Thursday, August 30, 2012

Growing ginger

Zingiber officinale

The easiest way to get started growing ginger root is to just buy some from a grocery store. Look for pieces with well developed "eyes" or growth buds. The buds look like little horns. Make sure you only select fresh rhizomes. Soak the rhizomes in water over night, since store bought ginger is often treated with a growth retardant.

You'll need really good soil to start with as 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 ginger doesn't become water logged.

Cut the rhizomes in thumb sized pieces with a couple of growing buds on each piece. A 14 inch pot easily holds three average rhizomes. Plant each five to ten centimetres deep, with the growing buds facing up. Every rhizome you plant will first only grow a few leaves, in the one spot. Over time it will become densely clumped 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. Ginger only grows to about two to three feet in height.

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. Ginger loves humidity. If you have problems with dry air then mist daily. Dry air can cause problems with spider mites. Set near your forced air register or radiator to keep it warm during the winter. 

Feed it regularly. 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.

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 dig up the whole plant. Growing ginger in containers makes the harvest so easy, you don't have to dig, just tip out the whole thing. 

Break up the rhizomes, select a few nice ones with good growing buds for replanting, you can replant them straight away, and keep the rest for the kitchen. The rhizomes that have been replanted or left in the soil won't need any water or attention until the weather warms up again. 

If you are serious about growing ginger for eating and not just as an ornamental, then resist the urge to harvest it for a year or two. You won't see any flowers until it is two years old. If you want ginger for eating, just dig very carefully at the edges of it to harvest bits here and there.

The ginger has sprouted and is growing fast!

Since the weather is still so nice, I've left the containers outside in full sun. Once the plant breaks through the surface and the temps drop below 60 degrees, I'll bring them in and set them in the kitchen near the floor register.

The ginger has put out leaves
that the cats find irresistible. 

The kitchen gets alot of indirect sunlight and stays comfortably around 65 degrees year round. Sitting near the register and daily misting will keep the plants happy until outside temps rise over 65 degrees consistently in the late spring/early summer, when they'll be taken back out and set in partial shade.


  1. I grew some ginger a couple of years ago in a greenhouse(after the busy spring) and it did ok. Ginger is a heavy feeder so feed everytime you water, they love HOT HOT HOT. I think I would have had a better harvest if I started earlier and watered better but I did get enough for a couple of months!

    1. You're so right! Hot hot hot! A greenhouse, if you have one, would be the perfect place to leave this amazing plant year round. Thanks for reminding me about this.

      I've grown ginger before, though it was just one rhizome in a little pot near the kitchen window. He was a stunted wily thing, produced itty bitty flowers that smelled sharply of ginger. I could never harvest him though, his "root" was always too scrawny due inconsistent watering, inefficient feeding and too much sun.

      I endeavor to baby these, I really want to see them pop!