Spice up the New Year with ginger as the Herb of 2023.
The International Herb Association has chosen a “Herb of the Year” to highlight since 1995. The decision is based on whether the herb excels in at least two of the following categories: culinary, ornamental, or medicinal.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been cultivated for thousands of years and is believed to be native to the forests of Southeast Asia. It has been used as medicine, perfume and spice for years.
The part of the plant used is called ginger root, but it is actually a rhizome with an underground stem.
A beige rhizome is a thick, knotty, irregularly shaped piece that may have several “branches” or fingers. The rhizome also has buds or eyes, which are where the stems for the above-ground part of the plant emerge.
The stalks will grow about a foot, and from there will appear long, narrow green leaves.
Ginger plants will also flower after at least two years of age. First, a green cone-like structure appears, then small yellow and crimson flowers sprout from the cone.
Culinary ginger flowers are sterile.
Ginger is a tropical plant that is hardy in USDA zones 9-12. It’s not something we can grow in the garden in Western New York, but it adapts to container growing.
March is the best time to start your own ginger plant. You can buy fresh rhizomes through online companies and at some nurseries or garden centers.
You can also try growing it from roots you buy at the grocery store. Because most ginger root is imported, the pieces sold in grocery stores are usually treated with an inhibitor to prevent germination.
Look for a piece with several plump eyes (buds). Soaking your ginger root overnight before planting can help remove the inhibitor.
Ginger sold as organic may not have been treated, so look for plump buds that have turned slightly green as they are ready to sprout.
You can plant the whole root or cut it into 3-inch pieces for multiple plants. Each piece should have two or three eyes.
Let the pieces air dry for about a week so that the cuts are delicate. Use a container that is at least 12 inches and use good quality potting soil. Adding some compost will also help. Fill the pot almost to the top. Place the rhizomes on top and cover with an inch or two of potting soil.
The rhizome should be planted close to the surface of the soil without being buried like a root.
Be patient. Ginger can take anywhere from two to eight weeks to germinate.
It needs heat, so if the room is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, placing the container on a seed-starting heating mat can help. Soil temperatures for germination should be at least 68 degrees, and ginger will grow best with soil temperatures near 77 degrees.
During this period, ginger prefers dry soil. Water from the bottom if possible and water only once a week.
Too much water at this time can cause the rhizomes to rot.
After the ginger sprouts, move the pot to a sunny window or provide it with a grow light. Supplemental light can help as plants require 16-18 hours of light for best results.
At this time, the soil should be moist, but not wet.
Fertilize regularly as plants grow. They love rich soil. While plants are indoors, they will appreciate some humidity, so mist the surrounding air.
Ginger plants like warm, humid weather. Plan to send your ginger outside for the summer.
Wait until nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees and daytime temperatures are 68 degrees or higher. Like any indoor plant for the winter, you need to acclimate your plant to open sunlight.
Start it in a shady spot.
Ginger plants do well in partial shade, but should be able to tolerate full sun in our area. Plan to bring plants inside in September, before temperatures reach 50 degrees.
Ginger plants will grow leaves up to 3 feet tall, adding a tropical feel to your garden or patio.
The leaves on your plants will begin to die back after eight to 10 months. This is natural.
Stop watering when the stems die back. Once the plant is dry, you can harvest your ginger. Allow the soil to dry a little. Cut off the dried tops before digging.
To harvest, carefully dig up the rhizomes and clean the soil.
Set aside some of your harvest to plant in the spring. Store them in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry place.
Do not refrigerate the ginger rhizomes you want to grow. You can also put them in a container and store them in a container until spring.
The rest can be washed and dried. Fresh ginger can be chopped, chopped, grated or chopped for cooking.
Whole rhizomes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months. Chopped pieces can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.
Have a gardening question?
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Garden Talk will return on February 2 at noon with Hidcote and Hever – Two English Gardens of Renown. Take a ‘trip’ to England with us to explore these two wonderful gardens.
Hidcote Manor Garden is often called one of the great gardens of England. The beautiful gardens at Hever Castle have many wonderful features.
Garden Talk classes are free, but register for your Zoom link on the events page of the CCE website or call the office if you plan to attend in person.
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