It’s not every day that you can grow a plant from something you’ve purchased in the produce section of your grocery story but, wouldn’t you know, ginger is just the thing! Believe it or not, ginger isn’t only a fantastic addition to your kitchen — and meals — but it’s also super easy to grow at home. We’re going to walk you through how to turn your store-bought ginger root into a robust, home-grown supply from your own garden.
First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room…or should we say, the rhizome. Ginger root isn’t actually a root, but a rhizome. Rhizomes are tubular parts of the plant that will crawl along and sprout new shoots and new roots to keep the plant expanding. Grass grows similarly. So when you’re at the store selecting the best ginger specimen, remember that you’re not looking at the root but at the rhizomes.
Finding the perfect ginger rhizome is vital to ensuring success when growing it for production. Search for a specimen that isn’t dried out or soggy. These are likely dead and won’t result in a plant. You’ll also want to look for signs of grow points. These can look like little horns or points on the ginger and prove that the ginger is ready to grow. Gather as many of these ideal ginger rhizomes as you’d like, but we suggest starting with three or four to ensure you have success with at least one.
Often, store-bought ginger is treated with a growth retardant to reduce the risk of it sprouting while in the store. This can obviously make it harder to grow for a home gardener, but soaking the rhizome in water overnight can help remove this treatment and allow the plant to grow. While there are many theories on how to best root up a ginger plant, the truth is that many of them work, and it’s up to you to choose the one you’d like to try.
First, there’s the propagate in water method where you leave the ginger in water until you see roots that are 1 to 2 inches long and then pot it or plant it in the ground. You could also use wet paper towels and a plastic bag to wrap up and seal the rhizome in a moist and warm environment. Wait for roots to show up and then plant it in the ground or a pot. Or, after the rhizome has soaked overnight, plant it directly in the ground or a pot and wait to see what happens. All of these methods have been proven to work. Decide which you’d like to try, or get enough ginger to try all three and see which one is most successful for you!
No matter which method you use to achieve healthy ginger roots, your ginger will eventually end up in soil. It’s crucial to use nutrient-rich soil that will hold moisture but not become waterlogged. If planting in the ground, amend the soil with fertilizer. If planting in a pot, mix the potting soil with slow-release fertilizer to give the ginger plant plenty of food.
Ginger doesn’t need a lot of space and doesn’t seem to mind being a bit crowded. This does not mean a rhizome should be placed in a tiny pot, but there’s no need to give one plant a whole 14-inch pot — a pot that size could hold up to four average-sized rhizomes comfortably. Be sure to position the rhizomes so that the roots are pointing down and the baby shoots are pointing up. In the beginning, this can be hard to tell, so take time to study the plant.
Caring for a ginger plant means keeping the soil moist, but not waterlogged. As with most plants, ginger does not want to be sitting in water for long periods. However, it is a tropical plant and will want access to moisture all year-round. If you live in a dryer climate, this might mean you need to water the plant more often and check it more frequently. If your weather is too dry, you might want to consider growing ginger indoors where watering and humidity levels can be controlled.
Similarly, if you’re in a colder climate where frosts come early in the season, it might be smart to plant your ginger in a pot so you can bring the plant indoors over winter.
When will it finally be time to harvest that delicious ginger? The older the ginger plant is, the better it will taste. Allowing a ginger plant to grow for two or three years is ideal; however, you can harvest after the first year when the leaves die back. To keep the fresh ginger cycle going, select good specimens of your ginger plant to replant next season. Look for healthy, firm rhizomes with lots of growth points.
While it might not be as easy as 1-2-3, growing ginger from store-bought rhizomes is much easier than it might seem at first. It can also be a great science project for kids — and a tasty one!
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