By Debbie Roland and
Edible ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a staple in the kitchen. The rhizome of this plant is ground to add a spicy flavor to numerous types of cuisine. You will want to use fresh ground ginger if you want the full flavor.
Although ginger is a tropical plant, with some care and knowledge you can grow it easily here. Select one or two rhizomes to root in a wide, shallow flowerpot. The rhizomes are what you buy in the produce section of grocery stores, but they are also available at garden centers and online seed companies. Ginger purchased at a grocery store should be soaked in water overnight before drying and planting in case growth retardant was used before shipping.
Research shows that Ginger grows in Zones 9 through 12. Since it grows best in those zones, you will want a warm, humid and slightly shady spot with well-drained soil where the plant will be sheltered from high or cold winds. Dig in 2 to 4 inches of compost before planting.
If you don’t have a warm spot in your yard, don’t worry! Start your ginger in a pot outside while it is warm and bring it indoors over winter. If you use a container, use a potting mix with good drainage.
Cut the rhizome into 1- to 2-inch pieces, each with two or three buds. Leave the rhizomes out to dry for a day or two. Plant horizontally with the buds facing up, 2 to 4 inches deep. Space the rhizomes 6 to 8 inches apart. Water thoroughly after planting; then keep moist, but not waterlogged, until the first shoots appear, in two to three weeks.
Once the ginger is actively growing, keep the soil consistently moist. Fertilize monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer or apply a cup of compost tea weekly to feed the ginger plant.
After several months of growth, you can harvest fresh ginger from the growing plant by gently cutting and removing a part of the rhizome furthest from the shoots. Alternately, you can dig up the entire plant after eight to ten months, harvest the rhizomes and replant a few for the next harvest.
So if you want to combine the health benefits of fresh produced with the “I grew it myself” challenge, then ginger might be the herb for you.