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Ginger Growing and Harvest Information

by chuck.mcmullan
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Ginger is a spicy, fragrant herb that is utilized in many culinary dishes. Ginger is consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or a spice. It is often used fresh in stir-fry and curry dishes and dried in gingerbread and other baked goods. Most of the ginger grown in the United States comes from Hawaii.

You could plant ginger using what you find at your local grocery store; some specialty seed catalogs may also carry unique varieties. Colder regions will have to grow their ginger indoors or under some cover, but you can have it out in the garden between zones 7 and 10. Ginger does well in pots and containers, so this should not present much of a problem to those growers in colder regions.

Where to Grow Ginger

Ginger is a perennial herb that likes a warm, humid climate and filtered sunlight. It is a tropical plant but can still be grown in areas that receive light frost if the rhizomes are not exposed to freezing temperatures. Ginger is usually grown from a rhizome (the part you eat) and is often grown in a container to be moved indoors easily when there is danger of frost. If you live in a warm climate (zone 7-10), plant Ginger in a sheltered spot that receives filtered sunlight. Growing ginger in a hoop house or high tunnel may be the best option for those growers in colder regions if available. In colder regions, Ginger would likely do best in full sun. Ginger also does quite well with a hydroponic system.

Soil for Ginger

Ginger likes soil rich with organic matter, free of rocks, and in a location that drains well. Proper hilling is important, so it should either be planted in a trench or have sufficient soil nearby to facilitate hilling. It does best with a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Because the ginger rhizome grows beneath the soil, the soil should be loose, so the rhizome is free to grow.

Planting Ginger

When –

Start sprouting your rhizomes (the part you eat) in late winter, so they will be ready to be transplanted in early spring. Even if your ginger will be grown exclusively indoors, the timing is still important because the plants need to receive summer sunlight.

How –

Ginger can be grown from rhizomes purchased at the grocery store. Look for large pieces with nubs or horns on them; these are the sections that will sprout. To wash off any growth retardant that may have been applied to the rhizomes, soak them in water for a few hours and rinse them well before planting.

Temperature
Germination71 - 77 F
For Growth75 - 85F
Soil and Water
FertilizerFeed an evenly balanced slow release organic fertilizer (5-5-5) about 6oz/foot every 6-8 weeks.
pH5.5 - 6.5
WaterHeavy
Measurements
Planting Depth2" - 4"
Root Depth<12"
Height2 - 3'
Width6 - 12"
Space between plants
in rows5 - 8"
space between rows3'
Companions
CompanionsBasil, Tomatoes
IncompatiblesOnions, Turnips
Harvest
Harvest baby ginger about 4-6 months after sprouting, mature ginger is generally harvested when the plant dies back in the fall or winter. To harvest dig up the rhizomes.

Ginger should be planted at a rate of 30 pounds per 100 feet of rows, and rows should be planted about 2-3 feet apart. That should allow a spacing of about 5″ per plant within the row. If growing in containers, ensure the container is flexible; if there are too many ginger plants in the same container, they could break the pot as the rhizomes grow. Also, make sure the containers allow for at least 12-14″ depth and at least that width. Plant rhizomes with buds facing upward in loose, moist soil that drains well, 2-4 inches deep, leaving part of the rhizome exposed. If planting in containers, use a light soil and add extra gravel to the pot’s bottom to improve drainage.

Best growth occurs under moist and humid conditions and average soil temperatures between 77F to 83F. Growth efficiency starts to drop off above 86F and below 75F. Ginger will grow well in full sun, especially when grown in colder climates. In its native tropical locations, it does quite well in partial shade. Vegetative growth is prompted with long day lengths, and rhizome enlargement is promoted under shorter day lengths. The day length response does vary among ginger varieties.

Ginger is a very versatile crop. Depending on your soil conditions, you may be able to increase the plant density without any effect on the overall yield.

Encourage rhizomes to root by placing them in flats with about an inch of coconut coir or other soil-less media. Water and place in a warm area, light is not important, but it is crucial to maintain temperatures between 70-80F day and night. Keeping ginger under these conditions for about 4-6 weeks allows the rhizomes to start growing. When shoots start to emerge, place the flats in a sunny location. This is very important for growing ginger in colder regions, as it gives your plants a necessary head start. You should be able to keep the ginger in this stage for about 8-10 weeks or longer as long as it is well fed and has room to grow. If your soil is already above 55F, the rhizomes can be planted directly into the soil.

How Ginger Grows

Compared to other herbs, ginger grows relatively slowly. They will eventually reach a height of 2 feet or more in a container and reach a height of 2-3 feet in the garden. Ginger grows with narrow-bladed reed-like leaves that are mostly vertical. The ginger rhizomes will tend to grow out and up.

Storage Requirements
Place ginger in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for approximately 3 weeks. It can also be wrapped in wax paper and placed in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer for approximately 3 months. Peeled ginger can also be preserved for up to three months in the refrigerator if submerged in a dry sherry. The ginger will absorb a slight wine flavor, and should be avoided in recipes where this would be undesirable.
MethodTaste
FreshExcellent
DriedGood
FrozenGood

Cultivating Ginger

It’s important to keep the ginger plant moist, especially in the hot summer months. Mulch can be applied to help retain some moisture. The mulch will also retard weed growth, which is important because ginger’s shallow roots are easily disturbed by weeding. Ginger likes crowded spaces, but you may need to divide the plant every couple of years for optimum growth.

If you live in a cooler climate, the plant will need to be moved inside when there is any frost danger. Allow the plant to yellow and trim the leaves off of the plant. Water the soil once a month(or less) to keep the roots viable, and then set the plant out again in the spring when the danger of frost has passed. If the roots are too wet, they will rot. With any luck, the plant should come back the next spring. If stored properly, rhizomes should remain viable for up to 2 years.

Ginger is a heavy feeder but a poor competitor for nutrients. This means you will have a reduced yield if you do not supplement your ginger with fertilizer. The fertilizer you choose should be fully decomposed and complete in nutrition. Something with a 5-5-5 ratio would be a good selection. It is also recommended to amend soils that bind nutrients so that ginger can feed easily; gypsum is one example of such an additive. If your ginger leaves begin to yellow or look burnt at the edges, or if the leaves improperly begin to unfurl, assess the water schedule and add an extra feeding into your schedule. These are symptoms of insufficient nutrients due to overwatering and/or underfeeding.

A drip system is the recommended irrigation method for ginger; this is the best way to ensure it is consistently and adequately watered. Be careful not to overwater just after transplanting. Doing so will retard growth and may affect yields. If your site is arid, misting the canopy may increase yields. Additional watering will also help wash away nutrients, so make sure to increase feedings if you are watering excessively.

Hilling ginger will increase yields. As the shoots begin to grow, the base of the shoot will be bright white. When the base of the shoot turns from bright white to bright pink, hill the crop about 4″. This should occur roughly every 4-6 weeks. It is recommended to add fertilizer each time you hill. Hilling means covering the rhizomes with an additional amount of soil and pull out any weeds as well. This will have a positive effect on the plant’s yield.

Harvesting Ginger

Harvesting baby ginger (tender flesh, no skin to peel, no stringy fibers, mild ginger flavor) can begin 4-6 months after sprouting began. The rhizomes should be cream colored with pink scales when ready to harvest. Mature ginger rhizomes (as sold in the grocery store) will generally be ready to be harvested in about 10-12 months, or after the leaves die back in the fall/winter. When harvesting, you can choose to harvest the entire plant, or you can just cut off what you need and allow the plant to continue growing. If storing some of your rhizomes over winter, make sure they stay above 55F to ensure they will remain viable next year.

Ginger Pests

Banana aphid, Chinese rose beetle, Fijian ginger weevil, Ginger maggot, Turmeric root scale, Nigra scale, Cardamom thrips.

Ginger Diseases

Leafspot, Stem and bulb nematode, fusarium yellows, spiral nematode, Root-knot nematode, Rhizome rot, Bacterial wilt, Root rot, Burrowing nematode, Stunt nematode, Dagger nematode.

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