Growing ginger from rhizomes is relatively straight forward, but if you want a tender more gentle flavour growing baby ginger from seed is the way to go!
The process of growing ginger from seed is going to involve seed soaking, selecting, potting in grit mix, using a heated propagator for around 6 weeks. Then the refrigeration period for 6-8 weeks. Move outdoors, and expect germination within the next 6 weeks. You can eat them at the six month stage when they are still young baby ginger, soft and pink in color.
Phew, let’s break that down a little bit more shall we! I am going to lay out each stage and then you can see how tricky this may be based on your skillset.
Why Grow Ginger From Seed and Not Rhizomes
It can be quite a search through your usual nurseries for ginger seeds and we have found some online at amazon. Their ginger seeds are very reasonably priced and with 100 seeds in each packet you will have a good chance of germination. You are going to need it!
Growing from rhizomes mean that you get a pretty hardened off ‘root’ to cook with. It will store for a longer time, however using seeds mean a softer root that is more gentle on the palate. It will be harder to grow in certain areas than others and the UK will need a heat controlled environment.
You have that classic herbal tea combination of lemon and ginger, but imagine that the ginger is less spicy and hot but more sweet and subtle.
10 Steps To Growing Ginger From Seed
- When they arrive open up the packet and let them breathe for a day.
- Then soak them overnight or for 8 hours in water that is initially warm to the touch. Not hot and not cold, just warm. Then allow the water to cool and transfer the water to the fridge.
- The seeds that float will be less likely to germinate, therefore should be discarded. The ones that have sunk to the bottom are viable.
- Make up one pot for each seed. You will need drainage holes, as well as broken pots or pebbles in the bottom. Take a usual seed starting compost and mix it with gardening sand. You really have to think about irrigation at this stage! Thoroughly water before adding the seeds. Allow a full soaking and for the water to drain away completely.
- Add the seeds to each pot and press firmly to the sandy soil mix. Then brush a thin layer of the mix on top, literally just a dusting (1/16 inch). Using a gentle houseplant mister to then moisten the top layer.
- Then put the pots on top of a heated mat or inside a heated propagator. This will need to be at around 21 Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is a warm summers day in the UK. This needs to be a constant temperature and you can start the seeds of in May and use your greenhouse, or start them in early Spring and use different means to keep them heated. Ensure that the soil is moist but not damp!
- After 6 weeks you will need to bring them into a fridge and colder environment. Make sure they are moist and use a plastic bag to cover them. The ginger seeds will be waking up now and do not want to be flooded, as this will encourage bacteria to grow and fungal infections have been known to develop without any signs. So it is okay to allow the soil to dry a little, but not to allow it to become water logged.
- After 8 weeks in the fridge the seeds are ready to be moved outside and start to germinate. You do not want to put them anywhere too hot at this stage. You may think a nice sunny spot should do the trick, however it will prevent germination. So go for a shady area that doesn’t get too hot, around 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the plastic cover and make sure to keep moist.
- 4-6 weeks later you should start to see seedlings emerge. keep watering and make sure they don’t get too hot. Once they develop two to three pairs of true leaves they can be handled. At this time move them into larger pots. We grow them in their final locations here, so nice deep pots. Fill with a slightly acidic soil – typical would be compost for roses, mix in a bit more grit for drainage as well. We use perlite in this mix as well because it holds moisture without allowing for drowning. Check out how to hill below as you will massively increase your yield this way.
- If you want to grow on in the ground, wait until the first true leaves have appeared. Harvesting should take place at around 4-6 months from the first leaves emerging. You will be able to store it out of the ground for 2-3 weeks maximum, so harvest as you intend to eat.
If you do want the ginger to grow on to larger plants then transplant to the ground and leave 18 inches between plants. Ensure that the ground is double dug with humus rich soil. We always recommend the spacing as you want the root stock to fill the available space.
Hilling is the process of covering over with new soil. This can be done to increase yield and introduce more nutrient rich soil. So hill over at least three times from the third month of growth.
If at stage 9 you do not see any seedlings then go back to stage 7-8. It will break your heart to do this, but give it a few months to see if you do get seedlings emerging before returning.
The temptation is to over water. This is a very common mistake, but think about where ginger would grow in originally, it has documented uses from 5,000 years ago in China and India. So think of their rainfall patterns, with long dry periods. The soil needs to have that ease of drainage. This comes from using the double dig method or digging through a good quality green manure with a long tap root.
You may not be aware of problems that have occurred before germination has even taken place. This can be due to inconsistent temperatures and watering issues.
So use a heat controlled propagator, a water mister and not a watering can. Plus keep an eye on the moisture level, if the soil is damp to the touch, no need to water again!
Bacteria can be present from any seeds you harvest, so make sure to buy new seeds each year. Also bacteria can remain in the soil, so over winter it and dig the resulting crop through to clear any build up. Also rotate your crops.
The one benefit of growing from seed over using the rhizomes are that you can eat it soft. So harvest it in the first six months after germination! Do not wait until it has become a hardened rhizomes. Instead eat it while it is pink and soft. This is one of the true pleasures of growing your own herbs and food. You can tweak it to get it just right, but eating fresh baby ginger is a really unusual pleasure and a real crowd pleaser when you pull it off!
Ginger is used widely in herbal teas and cooking. We use ginger in our herbal teas and you may be interested to read about specific blends for those who struggle with IBS.