Ginger is a highly favored plant both in the garden and in the kitchen. In fact, it’s one of the most widely cultivated crops in the world, famed for its many uses. Aside from its general use as a spice, ginger can also be candied, dried, and even turned into powder. The magic of ginger can easily be brought into your home by growing it in a container.
First, it’s important to know that we actually plant and harvest the ginger rhizome, not the root. It’s an easy mistake to make since the rhizome is commonly called a “ginger root.” The rhizome is a modified underground stem of the ginger plant, and it’s the part we need to grow in a container.
Selecting a Ginger Rhizome
1. When buying ginger rhizomes at the grocery store or local market, you should look for ones that have many “eyes” that show signs of sprouting. These eyes are the site of new growth, from which roots and shoots emerge. Therefore, the more eyes, the more growth.
2. Another important factor is the size of the ginger. The larger the rhizome you plant, the faster it grows. That’s because more surface area equals more room for shoots to sprout and more root growth below. When there’s sizeable root growth, photosynthesis is enhanced, ensuring a better harvest.
Planting a Ginger Rhizome
1. Select a wide, shallow pot for your container. Ginger grows horizontally and the stalks creep in one direction. It, therefore, makes more sense to plant ginger in a wide pot rather than a narrow, deep one.
2. Fill the pot with a high-quality potting mix. Choose an organic matter that is rich and somewhat loose, so that the rhizome can creep and expand well. While some opt to pre-sprout ginger in a bowl of water, it is totally fine to plant ginger directly in this potting mix.
3. Place the ginger rhizome in the potting mix, covering it up to only half an inch. Ginger does not need to be planted deep in the soil, unlike other crops like potatoes.
4. Water it in. Take note not to overwater the soil, since there are no roots and shoots yet. One tip is to check the soil with your finger to see that not more than three inches have gotten moist from water.
5. Place the container indoors if you live in a specifically cold area. Ginger thrives in a tropical climate where humidity, heat, and moisture are high, so you need to protect the plant from cold and dry weather. Because of this, it is also best to plant ginger during spring. Whether planting indoors or outdoors, select a site where it can be exposed to 2-5 hours of direct sunlight and away from strong winds.
6. Apply fertilizer only after the cutting has grown roots and shoots. Use granulated or soil-mixed fertilizer with 5 parts nitrogen, 5 parts potassium, and 5 parts phosphorus. These macronutrients must be in equal proportion, because too much of one may lead to problems. For instance, too little nitrogen can cause the ginger roots to grow too slow, while too much might burn the roots. For really good growth and to prevent illness, the fertilizer must also include the micronutrients calcium, copper, magnesium, and manganese. To aid the plant in soaking up the nutrients, water the ginger at least once a day. Ginger needs fertilization once a month.
Potential Problems and Solutions
1. Browning tips – This is a sign that the soil is not moist enough. To solve this, throw some mulch on the soil and water the plant more often.
2. Yellowing tips – This is a sign that the plant is not getting enough nutrients. Ginger is a nutrient-loving plant, and its growth can be helped along with some organic granular fertilizer.
3. Flowers – These are actually not a problem, although some gardeners mistakenly worry about them. Ginger flowers are edible and can be plucked right off the plant.
In warmer climates where ginger can be overwintered, simply snap off the new chunks of the rhizome for harvest and keep growing the rest of the plant. That way, the entire root and shoot system is not disturbed.
However, in colder climates where frost is a possibility, it is more practical to harvest the entire plant, since the plant would die back in cold weather anyway. You can store some of the harvest in a root cellar, to be planted again next spring when conditions are just right.