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Few ingredients have a more enticing aroma and flavor than fresh ginger. As such, you probably always have ginger root placed highly on your shopping list. You don’t, however, have to wait for a trip to the grocery store to get fresh, tasty ginger. On the contrary, you can likely grow the root in your kitchen, sunroom or garden.
Here are some suggestions for growing ginger in 10 simple steps.
10 Steps for Growing Your Own Ginger
1. Pick the Right Starter
If you want to grow delicious ginger, you must have the right rhizome to start. Most roots at the grocery store have anti-sprouting chemicals applied to them. The purpose of these additives is to ensure the rhizome looks great until it leaves the produce department and ends up in your stomach. While it is possible to grow a ginger root from the store, you won’t have much success if your rhizome starter has been treated with an anti-sprouting agent. If you can confirm that the store ginger is free of chemicals, choose a root that is plump and covered in nodes. These are usually the healthiest and most likely to sprout quickly.
Unfortunately, determining if a rhizome’s growth has been stunted is rather difficult. While asking your grocer may shed some light on the mystery, you may want to purchase an organic ginger root. These should not have anti-sprouting chemicals on them. Alternatively, you may choose to buy your rhizome from a garden center, seed store or online growing catalog. Since these rhizomes are designed for home growth, you can be certain you aren’t working against any anti-sprouting chemicals.
Likewise, you may want to promulgate a new rhizome from an existing plant. If this is your approach, you can obtain your starter rhizome simply by cutting off a section of root. Try to choose a part that has some root sprouts already growing, as this will likely speed up your promulgation process. You may also want to dry the cut root for a few hours before placing it in new soil. This drying time will decrease the likelihood that your new rhizome will acquire a soil-borne disease or become food for bugs hidden inside your growing medium.
Once you have selected your starter rhizome from a nursery, grocery store or another plant, you are ready to begin to grow your own supply of delicious, fresh and fragrant ginger.
2. Let the Root Rest
When you get your rhizome starter, it probably looks like a stereotypical ginger root. That is, the outside is rough and brown, with few signs of green life, but this doesn’t mean you have a bad starter. Before you place your new ginger starter in soil, you must let the root rest.
Simply place the root in a room-temperature environment. Your spot doesn’t have to be sunny, although sun won’t hurt the sprouting root. After a bit of time, you will likely notice that nodes around the root have started to swell. They may also turn green and sprout new growth. When your rhizome is ready for the next step, it will no longer look like the ginger root you brought home from the store.
This step requires some patience. The best time to determine if you have a good rhizome starter is before you place the root in soil. Accordingly, plan to hold the rhizome on a counter until it changes colors and shows signs of life, which may take a couple of weeks or longer. During this time, the root may shrivel a bit but resist the urge to put it in water. While your rhizome is resting, it should not become mushy or rot. If it does, you must discard your rhizome starter and choose a new one.
3. Pick the Planting Location
Before you stick your rhizome starter in soil, you must find the perfect place for it to grow. Ginger is hardy, so you have a variety of options. Unlike some other ingredients, the plant thrives in pots. If you want to place your rhizome starter in a pot, choose one that is large enough to support a medium-sized plant. Remember, you need to access the root to harvest or promulgate the ginger, so you also need to leave yourself some working room.
General top soil works well for ginger rhizomes. Remember, if you are like most houseplant growers, you tend to overwater plants. Therefore, err on the side of choosing a well-draining potting soil. If you intend to plant your rhizome starter in the garden, try enriching the planting medium with good-quality topsoil before you start digging. Compost and aging manure also help outdoor ginger plants thrive during the growing season.
4. Plant the Rhizome
Even though we use the terms “root” and “rhizome” interchangeably for readability purposes, the two are not the same scientifically. Ginger is a rhizome and not a root. While roots go deep inside the soil, rhizomes sit near the top. Therefore, when you are planting your rhizome starter, you must place it near the top of the soil. Cover the sides of the rhizome but leave its top exposed.
Planting the rhizome is where most home cultivators get off track. If you don’t leave the top of the rhizome exposed, you will likely kill all the sprouts your ginger has worked hard to develop. Your starter may also rot inside the soil without ever producing leaves.
You also must let your starter dry out a bit before planting it. All exposed parts should develop a skin to protect the starter from disease and insects. Therefore, if you cut your starter into several pieces, place each on a counter to dry for several hours.
5. Water Regularly
When planted outside, ginger usually can’t get enough water. Some gardeners choose to plant their starter rhizomes in drainage areas, such as in a gutter or at the end of a downspout. Regardless, if your plant is outside, be sure it has access to a regular supply of water. Allowing the ground to moderately dry out between watering is a good idea, though.
If your ginger plant lives in a pot, you must be careful not to overwater it. As with other houseplants, overwatering can cause roots to rot and encourage fungus gnats to thrive. Some growers use a double waterer to be certain ginger plants always have an adequate supply. That isn’t necessary, however. Instead, allowing potted soil to moderately dry out is usually enough to encourage an indoor ginger plant to succeed.
6. Introduce Some Humidity
Ginger is a tropical plant that loves humidity. If you live in a humid area, you don’t have to worry about growing conditions. If you reside in other places, though, you may need to artificially introduce some humidity to encourage your ginger plant to thrive. Often, regularly misting plants with a spray bottle is adequate.
7. Fertilize Monthly
Your growing ginger plant needs some nutrients. Fortunately, it isn’t too picky about the fertilizer you use. If your plant is outside, occasionally adding compost or manure is likely sufficient. For indoor plants, an all-purpose fertilizer gets the job done. For best results, dilute fertilizer with water before pouring it onto your potted ginger plant.
You may harvest ginger whenever you want, provided you wait until it shows signs of growth. The longer you wait to dig up your ginger root, though, the more you are likely to have. If you live in a cold climate, your ginger root may not survive the winter. As such, dig up the entire root structure and store it until you are ready to plant it again. Be careful not to allow ginger rhizomes to sit in water during the off-season, as doing so can cause them to rot.
Your potted, indoor ginger plant may grow year-round. As you may suspect, without regular harvesting, rhizomes become pot-bound. Accordingly, try to harvest potted ginger root at least once a year. To do so, gently lift the plant out of the pot. Then, cut off a section of the root. You may eat this portion or dry it out to use as a new starter rhizome.
9. Watch for Infestation
Ginger roots are susceptible to insect infestation. If your plant grows indoors, your primary concern is the fungus gnat. If you notice these flies buzzing around your pot, invest in fly strips or a ground cover product. Outside, you ginger root may become lunch for a few different orders of insects. A nontoxic or organic pesticide is usually sufficient to keep these creatures at bay.
Part of the fun of home gardening is sharing your bounty. While giving tasty ginger root to family and friends is delightful, think about giving a rhizome starter. These make excellent gifts.
Start Growing Your Ginger Today
Ginger is a tasty, fresh ingredient used in many different recipes. If you are tired of running to the grocery store to pick up ginger root, try growing your own. By following these ten simple steps, you simply can’t go wrong.