Guaranteeing Ginger

Finding nice looking Ginger, Galangal or Turmeric rhizomes at the supermarket often gets folks thinking of growing their own, only to find their rhizomes rotting after planting. With supermarket  Ginger at around $56 a kilo last year, it really is worth trying to grow your own.

I’ll share here the process that we’ve found successful at Ligaya Garden. It should give you a good crop and help you to avoid pieces of your favourite spice turning to goo after planting. We get some pretty extreme weather in Gawler but these tips work here and should work from Melbourne across to Perth. It’s a bit different in the tropics but isn’t everything? The steps in this article apply to all three rhizomes.

The most important things to remember when growing these plants are that they like a lot of Sun and don’t like swimming. They love a lot of water, but don’t like it sitting around. Good drainage is the key to successfully growing them.

When to propagate your plants

You can start growing your plants any time but they do much better if the weather is warmer. Spring is best and propagating then will give you a good start. If you’re in a hurry, you may even get a small harvest when the leaves die down in Winter. 

Choosing the right piece

A great place to start.

Successful growing starts with the choice of pieces to grow from. It may take a couple of visits to the markets to get just the right pieces but that effort is well worth it.

Find a piece that has a couple of eyes (buds) on the same side. If distinct shoots are already forming, that’s wonderful and if they’re green or turning green, that’s perfect.

The next trick is to not have too much rhizome. If each shoot has a piece of rhizome about the size of two 50 cent pieces, that’s perfect. One of the most common reasons for failure is putting too much rhizome in the ground.

Treating the pieces before planting

If you need to break or cut the rhizome, try to leave a little rhizome around the shoot and let the wound dry. It will callus over with a protective layer that will help your rhizome piece survive in the soil. The rhizomes have a protective surface and water only enters through roots so damage to the rhizome will allow water inside and could rot it. That’s probably the most common cause of failure. 

Let the wound dry thoroughly.
Let the wound dry thoroughly.

Now that the wounds are sealed, it’s time to soak the  pieces in a dilute liquid fertilizer such as Seasol. A few hours is enough but it doesn’t hurt if you leave it overnight. I often do that because I forget about them!

I know it's Turmeric but I forgot to take a pic of the soaking stage of Ginger!
I know it’s Turmeric but I forgot to take a pic of the soaking stage of Ginger!

It’s time now to plant the pieces into their temporary home, where they will grow roots and leaves and start supplying themselves with energy and nutrients, no longer needing to rely on the stored energy in the initial rhizome pieces.

Potting up

The first roots come from beneath the shoot.
The first roots come from beneath the shoot.

Put the pieces into well draining soil or potting mix in a small pot, the next size up from the size of the rhizome pieces that you have. Choose a loose, well draining potting mix, even add some sand if you’re not sure. These two things will ensure that water won’t sit around the rhizome for too long. You can put multiple pieces into a larger pot but ensure there’s a good amount of space between them. Don’t put a saucer beneath your pot.

Depth is important at this stage, place the pieces so that the shoots are just at the surface where they can receive a little light. We’re trying to stimulate them to grow leaves so that the plant can get energy. The shoots will grow leaves and the first roots will form at the base of the shoot. These two things are vital to our success. This can take from two weeks to a month depending on several factors, some of which I’m unsure of at this time.

Give the pot a good water and set it aside for a few days. You’ll only have to water twice a week for the next few weeks. When you have some healthy leaves, take a peek at what’s going on underground. If you see something like the pics above or below, you’re doing OK. If not, leave it a little longer.

Transplanting to your garden

Ready to plant out or repot.

When leaves and roots have formed, it’s time to transplant the new plants to their final home in a large tub or the ground There is a difference in how the three types of rhizome like to be planted. Ginger prefers to be closer to the surface, just lightly covered. Galangal likes to be buried deeper, 5 centimetres down. Turmeric prefers a depth of around 2-3 centimetres. It sounds like a bit of fuss (something that I’m not known for) but ot works.

Remove as much soil along with the rhizome as you can when transplanting to help prevent transplant shock. Water well with a little seaweed concentrate.

Remove from the pot with as much soil around the roots as you can.
Remove from the pot with as much soil around the roots as you can.

The plants need excellent drainage and a lot of light. I like to add about 5% of sand to where they are to be planted out.

The leaves will droop and look sad until the roots are re-established. When yiu see them back upright, all is well.

Mature plants will survive our near 50 degree South Australian Summers and the frosts of Winter but it is advisable to add some cover on these days. The rest of the year they’ll be fine. Currently, it is the hot, dry, Northerly wind that seems to do the most damage, so some kind of wind break helps until the plants are fully mature.

Add about 5% extra sand to your soil.
Add about 5% extra sand to your soil.

Water well, twice every second day and use  liquid fertilizer once a week for a while until the leaf growth looks good.

Lots of water and excellent drainage are key to successful Ginger growing.
Lots of water and excellent drainage are key to successful Ginger growing.

Wait a bit

It takes a while for the rhizomes to get going and  this is where folks sometimes think that they’ve failed when they’re really just jumping the gun. I advise no harvesting for the first year. In the second year just bandicoot around the edges of the patch. Once the main rhizome is well established, you’ll have so much of your favourite spice that you’ll be giving newbies tips on how to grow them

We grow different varieties of Ginger, Galangal and Turmeric at Ligaya Garden. There’s Redback Ginger for its striking leaves, Cardamom Ginger, shop bought Ginger, Alpine Ginger, Galangal and Turmeric. We’ve grown them all successfully using the methods I’ve written about here and if you follow these tips, I’m sure you will too.

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