Growing your own ginger: easy as 1, 2, 3, . . . erm . . . 4

Update: I wrote this post a year ago, as I was just getting started growing my own ginger for the first time. I grew a small patch of it in my hoop house and it did great! I’m going to head to Trader Joe’s later this week and buy myself a basketful of fresh ginger and pot it all up in damp peat moss for this year’s garden. My first garden task of 2015!

True Confession: I LOVE ginger. I have lots of favorite recipes which star ginger, and I love to dice it up into stir-fries and soups, chewing on little juicy bits as I do. I flavor most of my kombucha with fresh ginger. I put ginger in my zucchini bread, and I chop up pieces and put it in my herbal tea nearly every day. With my miserable propensity for car-sickness, I try to keep ginger candy in my pocket, to chew on when I start to feel queasy. Ginger and I go way, way back, let’s say. I discovered how to make candied ginger a few months ago and that made me very, very happy indeed. Did you know that ginger root is very good for you?

Check it out: ginger relieves indigestion, nausea, colic, gas, heartburn, morning sickness, and motion sickness. In addition, ginger seems to protect against ulcers, is helpful against internal parasites, and may even ease acid reflux. Old timers also knew that ginger was good for coughs. Further, it warms you when you are chilled and paradoxically, helps reduce a fever. Ginger compresses relieve sore muscles, stomach cramps, and swollen glands. Ginger root is great stuff, folks!

He believes I’m thinking of him . . . but it’s ginger that I really love . . .

But here’s the thing: I had never considered growing it myself. It’s a tropical plant, right, which means that it’s grown . . . um . . in . . . the . . . tropics, right? India, China, and Indonesia are the top producers of ginger today. NOT Iowa, Nebraska, or Kansas. So this was what I believed, that ginger was in the same class as pomegranates and avocados to me: I love them passionately but I know that I’ll never grow them, because our climate here is all wrong for them. Also for lemons. And, apparently, bananas. So many things.

And then. Guess what. One day, one fateful day, my friends Norm and Jamie, professional Nebraska market growers who really know what they’re doing in the garden, blew my mind away (unintentionally, I’m sure!) (whoosh!) by dropping a very casual and oh-so-cool comment about some wonderful fresh ginger that they had just harvested. Yes. In their own Nebraska garden, that garden not being more than 30 miles or so from mine.

I couldn’t breathe for at least five minutes, I was so astonished. When they revived me at last, I made my dear friends promise to share their ginger-growing secrets with me, under the threat of a very nasty, prolonged death, if they refused.

Well. That part isn’t true. Anyway, Norm and Jamie would have shared their ginger-growing secrets with me even without the threat of torture and probable death, because they are very sweet and generous people, and that’s good news for me and great news for you, Gentle Reader.

Because I’m going to share (with permission, natch) these ginger-growing secrets with you. You can grow ginger root, even if you don’t live in the tropics, and you don’t even have to buy the expensive starts from Hawaii, even though that’s what Norm did the first year he grew ginger.

First, here’s a picture of the gorgeous baby ginger that Norm and Jamie grew last year to prove that I’m not making this up!

Ginger roots

Yup. Not makin’ it up! (photo credit Jamie Rohda)

And here’s how you can grow this glorious stuff, even if you don’t live in the tropics:

  1. First, buy your ginger roots from a place where you know they won’t be spraying them to prevent sprouting. Most organic grocery stores would fit into this category. But ask, just to be sure. Norm bought his from Trader Joe’s, and so, of course, did I. 🙂
  2. Plant your ginger roots (no need to chop them up, Norm says that the bigger rhizomes will produce bigger roots) in damp peat moss (no more than 1″ covering them) in a box or bin or pots, and here’s the kicker: they need to stay just a little moist and in temperatures between 70 and 80 day and night for at least a month. Shoots will begin to form in about six weeks or so, and that way you’ll know that you’re on the right track! Don’t overwater: only moisten the peat moss when it is dry to the touch.
  3. Norm puts a piece of glass over the damp peat moss, to keep it from drying out. I put brown paper over mine, not only to keep it from drying out as fast, but also to keep our kitty out of it. 😉
  4. Your roots won’t need light until they are sprouted, at which time you can move them under lights or in a sunny window.
  5. In May, when the soil outside is well warmed, you can plant your sprouted ginger roots in a garden bed or a hoop house bed like this: Till a 4′ bed and then dig it out to about 6″ deep, and 3′ wide. Lay sprouted ginger root pieces in 6″ from the side of the bed, making two rows 2′ apart, and then 1′ apart in each row. Cover just so sprouts are showing.
  6. As the plants grow, cover lightly with the dirt that you scooped out, until the furrow is full. Add compost or organic fertilizer once a month, and water occasionally.
  7. Ginger root has a very long growing season. At 5 and 6 months the rhizomes will have grown significantly, and this is when you will get the most harvest weight for your baby ginger, although you can dig it before then.
  8. In mid-September or so, dig out a piece to check on the size of the roots.
Norm

Here Norm sprays a clump he dug up, as a test. How are they doing?

Ginger roots

Ta-daaa! Nebraska-grown ginger root! (photo credit Jamie Rohda)

A few more notes from Norm:

  • At the time of planting out, and about once a month afterwards, Norm adds compost to the ginger bed. Also he fertilizes with an organic fertilizer.
  • Keep peat moss damp, but not wet. If it is soaked, the roots might mold and rot.
  • Ginger plants don’t do as well when temperatures are above 90°F outside. Norm sprays his with cool water to cool them down, a couple times a day, when it gets that hot.
  • You can save seed stock from your crop, though Norm suggests buying new stock every year or two.
  • You can learn even more about growing ginger at this very helpful website: http://www.eastbranchginger.com/

If you’d like to follow my friends Norm and Jamie Rohda and their growing adventures, you can follow their lovely Facebook page by clicking right here.

Thank you again, Norm and Jamie, for your input in this post! I’m looking forward to growing my very first batch of ginger this year!

*hugs*

 

 

 

36 thoughts on “Growing your own ginger: easy as 1, 2, 3, . . . erm . . . 4

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Deb,
      You could put it in a pot in the house, right now, and then plant it out in your garden in the spring! You’ve got a headstart on your ginger patch!

  1. Alana (@RamblinGarden)

    Read this to my spouse. As you know, we grew ginger outdoors here in upstate New York in large pots last year. We started ours outdoors but you are right about the temperatures needed for sprouting-it took forever because we didn’t know. My husband wanted the immature ginger, which you can’t get in stores – and goes for at least $12.00 lb at the local farmers markets. So he ended up with mature rhizomes anyway! Maybe it was beginners luck. But we are going to try again the same way next year. One nitpick: we couldn’t see any of your photos – only stuff reading like “Displaying 020.jpg”. Hope you can get that fixed so we can roll that beautiful ginger footage! And, did you know that, in the science fiction series Worldwar by Harry Turtledove, the aliens who invaded Earth found ginger a highly addictive substance?

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      (Huff!) I’m sorry about your not being able to see the pics, Alana, and I’ll have my technie son work on that this evening! Maybe you could check again tomorrow and let me know if you can see the pics? I’ve never heard of that series but it tickles me that ginger is the addictive substance. I would concur! I’m pretty addicted to it, but I think it’s a healthy addiction!

  2. Amar Naik

    I adore ginger since it has many medicinal benefits. never tried growing them. but i remember whenever there used to a ginger with sprout my mom use to put them in our backyard and we used to harvest fresh ginger after some months. hopefully one day i can grow them in my own backyard.

  3. Gene

    Amy – I bought ginger from Norman and Jamie a couple of times last summer. Great stuff! There is a mail order source for potted baby ginger plants somewhere – or at least there used to be – and if I come up with the website URL, I’ll send it to you. There are many varieties of ginger, many of them edible and used in SE Asian cooking. The only one I grow is Cardamom Ginger, and I use the roots to flavor several varieties of Christmas cookies I bake. If you have pears to can, grated ginger in the jar as you add the boiling juice creates a whole new experience! I suspect you’d love it!

    FYI. I couldn’t see any of the photos either.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I suspect I’d love fresh ginger with pears, too, Gene! Thanks for the tip! Norm and Jamie said that their ginger root went very fast, so I’m glad that you happened to be at the right place and time to snag some! Thanks for sharing your info with me. Cardamom Ginger . . . I’d love a start of that! Can you share with me where you buy the starts?

      My son is going to check out why you couldn’t see the photos, this evening. When I told him about it this morning, he said “Hmmm. . . strange . . . “

  4. rose/cookinmom

    Amy, I don’t know if you recall when I mentioned how I grew my ginger on another post re: I think, candy crystal ginger!?!! I grew mine for the very first time this past year (summer). The gentleman that sold it to me, locally from the farmers market, said to just stick it in the ground about 3-4 inches deep and covered it up. So I did and it got huge. Looked almost like a palm leaf. I continually put about 5 inches of woodchips on it and forgot about it (thinking it didn’t take) and then finally, “pop” it came up. It was so neat to watch it get bigger and bigger. In October, he said to just reach down under the soil and break a piece off sooo I couldn’t wait to try and that’s exactly what I did! I kept breaking a piece off on the corner as I needed. Then the palm leaves started to yellow and that was the sign to pull it up. It was absolutely beautiful!! It was white with pink and lots of it. Then he said to take some and put the biggest pieces with the eyes directly back in as I harvest it and that’s what I did so I will let you know if it comes up when it warms up towards the summer. Just think, you get more and more each year!! Yippee…do you remember me telling you that I’m the one that asked three times at a Japenese restaurant for more ginger! I will continue to pray and believe that I get more ginger this summer! Blessings

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Rose,
      I remember your comments now! You said that you could eat ginger until your nose runs! 😉 I can, too, or until my mouth catches on fire! LET ME KNOW what you find when you dig up your ginger root this year, okay? And you live in Texas, right? Do your winters get very cold? Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. I plan to mulch my ginger bed (I love the sounds of that–my ginger bed) with a thick layer of woodchips!

      1. rose/cookinmom

        I think you have Mari and I confused. I’m in N. Florida and believe she’s in Texas. I know it’s confusing with all these comments LOL :0) I’ve been doing the BTE garden for a while and believe she’s going to. Love ginger in my teas the most! Hope your staying warm!

  5. Francene Stanley

    I love ginger too. I tried planting a sprouting root in the garden a few years ago. It grew leaves, but then died off without producing anything. From your tips, I gathered that it needs much more attention. Poor little thing!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Probably, Francene, it just needs more TIME. It has a long growing season, 5 to 6 months, in order to get a good harvest. So you could try again?!

  6. Mari

    Wow, Amy, I didn’t know all the things I should have done and didn’t! I went to the local grocery store, bought some ginger, popped it into the ground and watered it. After a bit it started sending up green tops that reminded me of miniature corn stalks. When they died down in the fall with the cold weather, I dug them up – well, some of them. I also left some in the ground – just to test it out. We have had freezing weather and I am anxious to see what will happen in the spring. I grew it when I lived in Houston, TX, but now live further north a ways and wasn’t sure if it would grow. I must have had beginner’s luck with it because I did everything wrong, yet it still grew. I am so happy for some good ideas about using it. It is one of my favorite flavors. I just love ginger snaps, gingerbread and all things ginger. Now you have given me even more ways to use it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Mari,
      I know that with your BTE garden, you grow amazing things and I think you can get away with such casual 😉 treatment down there in Florida . . . aren’t you in Florida? . . . with your loooong growing season. Here in Nebraska we have to be a bit more deliberate or we’ll end up with half-grown crops when we have a surprise frost in late September! I would love it if you would share with me if your ginger made it through the winter! When I bought my ginger root at Trader Joe’s, the clerk who helped me said that he had perennial ginger growing in his backyard! He said that he hadn’t dug any in awhile. Of course now I have something fun to experiment with, too . . . 🙂

  7. Dorothyl

    I also love ginger.. It has been in my cupboards for years. I find it interesting as to how something I have always used has become the newest healthy way. However I have never thought of growing my own ginger. That is yet another interesting concept for sure. I find that ginger is used quite often for digestion, as people do love to eat. It is an amazing little substitute for antacids 🙂
    Thank you for your informative share~

  8. Diane

    Hear in western, NY it is too cold most of the year and even inside I would be afraid my kittys would get at it. One is a maniacs and tries to eat everything that isnt sealed in a heavy duty plastic container, or a metal one. My other cat just loves to eat lettuce, and any sort of other plant I try to bring inside.

  9. Gillie

    I had heard that even people like me in the North of England could grow ginger but never got around to trying. Thanks for the tip about sourcing the ginger, it would never have occured to me to think that it would be sprayed to stop it sprouting! We have seriously prolific jerusalem artichokes – all grown from three sad specimens found in the scratch and dent section of a well known supermarket!

  10. Chef William

    I use ginger every day so this is something I should do here in Mexico as well as up north. I just need to get to doing it. I do not believe there is a Trader Joes down here so I will need to do a little hunting around.

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  12. painterartist FIN

    Hello Amy,
    Awesome info, as I have wanted to do just that here in Kansas. Q’n, do we do anything with the leaves upon harvest or do we just harvest a small piece and leave the leaves to the rest of the pieces to put back in the ground. Miss you all.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh Fin, I miss you too! I just composted the leaves, after I harvested the ginger roots. I’ve got my ginger started for this year’s garden, hooray!

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