Home Farmer's Inside Track Farmers, here’s how to grow your own ginger!

Farmers, here’s how to grow your own ginger!

In the right conditions, ginger is very easy to grow. It can more or less be left alone for months on end between planting and harvesting

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With the recent surge in ginger prices, you might be wondering how you can supply your own ginger in times like these!

Ginger is a tropical plant, and it’s fairly hard to grow in regions that are less warm and humid. But there are options and methods that will let you propagate this culinary specialty herb at home. Whether you are growing it for your own dishes in your garden or in your kitchen, or planning on farming it to sell on market, this spicy root is a wonderful crop to plant, and here’s how you can do it: 

Finding a root 

First, you’ll need to locate some ginger rhizomes at a local store or market (ginger is not really a root, but rhizomes are similar).  

how to grow your own ginger from the root
Here you can see one of the buds on the ginger already forming a leaf. Photo: Supplied

Good Housekeeping has some tips on finding the best ginger root to start off with. Buy a piece of ginger the size of your thumb with several bumpy nodules at the tips — these are the buds. Opt for plump chunks, not those withering in their own skin. Skin on the delicate buds should be thinner and lighter coloured; skip the pieces with darkened buds. 

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Finding the right spot 

As mentioned before, ginger is a rhizome, not a root, even though the rhizome is commonly referred to as “ginger root.” Therefore it needs to be planted close to the surface. Gardener’s Path recommends finding a large pot to keep in a sunny spot in your kitchen, or a patch of your garden that is in full to partial shade with rich, loamy, and well-draining soil for planting.  

Whether you grow your ginger root in a pot or in the ground, you do need really good soil to start with. It needs to be rich enough to feed your ginger (you can always add some compost, see below), it needs to hold enough moisture so it doesn’t dry out, but it needs to be free draining so the ginger roots don’t become waterlogged. 

First steps 

Some gardeners recommend soaking the rhizomes in water over night. That’s not a bad idea, since shop bought ginger might have been treated with a growth retardant. 

Growing ginger doesn’t take up much room at all. Every rhizome you plant will first only grow a few leaves, in the one spot. Over time it will become a dense clump and very slowly get bigger, but only if it isn’t harvested. The rhizomes underground also don’t seem to mind if they become a bit crowded. 

You can cut or break up the ginger rhizomes into little pieces with a couple of growing buds each. Or just plant the whole thing. Tropical Permaculture advises planting your ginger root five to ten centimetre deep, with the growing buds facing up. 

Water well after planting, and leaves should emerge above the ground after about one week. 

Taking care of your ginger plant 

Hilling the soil
Hilling the soil. Add a few more centimeters of soil every few weeks to cover the exposed rhizome as it grows. Photo: Supplied

Gardeners at Good Housekeeping suggest one step to keeping your ginger happy during the year, and it is called hilling the soil. 

Like some potato plants, ginger rhizomes will burst through the soil and turn green in the sun. Commercial growers boost yields by watering regularly and hilling the rhizomes once a month. To achieve the same result at home, sprinkle several handfuls of rich compost into your pot once a month to protect the rhizome itself from solar exposure. 

Planting timeline 

Plant your ginger during spring, as early as possible once it starts getting warmer. Then you can simply forget about them for ten months to a year before you can harvest them! Tropical Permaculture refers to ginger as the most neglected plant in their garden, because once they plant it, they ignore their ginger until it is ready to be harvested. 

Ginger is ready to harvest within approximately ten months. Harvest your ginger in the spring or summer of the year following planting. You will notice the leaves begin to turn yellow, which will signify that it is ready to harvest. Simply pull the ginger plant directly from the soil. Break the foliage off from the ginger root and bring the root inside. 

Just make sure the soil around your ginger plants stays dry and drained. What  ginger can’t stand  is frost, direct sun, strong winds, and soggy, waterlogged soil. 

it’s possible to get quite the stock of plants up and running from one single root – so you can have ginger all year, or share the love by giving some away to your friends! 

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Dona Van Eeden
Dona Van Eeden
Dona van Eeden is a budding writer and journalist, starting her career as an intern at Food for Mzansi. Furnished with a deep love and understanding of environmental systems and sustainable development, she aims to make the world a better place however she can. In her free time you can find her with her nose in a book or wandering on a mountain, looking at the world through her camera's viewfinder.
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