As a low desert gardener, it’s exciting to learn how to grow a crop that I already use, is good for you, and grows well in warm climates. Ginger definitely qualifies on all three accounts. Learning how to grow ginger is easy, and growing it is even simpler (especially if you live in a warm climate).
Ginger is a heat-loving, tropical perennial herb grown for its bamboo-like leaves and flavorful rhizomes. It is grown as a long-season annual in all but the warmest locations.
8 Tips for How to Grow Ginger
1. Understand how ginger grows
Ginger is grown from rhizomes. Rhizomes are fleshy stems that spread horizontally underground and contain several buds or growing points. The ginger rhizomes are planted below ground and send up bamboo-like shoots that give energy to the developing ginger below ground.
Ginger shoots emerge from the ground when the weather is nice and warm in the spring. Throughout the long days and warm months of summer, ginger grows well. As the days get shorter and cooler, the leaves turn yellow as the ginger begins to go dormant.
2. Purchase and prepare ginger before planting
You can buy ginger online from seed companies, but you can also purchase organic ginger from your local market. I get mine at Sprouts. When purchasing ginger rhizomes for planting, look for light-colored, thin-skinned organic ginger that is plump and firm with several bumpy nodules.
To prepare ginger for planting, cut rhizomes into 2″-3″ pieces (each piece containing at least 2 to 3 nodules). Allow cut ends to dry and heal over before planting.
3. Give ginger plenty of time to grow
Ginger needs a long, warm growing season of about 10 months to grow well.
Zones 8 and warmer generally have enough time to start and grow ginger outdoors. Plant outdoors after your last frost date and when the soil warms in the spring. In the low desert of Arizona, plant ginger in March.
Plant rhizomes with nodules pointing up 2″ deep and 6″–8″ apart.
In cooler climates, you will need to pre-sprout rhizomes indoors before planting. Count back 10 months from your first fall frost date. This is the time to begin pre-sprouting your ginger.
To pre-sprout ginger, plant rhizomes 2″ deep in small pots on heat mats. Keep warm and slightly moist (but not soggy; it will rot). Once ginger sprouts, provide supplemental lighting until it is warm enough to plant outside. Gradually let plants become accustomed to outdoor conditions for a week and then carefully transplant sprouts to larger containers or garden beds outdoors.
4. Give ginger plenty of warmth
Ginger does not grow well in temperatures below 55°F. Temperatures below freezing cause damage to the leaves and also kills the rhizomes.
In cooler climates, choose your warmest location to plant ginger. Look for an area that gets reflected heat from a block wall. Consider planting ginger in a container. Containers often heat up more quickly in the spring. Move the container to a sheltered location when temperatures fall.
To grow ginger in containers:
- Use a container for growing ginger that is at least 12 inches deep.
- Container-grown ginger may need more frequent watering and fertilizer.
- Harvest container-grown ginger by dumping it onto a tarp or into a wheelbarrow.
In hot summer locations, provide shade for growing ginger. Although it prefers warm soil, intense sun often damages the growing leaves. Look for an area to plant ginger that receives shade naturally, or provide shade for growing ginger.
5. Give ginger good soil and fertilize as needed
The best soil for ginger is rich in organic matter and well-draining. Rich, loose soil may provide enough nutrients for growing ginger. Mulching the soil with additional compost or straw helps provide nutrients, control weeds, and retain water.
While ginger is growing, you can add a few inches of compost to growing ginger sprouts, similar to “hilling” potatoes. This can encourage more growth in the rhizomes.
If your ginger is not growing well, consider feeding every few weeks with an organic fertilizer such as liquid seaweed or fish emulsion. Testing your soil will help you know exactly what the soil is lacking.
6. Water ginger correctly
Ginger grows best with regular water, especially when the plant is actively growing. Well-draining soil is important as the rhizomes do not like soggy conditions. Do not overwater. As temperatures cool, reduce watering.
7. Harvest ginger at the right time
In cool climates, harvest ginger all at once before freezing temperatures. In warmer climates, harvest ginger after the leaves begin to yellow and die back. Wait to harvest as long as possible for the largest rhizomes.
To harvest, gently dig up the entire plant. In warm areas, you can leave the ginger in the ground and harvest as needed. Plants will go dormant during the cooler months and shorter days of winter, but new shoots will emerge in the spring.
8. Preserve harvested ginger in a variety of ways
After harvesting ginger, rinse it well and then cut off shoots and large roots. Use the leaves in tea.
Store fresh ginger in the refrigerator or freezer in plastic resealable bags. Unpeeled ginger keeps for about a month in the refrigerator or up to a year frozen.
Dehydrate ginger by peeling (young, fresh ginger may not need to be peeled) and slicing. Dehydrate at 95°F for 8-12 hours or until ginger is crisp and breaks when bent. I use this dehydrator from Amazon.
Store dehydrated slices in a glass jar with an airtight lid. Process small amounts of the sliced ginger into powder. Once ground, the powder will begin to lose flavor so grind only a small amount at a time.