Growing Baby Ginger as a Backyard Garden Vegetable Crop

January 12, 2012

Growing baby ginger in the home garden sure sounds interesting; but isn’t ginger a tropical plant that’s not suitable for the climates here in the U.S.? Well not exactly, farmers and gardeners across the country are discovering that they can raise a crop of fresh ginger under a wide range of conditions and climates!

I first gave the idea of growing ginger in the vegetable garden serious thought a year ago when I met Susan Anderson of East Branch Ginger at a PASA Farm Conference. The thing that immediately caught my eye was the gigantic, plump clusters of seed ginger on display at her booth.

Pre-Sprouting to Get a Good Start with Growing Baby Ginger

East Branch Ginger 300x203 Growing Baby Ginger as a Backyard Garden Vegetable CropOf course my immediate question was “Can you really grow ginger here in PA?” Susan spent the following twenty minutes telling me all about cultivating baby ginger and the potential that this crop has for production here in the U.S. I was sold on the spot and determined that I would try raising some baby ginger in my backyard that summer.

I placed an order a couple weeks after the conference and received a box containing the seed ginger that was shipped directly from Hawaii in early March. Enclosed were detailed cultivation instructions, and I later received follow up emails inquiring how the ginger was doing and offering further information and additional growing tips.

The cultural information and follow ups were welcomed since this was my first time growing ginger, but it turns out that this is a fairly easy crop to raise in the home garden. You begin by pre-sprouting the seed indoors during late winter or very early spring. I used shallow flats filled with coir, a plastic humidity dome over them to help retain moisture, and a germination mat underneath to provide gentle warmth.

Care and Culture of Ginger in the Home Garden

Ginger Plant 300x225 Growing Baby Ginger as a Backyard Garden Vegetable CropThe seed slowly germinated and after a few weeks shoots began appearing above the soilless growing media that they were planted in. The ginger was next transplanted into individual containers where the plants continued to grow alongside the light cart that I use for starting my vegetable seedlings. They did just fine indoors until conditions were okay to harden the plants off and move them out into the garden.

Susan had mentioned a variety of growing methods for cultivating baby ginger that included container culture, using hoop houses, or planting ginger in the open garden. I decided to experiment with each option but the bulk of my plants were destined to be treated like any normal vegetable in my raised bed garden.

I’ll even confess to not following all the advice and recommendations that came from East Branch… “heavy feeding,” hmm, I figured my garden’s soil was fertile enough, “hilling the plants,” well I didn’t get around to that either; but it was a good growing season with adequate rain, warm temps, and plenty of sun. I did make sure that the weeds were kept under control and checked regularly for any signs of insect infestations or disease; neither of which was ever an issue.

The ginger plants continued carefree and as the months passed I had no clue as to how well the rhizomes were growing below the soil’s surface. My expectations were pretty low because the plants were over four feet tall but otherwise rather unassuming. Towards the end of summer when the other summer crops were fading the ginger remained in the garden and seemed unaffected as conditions cooled and the days grew shorter.

Harvesting and Using Homegrown Baby Ginger

Clump of Ginger 300x225 Growing Baby Ginger as a Backyard Garden Vegetable CropWhen I finally got around to digging the plants during early autumn I was surprised and impressed by how well the crop had produced! There were huge hands of baby ginger spread out underneath of those tall bamboo-like shoots. The overall production was even greater than I saw from the gourmet garlic crop that season. The ginger planted in containers was just as productive if not more productive than what was raised directly in the garden.

Baby ginger is much different from the mature ginger that you find at the grocer. The harvested crop was white with pink tips and accents and lacked the tough tan skin or fibrous flesh that you get from commercial ginger. Baby ginger has a more decidedly tender texture but definitely delivers that distinct ginger flavor and bite that you are familiar with. Maybe a tad milder, homegrown baby ginger makes a perfect substitute for the store bought variety.

Baby Ginger 300x225 Growing Baby Ginger as a Backyard Garden Vegetable Crop

There is no curing necessary and the crop can be used as soon as it is harvested. I sliced and dried part of the harvest but my favorite way to preserve it was to simply clean it, place in plastic bags, and pop it into the freezer. Later it’s a snap to remove individual pieces from cold storage and grate them right into your favorite dishes for kitchen uses.

I highly recommend growing baby ginger as an interesting and productive crop for the home garden. I’ve already ordered more seed from East Branch Ginger, and this time around I intend to abide more strictly to the cultural recommendations to see if I can raise an even more impressive crop this coming season!





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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Kallie January 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Alot of times when people see the word “tropical” they think “Oh, I can’t grow that”. Thanks so much for this information and clearing this up! I plan on giving it a try along with my garlic.

Liz January 13, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I live in SC so I am going to give this a try. Thanks for the great information!

Pattu January 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Hi,
the ginger looks more fresher than what we grow here in the Tropics.
Your trial and result has enthused me to grow it in my containers. Though we get plenty here, I would like to see how it is to grow, on the terrace .
Thanks.

Luke January 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

Great article! We love cooking with ginger and so twice I have toyed with sprouting the store bought but have had no success. I will have to check out east branch. By chance did you weigh the rhizomes as they went into the ground and they weigh them after harvest to see what you gained? Is it possible to store some of the harvest for next years planting and if so does east branch have a recommended procedure?

Thanks!
-Luke

Susan January 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Kenny, Great article and thanks for the mention and for your order! Your ginger looks really good despite your mention of lack of hilling and fertilizer. Your soil must be very rich and beautiful! As you suggest in your article, both will increase yields considerably. Typical yield, when fed and hilled as recommended, can reach upwards of 8:1, 9:1, 10:1, depending upon water management, soil type, etc. Thanks for the great article and I look forward to another season with customers. Thank you all so much!
Take care,
Susan, East Branch Ginger

Kenny Point January 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Kallie, Liz, and Pattu, I think you all will enjoy growing baby ginger whether it’s in containers or out in the garden! Good luck if you do give it a try.

Thanks Luke, the store bought ginger may have been treated to prevent it from sprouting. You may want to try a source such as East Branch Ginger that offers high quality seed stock ginger. I did not weigh the ginger seed before to compare it to the harvest. I’ll see if I can locate some projected yield figures for you. I don’t think that you can save the harvest for replanting because you’re dealing with rhizomes that have not matured or formed the tough outer skin for storage. Maybe you could bring a plant indoors or into a greenhouse over the winter and then divide that plant next spring. I also noticed that the original seed pieces were still in place when I harvested the crop so maybe those could be replanted again.

Susan, thanks for stopping by and commenting, I will be better about feeding and hilling my ginger next season!

Luke, Susan shared some yield numbers in her comment and I don’t doubt those figures at all! Let us know what kind of production you get if you do plant ginger in your garden and I’ll be more particular about quantifying my harvest the next time around.

Luke January 16, 2012 at 10:42 am

Thanks for the info. And it’s great to see a rep chime in as well! It’s good to see a company who’s engaged with their customers. If I do decide to try my hand at ginger I will give east branch a call!

Thanks
-Luke

Gaill Potter January 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Will this grow in a zone 3 (central BC Canada)with winters -40? Your article should specify zones or what to do if you have to bring them inside to winter them.

Garden tips January 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

great site lot’s of useful information :)

Phil (Smiling Gardener) January 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

Hi Gaill, I’m not sure about zone 3, but they’re starting to grow it commercially in Ontario at zone 5. I wouldn’t be as concerned about your cold winter because you’ll harvest in autumn before frost. I guess it’s just whether you’ll have a long enough season to grow it.

Bruce (easy gardening) January 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thanks for the tips, very interesting read. I learned a lot and think I might give it a try.

lazy Liz January 30, 2012 at 7:59 am

Wow! I’ve been thinking of how to grow my ginger for about three years now since we move here to Huntsville, AL because they are very expensive to buy in store. I’ve thought of growing them in a cart where I can wheel it in and out the house/garage to maintain the temperature. It gets really really hot in the summer here and snows and below freezing in the winter. I will try to grow this late winter and hope to see rhizomes like yours. Great article!

Kiko February 16, 2012 at 9:57 am

Thank you for this article. Like many novice gardeners, I too has been sticking too much to plants that are native to our area or will naturally flourish under the weather here. I never thought you could plant a tropical plant in temperate areas and make it flourish. I would like to try baby ginger on my garden this coming summer. By the way, I found this site, http://danthegardener.com/ and found great gardening tips from it.

Jane Feutz January 26, 2013 at 10:02 am

East Branch is sold out. Any other place we can get seeds?

Kenny Point January 26, 2013 at 10:21 am

Hi Jane, I was hoping that they would have expanded their production because they sold out quickly last year also… guess ginger is a popular crop for gardeners and market farmers these days. I don’t really have an alternative source to recommend for seed stock. What part of the country are you located in?

Melissa February 9, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for the great info! this will be something I consider since I love ginger so very much, and the baby ginger without tough skin and fibers!

Kenny Point February 10, 2013 at 8:50 am

You are very welcome Melissa, baby ginger has become one of my favorite crops to grow in the garden and it has been extremely productive.

Yvan March 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Where can you buy this baby ginger??? I would like to try to grow it.

Kenny Point March 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Hello Yvan, I purchase my ginger seed from East Branch Ginger but their supply is limited and they typically sell out soon after the seed becomes available in the winter.

cookinmom October 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

Hello, I wanted to add that I am from North Florida and I bought some ginger at a local market and put it in the ground to see if I would get any results. Mine looks like yours and all I did was put about 4-5 inches of wood chips on it. The man I bought it from, that grows it, said when you harvest to keep the best w/ eyes and place it directly back into the ground for next time. Best ginger ever!

Kenny Point November 1, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I like to start out with ginger grown to be used as seed stock to avoid concerns with disease and to have a better handle on the quality and specific strains of ginger that I grow. Our season here in PA in not long enough to harvest fully matured ginger so saving part of the harvest to replant the following season is not as practical either, but let us know how it works out for you.

Mr. Lionel December 19, 2013 at 1:32 am

Thank you for sharing tips for to grow a baby ginger as a backyard vegetable.

Doug January 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm

First of all thank you so much for exposing us to baby ginger. My wife and I have been planting the ginger we buy in the store to keep it fresh but never did I think I could grow something like baby ginger. Excited and inspired I contacted East Branch by email a couple of weeks ago and did not receive a reply other than an out of office email. I then went back to their site and they said they won’t have any ginger seed this year! Needless to say I am very disappointed.

Kenny do you or any of your readers know of an alternate resource for these seeds? I really would like to try some this year!

Thanks !

Kenny Point January 29, 2014 at 8:06 am

Hi Doug, the only other seed quality source of ginger and turmeric that I know of is Puna Organics in Hawaii. It’s late for ordering and I don’t know what their stock of seed is like at this stage but check with them.

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