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Ginger Makes Its Debut

Ginger used to be on the list of crops I thought we would never grow in our cold climate but now it may have a place in our crop selection for life! Here’s what it took to grow our own ginger in Saskatchewan, Canada. Since this was just our first trial of ginger I can't offer the same level of detail and instruction as with other crops but that will come down the road. For now, here's a look at our full ginger growing experience from this season.

Freshly harvested ginger
Freshly Harvested Ginger

The process started back in February when we planted 17 two inch lengths of ginger into one 10x20 flat. This was just some organic ginger we bought from a local grocery store. One inch of potting soil was pressed onto the bottom of tray first, Then we pressed ginger pieces into that layer and covered with another inch of potting mix. The potting mix was just peat moss, perlite, and compost. I gave the tray a thorough soak and placed it on a heat mat set for 30ºC to trigger the rhizomes into sprouting.

planting ginger rhizomes
Segments of ginger rhizome were spaced evenly in a seed starting tray before covering with more potting soil.

ginger shoots emerging
Three weeks after planting, there were plenty of shoots already emerging.

roots emerging from ginger rhizome
The new stems that emerge have their own roots.

After some strong initial shoots emerged, we attempted to pull off the stems with their roots and transplant them into new pots. They all died eventually. Thankfully the rhizomes still in the flat continued to sprout and these would be the sprouts that we eventually transplanted outdoors.

transplanting ginger
On March 7, the best rooted stems were pinched off of their rhizomes and transplanted into 3 inch pots.

A comparison of ginger transplants
By April 2, it was clear that the transplanted stems (right) were not going to make it.

The tray of sprouting rhizomes on the left ended up being our only source of transplants, because all of the stems we tried to transplant into pots eventually died. The sprouted rhizomes were transplanted into the shadiest bed of our high tunnel on May 25. We used a generous 16 inch spacing between plants in a single row along drip line. Most stalks remained attached to rhizomes during the transplanting.

ginger seedlings
Here's a look at our ginger seedlings moments before transplanting.

transplanting the ginger seedlings
Plants were transplanted with their original rhizomes still attached to their stems.

ginger in high tunnel
Ginger actually prefers to be out of direct sunlight, so it was awarded the shadiest bed in our high tunnel.

Then we waited...watered…and waited some more…The growing process was quite simple really and it was one of the lowest maintenance crops in our garden. The challenge in our cold climate was to give ginger warm growing conditions for the time it needs. Our ginger was growing for 8 months. Starting early indoors was critical, as was the cozy high tunnel environment.

harvested ginger plant
This ginger plant was removed early on August 22.

new ginger rhizome growth
Here's a closer look at the difference between the original rhizome and the new growth. (August 22)

ginger bed in high tunnel
The plants never increased much in height, but their stems continued to multiply as their rhizomes grew.

Finally, on October 5, we dug up all of our ginger plants. I would have waited longer if possible, but we were leaving on a 2 week trip and some lows of -5ºC were in the forecast. The rhizomes were dug up and sprayed clean and then the stems were removed. The rhizomes were snapped into smaller segments and packed in a freezer bag. Now we can pull out small quantities of frozen ginger to use as needed until we have another fresh batch to harvest next fall.

ginger plants at washing station
Newly dug ginger plants at the washing station.

washed fresh ginger rhizomes
The colours and fresh ginger aroma made washing a treat!

ginger segments
The rhizomes could be easily snapped into smaller segments to help remove soil from crevices.

ginger in freezer bag
Our end product was one extra large 2.5kg or 5.5lbs freezer bag of ginger.

From this initial trial, we learned that it is possible to grow ginger in our climate, but I don't have very specific numbers to report back to you yet. Since we didn't plant all of the ginger that we initially sprouted, and some of our plants were dug up out of curiosity before they were mature, I just don't have enough data to say that if you plant x pounds of ginger in spring, you could end up with a harvest of y pounds in fall. A more official trial will need to be done in the future. The next time around I will keep most things the same, but likely increase the planting density to a row spacing of 8 inches. Once I have more specific numbers to share about seed weight, final yields, and spacing from the next trial, I will update our official ginger crop profile here in the Classroom.


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How to grow a year-round supply of food,
without quitting your day job ... even in a cold climate!
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