From Wine Barrel to Ginger Patch: How to Grow Ginger in Containers
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a versatile and flavorful spice that has been used for thousands of years in both traditional medicine and cooking. It is native to Southeast Asia and is now grown in many parts of the world. The part of the ginger plant that is primarily used is the rhizome, which is also known as the ginger root.
Ginger is an easily cultivated plant that anyone can grow! If you don’t have a lot of space to plant a garden, ginger grows very well in containers. Since ginger is native to Southeast Asia, it thrives in warmer temperatures. This means that growing ginger in containers is ideal because plants can easily be moved indoors if the temperatures get too cold.
Growing ginger in containers at home is an excellent way to enjoy fresh ginger and its many benefits in a smart, sustainable way. Growing ginger can greatly reduce the food miles, which will help reduce your carbon footprint.
In this article, I'll key you in on everything you need to know about ginger and how to grow it.
History and Cultural Influence of Ginger
Ginger has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, and it was used in ancient China and India for its healing properties. In ancient times, ginger was also a valuable commodity for trade, and it was highly prized by the Greeks and Romans. It was eventually brought to Europe by Arab traders, and it became a popular spice in medieval cuisine.
It is known as the first foreign spice that was grown in the “New World” in 1585 and had once been worth as much as the price of a sheep in China during the 14th century. Ginger has a long history of being used in dishes and medicine in Southeast Asia; it can provide you with numerous health benefits.
Ginger has a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, with strong connections to many indigenous cultures and African American communities. In many indigenous cultures, ginger has been used for its medicinal properties and as a staple ingredient in traditional dishes. For example, in Hawaii, ginger is an important part of the cuisine and is used in dishes such as poke and Lomi-Lomi salmon. In the Caribbean, ginger is used in jerk seasoning, a spicy and flavorful blend of herbs and spices that is used to marinate and grill meats.
In African American culture, ginger has been used as a natural remedy for various ailments, including indigestion and colds. During the era of slavery, ginger was often used in traditional African herbal remedies and was also incorporated into the diets of enslaved people. Today, ginger continues to be an important ingredient in many African American dishes, such as sweet potato pie and gingerbread. Ginger has a long and diverse cultural history, with strong connections to indigenous cultures and African American communities. From its use in traditional medicines to its incorporation into various dishes, ginger continues to play an important role in many cultures. I love to add ginger in my sweet potato pie for a kick of spice to the contrasting sweetness!
Today, ginger is grown in many places, including India, China, Peru, and Brazil. The United States is the largest importer of ginger root, with its main supplier being China. The United States imported roughly 63,392 pounds¹ of ginger from January to August 2020–that’s a lot of ginger, especially when you learn how easy it is to grow at home.
Selecting a Container for Growing Ginger
Before you begin growing ginger at home, you’ll first need to choose the right container for the job. When selecting a container to grow your ginger in, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, the container should be large enough to accommodate the ginger plant. Ginger plants can grow quite large, reaching around 3 to 4 feet tall. The rhizomes (roots) grow wide rather than deep and can grow to about 1 to 2 feet in width. This means that ginger needs plenty of room to spread out, so choose your container size accordingly.
A container that is at least 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep should be adequate for a single ginger plant. But if you want to grow multiple plants, you'll likely need a larger container. Reclaimed wine barrels average around 27 inches in diameter, so they are the perfect-sized container for growing ginger.
Next, the container should have adequate drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Ginger plants need well-drained soil to flourish. If the container doesn't have drainage holes, the soil can become waterlogged, which can lead to root rot. Since the root (or rhizome) is the main part of the ginger plant that is used, you’ll want to avoid root rot at all costs.
Finally, the container should be made of a durable material that can withstand exposure to the elements. Reclaimed wine barrels are a popular choice for growing ginger because they are large, sturdy, and attractive. However, any container made of wood, ceramic, or plastic can work, if it meets the other criteria.
How to Grow Ginger in a Reclaimed Wine Barrel
Once you have selected your reclaimed wine barrel or another container, it's time to start growing ginger! Here are the steps to follow:
- Fill your container with the proper soil: Ginger plants need soil that drains well to help prevent diseases such as root rot, so be sure to use a high-quality potting mix that is designed for container gardening. You can also add some compost or other organic matter to the soil to improve its texture, fertility, and moisture-retaining abilities.
- Plant the ginger rhizome about 2 to 3 inches in the soil: To plant ginger, you will need a fresh ginger rhizome that is at least 1 inch in size. You can purchase ginger rhizomes online or at a local nursery. Rhizomes from the grocery store tend to be sprayed with chemicals to prevent sprouting, so try soaking them in water overnight before planting. To plant the rhizome, simply bury it in the soil with the buds facing up. Cover the rhizome with a few inches of soil and water lightly.
- Water the ginger plant regularly: Ginger needs consistent moisture, so be sure to water your plant regularly. To ensure proper moisture, water the plant deeply once or twice a week. Ginger needs plenty of water, but it doesn’t do well in overwatered, soggy soil.
- Provide the ginger plant with plenty of sunlight: Ginger plants need plenty of sunlight to grow and thrive. Place your container in a sunny location, such as a south-facing window or a sunny patio. If you live in a hot climate, you may need to provide some shade to protect the plant from intense sunlight.
- Fertilize the ginger plant: Ginger plants benefit from regular fertilization. You can use a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 formula, every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
- Hill the soil around your plant: As the ginger grows, you’ll need to hill the soil up around the rhizomes to prevent damage from the sun.
Creating the right environment for planting ginger is essential for a successful harvest. Ginger thrives in warm, humid climates with plenty of rainfall. The ideal soil for ginger should be well-draining, loose, and rich in organic matter. Before planting, the soil should be prepared by adding compost or aged manure. Ginger is usually planted in early spring, and the rhizomes should be planted about 2 inches deep, with the buds facing up. It is important to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged during the growing season. Ginger can take 8-10 months to mature, and the plant should be harvested once the leaves start to turn yellow and die back.
Harvesting and Storing Ginger
Ginger can take quite a while to fully mature, but you can harvest your rhizomes as soon as they become large enough for your liking. In late summer, ginger plants stop producing new leaves and start to die.
Note that ginger grown at home tends to have thinner skin than store bought, making it easier to damage. Take caution when harvesting and be sure to use any damaged rhizomes first.
Harvesting and storing ginger is a relatively simple process. Once the ginger plant has matured, you can harvest the rhizomes by carefully digging them up with a garden fork or trowel. Cut off the leaves and stems, and gently brush off any soil.
Ginger can be stored in a cool, dry place for several weeks. Store ginger in the fridge for 3 weeks in the crisper drawer. This works best if it’s wrapped in a paper bag (a plastic bag may cause mold).
If you want to keep the ginger for longer, you can peel and freeze it. Another storage option is to dry it for later use. To freeze ginger, simply peel and chop it into small pieces and store it in a freezer-safe container. To dry ginger, slice it thinly and place it in a dehydrator or oven on low heat until it is completely dry. Store the dried ginger in an airtight container.
Culinary Uses of Ginger
Ginger is a popular ingredient in many cuisines all around the world. It has a spicy, warm, and slightly sweet flavor that can add depth and complexity to dishes. While ginger is commonly used in Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisine, it pairs well with both sweet and savory ingredients.
Some popular culinary uses of ginger include adding it to stir-fries, curries, soups, and marinades. It is also used in baking, especially in desserts like gingerbread, cookies, and cakes. Ginger can be used fresh, dried, or ground, and it is often paired with other spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom to create complex flavor profiles. Ginger can also be used to make tea or be infused into cocktails for a spicy kick.
Medicinal Uses of Ginger
Ginger has also been used for centuries for its many medicinal properties. It is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Ginger has also been shown to have pain-relieving properties and may be helpful in reducing muscle soreness after exercise. Additionally, ginger has been effectively used by many cultures worldwide to relieve nausea and vomiting, especially during pregnancy or after surgery.
Ginger root may also help improve digestion and reduce symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating and gas. Some studies have even suggested that ginger may have anti-cancer properties, although more research is needed to confirm this.
Overall, ginger is a versatile and beneficial ingredient that can be used both in cooking and as a natural remedy for various health issues. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using ginger as a treatment for any medical condition.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Ginger
Growing ginger in containers is a popular option for those who don't have a lot of outdoor space or live in colder climates. Here are five frequently asked questions about growing ginger in containers:
- What type of container should I use to grow ginger? The ideal container for ginger should be at least 12 inches deep and wide, with drainage holes at the bottom. A reclaimed wine barrel is the perfect container for growing ginger!
- What type of soil is best for growing ginger in containers? Ginger prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. A mix of potting soil, compost, and perlite is a good option.
- How often should I water my ginger plant in a container? Ginger likes to be kept moist but not waterlogged. Water your ginger plant whenever the soil feels dry to the touch, usually about once or twice a week.
- When should I fertilize my ginger plant in a container? Ginger plants benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season, typically from spring to fall. Use a balanced fertilizer every two weeks.
- Can ginger be grown indoors in a container? Yes, ginger can be grown indoors in a container as long as it has access to bright, indirect sunlight and a warm, humid environment. Keep the soil moist and consider using a humidifier to increase humidity levels.
In conclusion, growing ginger in a container is a rewarding and enjoyable experience that can be done in small spaces or in colder climates. With the right environment and care, you can grow your own fresh and flavorful ginger all year round. To ensure success, it is important to choose a suitable container (such as a reclaimed wine barrel) with good drainage, use high-quality soil, and provide adequate moisture and nutrients. Check out this fun Instagram reel showing me planting ginger in a reclaimed half wine barrel!
As a bonus, ginger has many potential health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and aiding digestion. By growing your own ginger, you can enjoy these benefits and know exactly where your food comes from, while reducing your carbon footprint at the same time. So why not give it a try and start growing your own ginger in a reclaimed wine barrel today!
- U.S. ginger imports surge in 2020 – Produce Blue Book https://www.producebluebook.com/2021/01/29/u-s-ginger-imports-surge-in-2020/
- Ginger: How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Ginger Root | Almanac.com
- Common Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in the Gingers Database - Garden.org https://garden.org/plants/view/79611/Common-Ginger-Zingiber-officinale/
- Rose, Karen M.The Art and Practice of Spiritual Herbalism.2022