How to Grow Ginger

How to Sprout, Grow, Harvest and Store Ginger Root

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Ginger is used by pretty much everybody in one form or another, but very few people, even avid gardeners actually grow it. From time to time you may have spotted these bumpy roots in the produce section of your local grocery store but more than likely passed them by without a second thought.

Even folks who use ginger root rarely grow it, why is a mystery as it is not all that difficult to grow, but does take some patience. Ginger can be grown from seed but is best grown from roots, seeds take longer, much longer, to mature and the success rate is not all that great.

Starting Ginger from Roots

To start your ginger you'll need to acquire some fresh ginger root. Select a root that is not shriveled or even showing very many signs of starting to dry. You'll want the plumpest moistest ginger root you can find. The root should be about a half foot in length, give or take an inch or two. Grocery store Ginger is sometimes treated with a growth inhibitor to prevent sprouting so I would suggest organic ginger root or ginger sold for starts.

If you are planting the root directly in the ground a smorgasbord of organic compost is advisable. The soil should not be compacted but loose and fertile. The optimal soil pH is 5.5 to 6.5. You'll also want to avoid full direct sunligh as they do best in partial shade.

If you plan on growing them in containers be sure to use a suitable container with drainage. Ginger reaches in the ballpark of 2 - 3 feet in height, up to 4 feet under optimal conditions and has a robust root system so the pot should have a suitable girth.

Sprouting Ginger Roots

Although Ginger root is planted in early spring after the last possible frost date, it is best to select and start sprouting your ginger roots [rhizomes] in late winter. Even if you plan on growing your ginger indoors, the timing is still critical because the plants will need to receive summer sunlight, which differs from winter light.

eyes, nodes, sprouts on ginger roots

Cut the sprouted ginger root into roughly 2-inch sections, each piece should have one or two nodes or eyes, very similar to planting seed potato if you've ever done that. The 'eyes' of ginger sometimes appear faintly and are not as readily detected as potatoes. Some growers prefer to leave the roots in the open air for a few days so that the cuts form a callous, this cuts down on rotting and increases your success rate, but is not absolutely 100% essential.

Plant the segments in a suitable container filled with starter mix. They shouldn't be planted more than an inch deep. Keep the potting soil moist but not saturated so as to avoid rot. Set your trays or pots in an area that is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunlight is not necessary till the sprouts break through the soil.

Once they are ready to be set in their permanent location, space them about 1 ft. apart. As ginger matures the root and rhizomes sometimes push up through the soil surface. This is perfectly natural and nothing to be overly concerned about, just leave it be.

Ginger plants take nearly a full year, 10 - 12 months to fully mature, so obviously in colder regions they need to be potted and brought indoors over the winter, 55 F or lower. USDA zone 7 or higher will accommodate ginger year round, although the leaves will die back in the winter.

Harvesting and Storing Ginger

Ginger root will be ready for harvest in the spring following its initial planting. If you're not ready to use it or use all of it come spring waiting till summer is no problem, or even the following spring....

Dig around the plant base and gently raise the entire ginger plant from the ground. Break off the foliage, it has little use other than fodder for the compost. Ginger root can be busted up into smaller segments when ready to use, but when storing it is best kept whole. Store whole, unpeeled ginger root in a resealable container or zip lock plastic bag in your refrigerator.

If the ginger has been peeled or cut it won't last nearly as long and should be dried a tad by blotting before storing it.

Some folks like to store ginger by preserving it in alcohol, such as vodka or even a dry sherry. It keeps relatively long this way and enhances the flavor of the liquor.

Ginger can be frozen but the freezing process changes its texture and makes it suitable only for grating.

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