Growing Edible Ginger Only a Few of Species
When you think of ginger do you think about the spice you find in grocery stores or do you think of beautiful tropical perennials grown in USA gardens? Chefs and great culinary artists are well aware of ginger, but gardeners are just beginning to learn about this fantastic group of tropical plants.
Edible ginger represents only a few of the nearly 1,300 species of plants in the Zingiberaceae family. Prized for their tropical look and durability, gingers have been used and enjoyed for centuries in the Far East. However, it’s only recently that lustrous leaves and exotic ginger flowers have caught the eye of curious Southern gardeners.
There are eight common kinds of gingers available in the marketplace today. These include Alpinias, Costus, Curcumas, Globbas, Hedychiums, Kaempferias, Siphonochilus and Zingibers. The plants in these groups range in size from ground cover to several feet tall, require shade to full sun, and include those with large attractive flowers or small, discreet blooms. If you look long enough you will likely find ginger for nearly every garden spot or situation.
Butterfly ginger (Hedychium) is probably the most widely grown ginger. Its fragrant butterfly-shaped blooms are readily found in gardens where tropical plants are featured. As a group, butterfly gingers grow four to seven feet tall in full to the medium sun and are frequently used in combination with other annuals, perennials, and woody shrubs. Most of us have seen the beautiful white flowering version of butterfly ginger, Hedychium coronarium, but there are other outstanding butterfly gingers with flowers of yellow to peach, delicate orange, flaming orange, and white with a yellow center.
Besides butterfly ginger, the most recent additions to my garden are two from the Curcuma group. Last summer I added Curcuma cordata (Hidden ginger) and Curcuma alismatifolia, (Siam tulip). This growing season, the foliage of both gingers emerged in May from the rhizomes planted last year. Gingers need warm soil, above 55 degrees (F) to get them started.
The Siam tulip bloomed first and was cut for a beautiful, long-lasting fresh flower in mid-July. The hidden ginger, so-called for the way the blooms “hide” below the leaves, is blooming now. Everyone who sees these gorgeous flowers wants to know what they are and how to get them.
Plant ginger in loose soil or directly into a pot at the same depth they were previously growing as indicated by markings on the rhizome. Water thoroughly. From then on keep moist, but not wet. Tropical blend fertilizers are available or use one with a 3-1-2 ratio in spring and summer.
Ginger leaves will turn yellow in the fall and typically die back at first frost. To increase plants, divide in the spring. Add gingers to your landscape this summer for a truly dazzling effect. Rhizomes are usually not available during the dormant period, November through January.
How to Grow a Ginger Plant
Growing your own ginger is easy and rewarding. Once planted, ginger only needs water and patience to ripen into a delicious and spicy ingredient. This growing gardening guide focuses on edible ginger species, but most flowering species of ginger plants grow under similar conditions.
Start in early spring. edible Ginger root is a tropical plant that does not survive frost. Plant after the last spring frost or at the start of the rainy season if you live in the tropics.
If you live in a climate with a short growing season, you can grow the ginger plant indoors in a container or pots.
Choose your ginger plant. There are many types of ginger. To grow the most popular edible variety, Zingiber officinale, all you need is the ginger root from the grocery store. You can find vibrant flowering ginger plants in a nursery, but they are often inedible.
Choose plumped and wrinkle-free ginger root (technically root), with visible eyes (small dots) at your “finger” tips. Eyes that start to turn green are great, but they don’t have to be.
Buy organic ginger plants if you can. Inorganic ginger may have been treated with growth inhibitors. Some gardeners find that soaking in hot water overnight will help stimulate inhibitory plants.
This growing gardening guide covers Zingiber officinale (edible ginger). Most varieties of ginger plants grow under similar conditions, but for best results follow the nursery gardening directions.
Cut the rhizome into pieces (optional). If you want to grow more than one plant, cut the gingerroots with a sterile knife or scissors. Any piece at least 2.5 cm wide with one or more ginger eyes can grow into a separate plant. After cutting, leave the cuttings in a dry place for a few days to allow them to heal. They will form a protective callus on the cut surface, which will reduce the risk of infection.
Each piece of ginger requires 20 cm. A spot will likely sprout with three or more eyes.
Preparation of the Soil And Suitable soil for growing ginger
It thrives best in well-drained soils such as sandy loam, loamy loam, red loam, or loamy loam. A loose, humus-rich loam with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal. However, being a stressful crop, it is not recommended to grow ginger in the same soil year after year. Therefore, you will need to prepare the land before planting. It is recommended to heat beds for 40 days with clear polythene sheets in areas prone to root rot and nematode infestations.
- Ginger feeds on high-quality, well-drained soil. Mixing garden soil with an equal amount of rotting compost should do well.
- If your soil is of poor quality or heavy clay, buy rich potting soil instead.
- If you want to keep a close eye on the ginger, you can start with a starter tray filled with seaweed or coir.
These materials drain well, which prevents the rotting of young plants. You will need to plant the ginger in the ground as soon as the leaves and roots form, which can cause shock to the plant. The ideal temperature for ginger sprouts is 25 degrees Fahrenheit, so you may need to use a heating mat or other heat source to maintain the proper soil temperature. Like most garden plants, ginger prefers moderately acidic soil. If the soil in your area is alkaline, adjust it to 6.1-6.5 pH using a garden kit.
Pick a Location
Ginger prefers partial shade or areas with only morning sun, away from large roots. The growth site should be protected from wind and moisture, but not from swamps.
If the ginger plant has not yet germinated, the soil temperature should be warm – ideally between 71 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (22-25 degrees Celsius).
If you are growing ginger in a pot, choose a pot that is at least 12 inches deep. A plastic pot is better than clay, as long as you dig plenty of drainage holes in the base.
Ginger can grow in the shade in the tropics, but these places can be very cold in other latitudes. Try planting ginger in an area exposed to direct sunlight for two to five hours a day.
Caring for Ginger Plants
Once you have planted your ginger rhizomes, it’s important to provide them with the right care to ensure their optimal growth and development. Here are some essential care tips for growing ginger plants:
- Watering: Ginger plants require consistent moisture, but they don’t like to be waterlogged. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy, throughout the growing season. Water the plants deeply, allowing the water to penetrate the soil to the root zone. Be careful not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot.
- Fertilizing: Ginger plants are heavy feeders and require regular fertilization to thrive. Apply a balanced, all-purpose organic fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. You can also top-dress the soil with compost or well-rotted manure to provide additional nutrients.
- Mulching: Mulching is beneficial for ginger plants as it helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate temperature. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw, leaves, or wood chips, around the base of the plants, leaving a small gap around the stems to prevent rot.
- Pruning: Ginger plants don’t require extensive pruning, but you can remove any yellowing or dead leaves to improve air circulation and prevent diseases. You can also trim the stems to encourage bushier growth.
Pest and Disease Control: Ginger plants are relatively pest and disease resistant, but they can be susceptible to certain pests, such as aphids, mites, and scale insects, as well as diseases, such as root rot and fungal infections. Monitor your plants regularly and treat any pest or disease issues promptly with organic methods, such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or copper fungicide.
Harvesting Edible Ginger Plants
One of the most exciting parts of growing ginger plants is the anticipation of harvesting your own fresh ginger. Ginger plants take about 8-10 months to mature, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Here’s how you can harvest ginger:
- Wait for the foliage to turn yellow and start wilting. This usually happens around 8-10 months after planting, although it may vary depending on the specific ginger variety and growing conditions.
- Carefully dig around the base of the ginger plant with a fork or shovel to loosen the soil and expose the rhizomes.
- Gently lift the ginger rhizomes from the soil, being careful not to damage them. Shake off excess soil and remove any attached foliage.
- Rinse the ginger rhizomes thoroughly with water to remove any remaining soil.
- Allow the harvested ginger rhizomes to air dry for a few hours to remove excess moisture.
- Trim off the foliage, leaving about an inch of stem attached to the rhizomes.
- Store the harvested ginger rhizomes in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place to cure for a week or two before using.
Common Challenges in Growing Ginger Plants
While growing ginger plants can be a rewarding experience, there are some common challenges that you may encounter. Here are a few issues that ginger growers may face and how to address them:
- Root rot: Ginger plants are susceptible to root rot, especially in poorly drained or waterlogged soils. To prevent root rot, ensure that the planting site has well-drained soil and avoid overwatering. If you notice yellowing or wilting foliage and a foul smell coming from the soil, it may be a sign of root rot. Remove the affected plants and improve the drainage in the planting site.
- Pests: Ginger plants can be infested by pests such as aphids, mites, and scale insects. Monitor your plants regularly and use organic methods like neem oil or insecticidal soap to control pest infestations.
- Diseases: Ginger plants can be susceptible to diseases such as bacterial wilt, leaf spot, and fungal infections. Avoid overcrowding and ensure good air circulation around the plants to prevent disease outbreaks. If you notice any signs of disease, remove the affected parts of the plant and treat it with organic fungicides.
- Cold temperatures: Ginger plants are tropical plants and are sensitive to cold temperatures. They prefer warm environments and can suffer from frost damage or stunted growth in colder climates. Consider growing ginger in containers that can be brought indoors during colder months or protect the plants with frost blankets or cloths.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses of Ginger
Ginger is not only a popular spice used in culinary preparations, but it also has a long history of medicinal use. Here are some common culinary and medicinal uses of ginger:
- Culinary uses: Ginger adds a warm, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor to a wide range of culinary dishes. It is used in various cuisines around the world, including soups, curries, stir-fries, teas, desserts, and beverages. Ginger can be used fresh, dried, or ground, and it can be stored for extended periods of time.
- Medicinal uses: Ginger has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-nausea, and digestive properties. Ginger is commonly used to soothe digestive issues, relieve nausea and vomiting, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and improve overall well-being.
Growing edible ginger plants can be a rewarding and enjoyable gardening experience. By selecting quality rhizomes, preparing the planting site properly, providing adequate care, and addressing any challenges that may arise, you can successfully grow ginger plants and harvest your own fresh ginger. Whether you use it in culinary preparations or for its medicinal properties, ginger is a versatile and beneficial plant to have in your garden. With proper care and attention, you can enjoy the flavorful and health-enhancing benefits of ginger for years to come. Happy gardening and happy ginger growing