Ginger is one of those ingredients that you don’t have to worry about buying too much of when it’s required for a recipe. With so many uses—including ginger syrup, flavored oil, salad dressing and tea, to name but a few—leftovers are always welcome.
But what’s better than having leftover ginger? How about having your own personal supply of ginger that you can grow at home? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Here’s what you need to know about growing ginger at home, courtesy of Savannah Sher of BobVila.com.
While it’s true that ginger is a tropical plant, it is possible to grow it outdoors in most climates. The catch is that it can only survive in temperatures 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above. That means that in some parts of the country—like certain areas in Florida, California and Arizona—ginger can be a year-round crop.
But the rest of the U.S. isn’t completely left out in the cold: according to Sher, it is possible to grow ginger is cooler climates—the season is just shorter. In these areas, she says that it’s best to plant ginger after (what appears to be) the last frost of the spring.
Although it takes around eight months for a ginger plant to reach its full potential, in the cooler parts of the country, you can harvest the young ginger after three or four months. Or if you want to keep the party going, just bring the pots in for the winter.
Unless you live in an area where it rarely gets below 50 degrees, you’re going to want to plant your ginger in pots, so you’re able to bring them indoors when the temperature drops. Here’s a full list of what you’ll need:
- 12″-deep pot
- Potting soil
- Soil thermometer
- Organic ginger root (nonorganic ginger often is treated with a growth inhibitor, so not ideal for this)
Prep the ginger for planting
You can pick up the organic ginger rhizomes (another word for a stem that grows underground—so in this case, the way you normally buy ginger) in a grocery store or nursery. Here’s some advice from Sher on making your selection:
Look for rhizomes with smooth skin that is light in color. Ideally, pick a 4- to 6-inch long piece of ginger that has multiple fingers and a bud at the end of each finger. If the buds have begun to turn green, you’ll be a step ahead in the growing process.
Then, carefully cut the fingers off each rhizome, so that each piece is at least 1-2″ long and has a bud at the end. Once this is done, put them in a cool, dry spot and let them sit there for 24 to 48 hours. “This allows them to form a protective skin over the recently cut areas, which prevents them from becoming infected with bacteria,” Sher writes.
Planting the ginger
First, find a spot for your ginger to grow. If you live somewhere with year-round warm temperatures, opt for somewhere in the shade. Everywhere else, you’re going to want to find a location that gets between two and five hours of sunlight each day. Here’s Sher again to walk us through the planting process:
Plant the ginger pieces in a pot or directly in a garden bed. The ideal soil is loose and loamy (fertile). Ginger needs plenty of room to grow, so plant each piece 12 inches apart, 2 to 4 inches deep, with the buds pointing upward. If using a pot, choose one that is at least 12 inches deep and offers plenty of drainage. A pot of this size can grow one piece of ginger.
Ginger thrives in moist, warm soil of between 71 and 77 degrees. Water the soil immediately after planting. Continue to keep the soil moist by watering daily before it has the chance to dry out. This replicates its natural, tropical habitat. Depending on the climate, sprouts will appear in between 3 and 14 days.
Spread a layer of mulch on top of the soil to keep it warm if temperatures drop below 50 degrees. This also helps to keep the soil moist. As the weather cools near the end of the growing season, reduce watering.
Harvesting the ginger
While you can go ahead and dig up the whole plant to harvest it, if you want to continue to grow ginger after that, there’s an easier way. Only cut off the sections of the plant that you’d like to harvest, while keeping it in the soil. “As long as a 2-inch piece of rhizome remains attached to the stalk, it will continue to grow,” Sher explains.