Sprout Ginger from Root Stock
There are many varieties of ginger, but for a good introduction to keeping this useful herb, select your stock from the local grocery store (really!). The resulting plants should be hardy and attractive, probably producing small, yellow (or maybe red) flowers. Look for large root pieces that are shiny and chubby and have little nubs or horns on them. These are the sections that will sprout. To wash off any growth retardant the wholesaler may have added to the roots, soak ginger in tepid water for a few hours and rinse before planting.
Start ginger in a large shallow pot that contains one-part sand to one-part potting soil. I generally use a 14" pot filled three quarters full with soil. Lay rooting pieces horizontally, placing them two or three inches apart around the center of the pot. Cover with about three inches of soil. Ginger likes to grow in morning light and dappled afternoon light. While sprouting, make sure to keep the roots uniformly moist.
When sprouts appear (this will take a few weeks) you will see white-green shoots that grow rapidly. Avoid harvesting ginger for an entire season. This allows the plants to get a good start in life. Ginger doesn't really take off until it begins to get crowded in the pot, so expect modest growth at first.
Once you have a thriving set of shoots and leaves, place the plants in a shady spot out of doors for a few hours a day after the overnight temperature rises above 55 to 60 degrees F. Leaf color may pale somewhat for a few weeks during the transition period. Increase the time outside over five days or so, and then place the pot in a shady permanent location. The three big things about ginger to remember are:
- Ginger needs gentle sun to light shade.
- It requires regular watering to supplement rainfall.
- Ginger won't tolerate freezing temperatures.
To keep plants fed, apply an all-purpose fertilizer twice during the growing season only.
Overwintering Ginger in Cold Climates
In the fall, bring the pot indoors where the temperature stays above freezing. Allow the foliage to yellow and fade; then trim it off. Moisten the soil once a month to keep the roots viable. In the spring, after all threat of frost has passed, place the pot in a warm shady spot and watch for a new set of shoots. Repot plants in spring every couple of years.
As the root is near the surface, you will often see small nobs at the soil line of your plant(s) that can be selectively cut for culinary use. Start harvesting about four months into the season and choose roots around the outer edge of the pot. At the end of the growing season when the leaves start to fade, uproot the plant and take a larger harvest if you need to.
If growing ginger directly in the soil, be sure to keep the plant moist. I've had success placing it near a downspout where it will be sure to get good water runoff, particularly in the heat of summer. Mulching is a good idea, too.
To make your fresh ginger last in the fridge, see my post: Preserving Ginger.
|Cut ginger root|
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