How to Grow Ginger, Plus Its Amazing Health Benefits
Ginger is one herb or spice that I always have in my pantry. I eat it crystallized and I use the powder for teas and cooking. I also use fresh ginger for cooking. When I decided to start growing this root, I expected it to be difficult. It's not. It is rather simple.
I've been growing ginger at home for years now. You can grow it in the ground, but I have been growing it in pots, and I am going to show you how simple it is.
What Variety of Ginger Should You Plant?
There are many different species. To grow the most common edible variety, Zingiber officinale, all you need is ginger root from the grocery store.
- Choose roots (technically rhizomes) that are plump and free of wrinkles, with visible "eyes" (small points) at the end of the "fingers." Eyes that have started to turn green are ideal, but not required.
- Buy organic if you can. Non-organic may have been treated with a growth inhibitor. Soaking them in warm water overnight will help stimulate inhibited plants.
Choosing and Preparing the Rhizome for Planting
The easiest way to get started is to simply get a few fresh rhizomes. You can get some from someone who grows ginger, or you can simply buy some at the local grocery store. Make sure you select fresh, plump rhizomes. Yes, we actually use the rhizome (although we call it ginger root) but you all know what I am talking about.
- Look for pieces with well developed "eyes" or growth buds. A piece with three or more eyes is more likely to sprout.
- Cut the rhizome into pieces. If you'd like to grow more than one plant, cut with a sanitized knife or shears. Any piece at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide with one or more eyes can grow into a separate plant.
- After cutting, leave the pieces in a dry place for a few days to allow them to heal. They will form a protective callus over the cut surface, which reduces the risk of infection.
- Each piece requires 8 inches (20 cm) of space to grow. Use larger pieces if you need to save space.
Some people recommend soaking the rhizomes in water overnight. That's not a bad idea, since shop-bought ginger might have been treated with a growth retardant. However, it is not necessary to leave them in water until they grow roots. Your plant will be much happier if the roots are in the ground and can breathe right from the start, rather than having to deal with the transplanting shock and the change in conditions.
Your pieces of ginger will sprout fast enough by just sitting out on the counter top. If the ground is moist and warm, they will root very easily.
Whether you grow your ginger root in a pot or in the ground, you do need really good soil to start with. It needs to be rich enough to feed your ginger. It needs to hold enough moisture so it doesn't dry out, but it needs to be free draining so the roots don't become waterlogged.
Ginger thrives on high-quality, well-draining soil. Mixing garden soil with an equal amount of well-rotted compost should do the trick. If your soil is poor quality or heavy in clay, purchase rich potting soil instead.
When to Plant
Ginger is a tropical plant that does not survive frost. Start in early spring. Plant after the last spring frost, or at the start of the wet season if you live in the tropics.
If you live in a climate with a short growing season, you can grow the plant indoors.
I personally prefer to grow them in pots, and the information that I am posting today relates to growing them in pots, and since I live in Florida, I can pretty much grow it year-round.
Choose the Location for Planting, If Planting in the Ground
Ginger prefers partial shade or areas with morning sun only, away from large roots. The growing location should be sheltered from wind and moist, but not swampy. If the plant has not yet germinated, soil temperatures must be warm — ideally between 71 and 77ºF.
Plant the ginger
Plant each piece of ginger 2–4 inches (5–10 cm) below loose soil, with the buds pointing upward.
If planting in rows, keep each piece 8 inches (20 cm) apart.
If planting in pots, plant 2–3 pieces per large pot (14 in./35 cm diameter).
Maintenance of Your Ginger Plant
- Water lightly right after planting, and keep the soil damp. Check the soil daily and water just before it dries out completely. Ginger needs a lot of moisture while actively growing. The soil should never dry out. Don't overwater, though, because the water that drains away will take nutrients with it. Soggy soil will quickly rot your plants, so reduce watering or improve drainage if water does not drain quickly.
- Ginger loves humidity. If you have problems with dry air then regular spraying and misting might help. Dry air can cause problems with spider mites, but that's rather a problem for people who try to grow ginger out of its range or indoors. A sheltered, moist spot in a warm climate will provide enough humidity.
- If you are growing ginger in the ground, mulch it thickly. It helps to keep the ground moist, it helps feed the ginger as the mulch breaks down, and it also keeps down weeds.
- Remember that ginger is a slow growing plant and easily overgrown by others.
- Towards the end of summer, as the weather starts cooling down, it will start to die back. Reduce the water, even let the ground dry out. This encourages it to form rhizomes. Once all the leaves have died down, your ginger is ready for harvest.
How Much Space Does Ginger Need to Grow?
Growing ginger doesn't take up much room at all. Every rhizome you plant will first only grow a few leaves, in the one spot. Over time it will become a dense clump and very slowly get bigger, but only if it isn't harvested.
The rhizomes underground also don't seem to mind if they become a bit crowded.
It only grows to about two to three feet in height.
To Fertilize or Not to Fertilize...
If you are growing in good, rich soil, it shouldn't need anything extra. I grow mine in pots. I put in fresh compost mix every year and never add any extra fertilizer.
If you don't have good soil, or if you are growing in some standard bought potting mix, then you have to feed it regularly. You will also have to feed it if you are growing in an area that gets torrential summer rains (many tropical regions do). Such rains leach all the goodness from the soil.
Work in some organic slow release fertilizer at planting time. After that you can use some liquid fertilizer like seaweed extract or fish fertilizer every few weeks.
When and How to Harvest Your Ginger
- If you are growing in the garden, you can start stealing little bits of it once it is about four months old. Just dig carefully at the side of a clump.
- The best time to harvest ginger is any time after the leaves have died down. Usually it takes eight to ten months to get to that point.
- You can now dig up the whole plant. The reason that I grow in pots is that it makes the harvest so easy. I don't have to dig, I just cut the pot and tip out the whole thing.
- Break up the rhizomes, select a few nice ones with good growing buds for replanting, and keep the rest for the kitchen.
- The rhizomes that have been replanted or left in the ground don't need any water or attention until the weather warms up again.
TIP: You can also plant many clumps around your place and just dig up what you need, when you need it. The plants grow outwards from the mature rhizomes. Once a clump is big enough you can harvest the mature tubers without damaging new shoots.
By the way, if you are serious about growing ginger at home then resist the urge to harvest it for a year or two.
Uses of Ginger
Ginger can be consumed in many ways.
- Sliced root can be eaten raw or cooked.
- It can be crystallized into a candy.
- The powder is commonly used as a spice in many different foods.
- It can be consumed as a fluid, usually as ginger tea or ginger ale.
- An extract is available to take in pill form.
- It can be juiced and mixed into smoothies or other drinks.
One of my favorite ways to use it is in cooking, whether in stir-fry or in making crystallized ginger.
Ginger has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for centuries. Oil taken from the plant is used as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting medication, with no known side effects and no interactions with other drugs or nutrients. It stimulates the digestive system and prevents irritation to the intestinal walls. In TCM, it is used to treat atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, motion sickness, colds and cough, and headaches. It is also considered a safe treatment for pregnant women with morning sickness.