How to grow ginger in the Midwest


Ginger has a distinctly sweet, bitey taste and an intense, spicy aroma. In my household, we use it a lot in stirfry and other Asian dishes and to ease stomach upset. 

I have purchased both the premium ground squeeze ginger and fresh ginger root for cooking and making tea. However, I have never had homegrown ginger. I didn’t even realize ginger was something that could be successfully grown in the Midwest until I came across a Penn State Extension article last fall.

If started indoors during March, ginger can be successfully propagated, transplanted and grown in the Midwest to harvest in the fall.

Growing ginger

Obtaining ginger. Gardeners should acquire starter ginger pieces from garden centers, nurseries or seed companies as opposed to trying to sprout ginger root from the grocery store. Most ginger sold at the grocery store is imported and may be treated with an inhibitor to prevent sprouting.

Choose ginger root that is firm, healthy and has growth buds. Do not choose damaged pieces of ginger root.

Starting ginger indoors. Ginger is a subtropical plant that requires a longer growing season to reach maturity. That’s why it’s key to start ginger indoors a couple of months before it can be planted outdoors. Follow these steps:

  1. Cut ginger root into 3-inch pieces, ensuring each contains at least three growth buds.
  2. Allow pieces to callous over for a week before planting.
  3. Select a potting medium that is loose, loamy and rich in organic matter and a two-part container that allows for watering from the bottom. A 11x21x4-inch container provides enough space to start six pieces of ginger.
  4. Spread the soil in the container so that it is uniformly 3 inches deep and lay the ginger pieces horizontally on top.
  5. Cover with an additional inch of soil.
  6. Water from the bottom every five to seven days until sprouts emerge. Then water enough to keep the soil moist but not wet.
  7. After sprouts emerge, use a seeding heating pad and grow light to provide the necessary warmth and 16 to 18 hours of light required to get ginger established.

Planting ginger outdoors. After the danger of frost has passed and the temperature at night is consistently above 40 F, ginger can be transplanted outdoors. Follow these steps:

  1. Harden off plants for five days to prepare for outdoor planting.
  2. Choose a sunny site with loose, loamy, well-drained soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5. You may also grow ginger in containers if soil conditions are not favorable.
  3. Dig a shallow trench and plant ginger 3 inches deep and 12 inches apart so that sprouts are visible just above the soil. If you chose containers, plant each plant in a container with a 12-inch diameter or larger.
  4. When new shoots form or the pink shoulders of ginger are visible, hill your plants (pile more soil around the base of each shoot) with an inch of soil and add a granular fertilizer.
  5. Water plants two to three times a week, soaking them deeply.

Harvesting and storing ginger

Ginger will be ready for harvest in the fall after the frost kills its leaves. Gently dig up the roots of your plants and store them in resealable plastic bags. Make sure to press the air out of the bags as your seal them. Ginger can be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to two months in plastic bags. You may also store whole or grated ginger in the freezer for up to six months in airtight containers.



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