initial planting in the ground for 2 years before harvesting to give the ginger a change to really produce.  After that you could harvest what you needed and let the rest grow.

I’m sure the harvest after two years would be much more bountiful than Jack’s and mine will ever be in New Jersey and Virginia, but that doesn’t deter me one bit. I’ll just have to plant more to get more.

Jack Sent Me Pictures

When Jack sent pictures of his beautiful freshly harvested ginger last year, I knew then and there I wanted to grow my own.

Jack's ginger - 9 oz clump

Jack’s ginger – 9 oz clump

Actually, what Jack and I harvest is probably considered “baby” ginger, because in our climate we’re unable to leave it in the ground to full maturity (at least 8 to 10 months) because of the cold weather. Frost kills the leaves of the ginger plant and can harm the root, so we have to harvest at least after the first light frost.

How Jack (living in New Jersey) Grew His First Ginger

Jack wrote:
“I bought the ginger from a real farmers market — .  I brought it home and soaked it for at least a full day, then lightly scrubbed it just in case it was treated with something…  I recall starting it in my little makeshift hoop house around March or early April.  When choosing the hunk of ginger, I was sure to get pieces with bud nodules.  Once they sprouted I just made sure they were kept moist while (planted) in the 1 gal pots and waited for the outside temperatures to climb into the 70s before taking them out to transplant into ….(the garden).”

… a few things I learned: ginger is a fairly heavy feeder and likes quite a bit of water.  This coming season, I’ll keep 4-5 milk jugs on hand to keep them wet.  Last season I kept 2 gallons close by during the dry spells, even though I wasn’t very mindful of keeping them wet, and they still did pretty well.”

My Mindset in Determining My Growing Method

After reading Jack’s email and looking around at different growing instructions, I made a few decisions before I started.

I knew I wanted to grow ginger, but I also knew I had/have a lot to do in the growing season. I definitely didn’t (and don’t) want to have something else that needs tending.

So I decided that no matter what various instructions said, I was going to attempt to grow it in a manner that fit with what I could do. If the ginger could tend to itself all summer and still give me ginger, then I knew I’d grow it every year.

How I Grew My First Ginger (in Virginia)

  • Bill picked out a couple of hands (pieces) of organically grown ginger at the health food store for me.
  • I filled pots with moist grow mix. (My pots were smaller than 1 gallon.)
  • In March or April – although it was not the best way – I planted an entire hand (large piece) of ginger in each pot about 3 inches down into the grow mix.
  • I didn’t over water, but as soon as the mix was dry at finger depth, I watered.
  • One pot was kept inside. The other pot outside unprotected.
  • By the end of May, nothing was showing at the top of either. So, I dumped the pots to see what the rhizomes looked like. I could see life there, but not much had taken place since I potted the rhizomes in March/April.
  • I planted them in the garden anyway, choosing a spot that would get full sun. (I read later that they don’t like full sun, but the did ok.)
  • I planted at a depth of 6 inches with the hope they’d get enough moisture that way.  I knew in advance it was highly unlikely that I would water them. (And I didn’t)
  • First freeze came in November. I harvested after that. Got about 2 1/2 times what I planted. (From the way the originally planted rhizome looked when I dug the ginger, I’m convinced it was bad move for me to plant the entire piece.  A finger, the little projections off the main piece, with two buds would have produced just as much.)
My first harvest of ginger - mid November 2014

My first harvest of ginger – mid November 2014

My Second Year – How I Plan to Grow My Ginger

  • In March this year I’ll choose several plump pieces of ginger with lots of “fingers” with growing buds on them. Rather than pot them right away, I’ll leave them in the kitchen window for a while to see if the buds will start to sprout.
  • Whether they do or don’t sprout, I’ll break (or cut) the rhizomes into one or two inch pieces with preferably two growing buds on each piece. I’ll let those dry for a day before I pot them.
  • Since they don’t really need a deep pot to get started, I may use a flat (like seedlings are started in). I’ll press the pieces into the grow mix about 3 inches apart and add just enough grow mix on top to cover the root pieces.
  • I’ll place the flat and/or pots (if I use any) under my hoop tunnels or my makeshift cold frame outside the back steps. Hopefully, it’ll be warm enough for them to start growing.  An early start in growth could mean a bit more harvest than I got this year.
  • In May I’ll plant at a depth of 6 inches in the garden when soil temperatures reach 68º F. Ginger is said to grow best when soil temperatures are 77º F.  ( I’ll also plant some at a depth of 12 inches, but I’ll only cover with about 4 inches of soil.  Then each month I’ll cover with about 3 inches more until the trench is filled.  The ginger will stay more moist this way.)
  • I have several spots picked out already. The ginger plants won’t get 24-hour-a-day shade, BUT they’ll get shade in the heat of the afternoon.
  • In addition to a heavy topping of leaves, I’ve made it a point to bury in some kitchen scraps in the chosen spots for the ginger.  That will be organic matter by May and will make the soil even better for growing ginger.
  • If we have drought that lasts longer than a month, I’ll probably haul a bucket of water to each spot. (If you water, keep in mind that too much is just as bad as not enough.  Also keep in mind that about two months before harvest ginger needs a dry season.  The dryness in combination with day length is said to encourage rhizome formation.)

Doesn’t Like Strong Winds

I’ve  given some thought to the information that indicates ginger doesn’t like strong winds.  I’m not sure that protecting it from strong wind is going to get on my priority list.  If I did anything, I would rig up something to protect one plant to see if it made a difference.

xxxxx

The ferny looking foliage is ginger.  It was about 3 feet tall.  The plant on the other side is a pepper.  I saw later that ginger is not suppose to be planted with solanaceous crops (Tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants) due to the potential for bacterial wilt.  Obviously, it was not a problem in my garden..

Overwintering Ginger

Supposedly, our area is too cold to over winter ginger.  Next fall I’m going to try to overwinter at least two pieces.  My soil has excellent drainage and I figure if I harvest in the fall and replant  a few rhizomes at a depth of about 8 inches in one of the sandier beds and mulch with leaves, it might make it without rotting.  We’ll see.

The second piece I could replant in one of the beds that will have a hoop tunnel over it in the winter.

If I’m successful in having it overwinter, I’ll save myself a lot of time and effort in future years.  If I’m not successful I’m only out a two small pieces AND I’ll know for sure.

A Better Way to Overwinter

If you can, follow Jack’s example and do it a better way. He wrote: “I harvested my other clump (9 oz.) a few days ago and plan to store it (for seed pieces) in some soil mix down in the crawl space where it’s an almost constant 55º-58ºF.”

How to Store Your Harvest

You can keep some ginger for immediate use in a small paper bag in the crisper box of the refrigerator.

You can grate your ginger and freeze for ready-to-use amounts.  Or freeze it whole.  (I wrap mine in Saran Wrap and then place in a ziplock bag.) When you’re ready to use you can grate a piece that’s frozen and then put the unused part back in the freezer.

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ll be inspired to try growing your own ginger this year.  It’s easy and once you taste the fresh ginger from your garden, you’ll be glad you made the decision.  I was. (Thanks Jack!)

_________

All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

12 comments to Growing Ginger – Definitely Worth a Try

  • I wonder how it would work to start pieces of ginger in the terrarium-like milk jugs–the same way you do for winter sowing?

  • sheila

    This is so exciting to learn! I had no idea that you could grow ginger outside of a tropical environment. I don’t use a lot of it, but we love fresh ginger, so I’m definitely going to try this. Thank you for the details on what has worked for you (& thank you Jack!)

  • Jo-Ann

    I grow several butterfly gingers successfully in my New Orleans garden. The smell of the flowers are wonderful & the butterflies & hummingbirds love them. They overwinter very well, although our occasional freeze leaves them looking pretty raggedy. Since I grow these OK in the ground I could probably grow some eating ginger as well. Next time at the grocery, I’ll pick up a fresh looking root & give it a try.

  • Alice

    I am once again intrigued…Just put a note on my calendar to check for organic ginger in late February. I have a spot picked out in my mind and will add some organic matter to it for planting in the Spring. Have always wanted to try growing it, thanks for the inspiration. Have been picking leeks that are mulched with leaves and straw in the garden. Made the best sweet tasting soup. What a treat!! Had our first heavy snowfall a couple of days ago. Nice wet snow and the moisture is everywhere. Good for the soil. Happy dreaming about Spring everyone.

  • Theresa

    Definitely Betty! As a matter of fact, I’ll probably start mine in jugs rather than a flat and then put them under the hoop tunnel or my cold frame. That way they’ll have two levels of protection and I should have a much better chance of getting earlier growth that way.

    Sheila, I too would not have thought of growing tiger outside of a tropics environment had Jack not written to me. Sure glad he did! (He’s an amazing man and in his 3 or 4 years of gardening he has done wonderful things. I’m so proud of him! )

    Jo-Ann, I know you will have great success with “eating” ginger. Once you get it started you’ll have it as a perennial. Once you have a good sized amount there may even be a demand for it at a local health food store.
    And I think “baby” ginger is pretty expensive and hard to come by, so keep that in mind.

    Keep me posted on how you do!

    Alice, I’m delighted you’re going to try it! I’ll be anxious to hear the results!

    Theresa

  • Farming Bear

    I can’t even imagine how delicious that must taste!

  • Pat

    I have grown ginger here in Tennessee, but always in pots, not in the garden. I might try it in the garden after reading your post, Theresa! I also would like to try growing turmeric. I had a taste of the fresh root several months ago and fell in love! It is so much tastier than the dried and powdered version!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Theresa

    Growing turmeric sounds down right EXCITING, Pat! If you try it, let me know. Turmeric is such a beneficial herb and excellent for health. I’m sure that the powdered version that we buy in the store is NO WHERE NEAR as beneficial as garden grown would be.

    Are your pots with ginger outside? Do you leave them out all year with the ginger in them?
    Theresa

  • Pat

    Theresa,

    I always put the ginger pots outside, but brought them in over the winter. I must confess that I didn’t grow ginger for many seasons, and it has been a while since I did. But you have encouraged me to try again!

    Yes, turmeric is awesome stuff! We take it in capsules daily for arthritis. I’m not sure I could grow enough to keep us supplied! LOL!

    pat

  • Toni Brock

    Hi Theresa,
    I am revisiting your ginger planting tips and have some questions:
    1. Did you start them in the seedling flats? Did they do well?
    2. Where in your garden did you grow them? How did they do, Would you move them for next year?
    3. Have you tried overwintering yet? How did they do?
    4. Do you think I could grow them in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon)

  • Theresa

    Hi Toni,
    #1. I gave every detail of how I grew the ginger in this post. They are bullet-pointed under the heading “How I Grew My First Ginger”
    #2. I grew them in a garden bed towards the upper end. I thought they did well, as I showed in the post. I’ll probably plant in a different location this year because it might just work that way.
    #3. No I did not try overwintering. (Although I have one of the original pieces in a basket on my porch. Thought I’d replant just to experiment, but doubt that it will do anything. But I’ll never know until I try.
    #4. I think I remember that you are zone 7 like me, or close to it. If that is the case then you can have as much success or more than me. Jack, was an even colder zone and he did it. You need to TRY in order to know if you can grow it.
    Theresa

  • Toni

    Update on my ginger growing here in the Pacific Northwest. I grew some in 1 gallon pots on my deck last summer and into early fall. I harvested some little ginger root. I don’t think it was very much more than what I originally planted but it was delicious! I saved some of it and replanted it this early March in pots that I kept in the house. Just yesterday I noticed a tiny new leaf starting to poke out of the soil.
    Thank you Theresa for your inspiration and directions on how to get started with it. I sure have enjoyed the adventure.

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