Ginger is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual stems over a meter tall, bearing narrow green leaves and yellow flowers. Its rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine. Originating in the tropical jungles in Southern Asia, ginger does not survive frost and will only grow in the ground in USDA zone 7 or higher. In zone 6 or lower you must grow your ginger in pots and bring it indoor over the winter.
Start your ginger plant by planting the root in early spring, after all chances of frost have passed. Choose a healthy ginger root that is about 10-12 cm long with at least a few fingers. Eyes that have started to turn green are ideal, but not required. You can buy ginger root from the grocery store, buy organic ginger if you can. Break or cut off a finger and make sure the section is at least 3-5 cm long and has at least one bud on it. To help prevent the ginger pieces from rooting in the ground, allow the cut pieces to dry for a day or two in a warm, dry place before putting them in the ground, this way they will form a protective callus over the cut surface.
Ginger grows best in part to full shade or areas with morning sun only, and likes high-quality, well-draining soil, so if you plant it in the ground make sure you add lots of compost or rotted manure into the planting trench. If your soil is poor quality or heavy in clay, purchase rich potting soil instead or just grow your ginger in pots. Plant the ginger sections in a shallow trench, making sure the pieces are no deeper than 2 cm and space them so that you have one ginger plant 20 cm apart from the other. If growing the ginger in pots, choose a pot that is at least 30 cm deep. Plant 2-3 pieces per large pot. A plastic pot is better than terra cotta, but make sure you poke plenty of drainage holes in the base. As the ginger plant grows the roots push back up through the top of the soil, this is okay and it’s common for the plant to have roots above soil.
Once the ginger root is planted, water it thoroughly. In a week or two the leaves of the ginger plant will emerge. Once the leaves emerge, water sparingly, but when you water the ginger root plant, water it deeply. The leaves on the ginger plant will get to be up to 1.5 m tall and are susceptible to wind damage. If you live in an area where ginger will not survive the winter, bring your ginger plant inside once night time temperatures drop below 10 Celsius degrees (50 F) and continue to care for your plant over the winter. Fertilization is not required if the ginger is planted in rich soil, especially if you have mixed in compost, but if soil is poor or you would like to improve yield, fertilize with a small amount of complete liquid fertilizer each month.
Ginger plants take 10 months to mature, so your ginger plant will be ready for harvest in the next spring, or you can let it grow through the next summer for a larger harvest. Let the plant mature before harvesting as ginger develops a much stronger flavor if allowed to develop in the ground. When you want to harvest your ginger just lift the ginger plant gently from the soil. If you want to continue to grow ginger root, just break off a part of the ginger root that has foliage and carefully replant it. The rest of the ginger root can be used as your harvest. Break off the foliage and wash the ginger root. The ginger root can be broken into smaller pieces for easier use.