One of the pleasures of home gardening is harvesting what you have grown. This simple act makes all the prior effort worthwhile and can save you a ton of money when you add it all up. Homegrown ginger is one crop that can save plenty of cash, and it is not a plant that requires constant attention.
Ginger is a plant that grows in the top layer of your garden soil, directly under your (hopefully) generous application of mulch. It is an easy plant to harvest in most situations where it is growing away from other plants and shrubs, but if you are similar us and like to companion plant ginger everywhere, the rhizomes can become tangled in the feeder roots of the companions nearby, so more care is needed in this case.
What tools are needed to harvest ginger?
The ginger grows near the surface, so a large digging tool is not required. A simple small metal digging tool is all we use, and sometimes the soil is soft enough to not even need this and the rhizomes can be lifted straight out by hand.
Keep it simple and cost effective. An old screwdriver will do if you don’t have a small spade like the one above.
Harvesting ginger where companion plants are close will require you to be careful, and ginger grown in a dedicated spot just for it allows for easy lifting with a hand fork of digging tool.
Picking your ginger roots to lift
Ginger grows in a reasonably small space and does not spread. Some varieties do, but we are speaking of Zingiber Officinale. To harvest your rhizome, find the outermost edge of the root system and allowing 50mm or so away from it, dig down to about 100mm or 4 inches.
This will allow you to then get under the rhizome and lift the complete root up. Most times the roots are not that deep, and you will get an idea how deep to go once you start. Take care not to bruise the rhizome or crush it if you intend to save some for replanting.
When you lift your ginger root, you are taking the entire plant from the garden. There may be a piece or chunk of rhizome that breaks off as you harvest it, but generally speaking you take the complete plant from the soil. This means two things.
Firstly, if you wish to re-grow ginger in that same location, you will need to replant a piece of rhizome back into where you took from. Ginger does not regrow from the feeder roots that will/can remain after harvest. You need a piece of rhizome for a repeat crop. This article details how big of a piece of rhizome you should plant back into that spot you just took from.
Secondly, ginger can be considered a crop that is suitable for garden bed rotation if you desire. Once the crop is harvested, and this can be just a single plant, that space is available for planting a different plant variety. Ginger is a great soil conditioner and attracts worms to that patch of soil.
We have no knowledge of any plants that cannot follow a ginger crop and we would be surprised if there is any, because of gingers great companion planting attributes. As we have observed in our garden permaculture system, ginger grows with every plant and tree we have on site, so we are happy to share this in comfort and know that it is reliable info.
Handling ginger rhizomes after harvesting.
If you are harvesting your homegrown ginger for the kitchen the next step after lifting the rhizome is a good wash. We do this in the garden to keep any soil where it belongs and helps limit the cleanup in the kitchen. A light brush can help remove any soil close to the roots, and you may be surprised with the odd worm tangled in the roots. They seem to love being there.
If you have enough rhizome for the kitchen you might want to store some for planting the next year. In this situation, leave the soil attached as it will likely contain beneficial microbes that can inoculate the soil where you replant it next season.
This matters in an organic growing system like ours and can be a benefit in the longer term with soil building. This article explains soil requirements for growing great ginger in the home garden, and the taste shines when the soil is good. When replanting, consider the mulch you place over the beds as it can have a remarkable effect on your resulting ginger harvest. This article details an event we had with a great mulch, and it was by accident.
Storing your ginger after harvest
If you are using your ginger soon after harvest, you can leave the rhizome on a benchtop in a fruit bowl or similar. It will keep for several weeks like this, even months if your climate is mild.
Once you start to use it and have cut some off, keeping the rest in the fridge will help, although if you snap off a chunk where they appear to join, you can still keep the ginger rhizome on the benchtop. We prefer this method over the fridge because refrigeration will force you to use it sooner because it will dry out eventually.
The solution to this is to grow plenty and harvest from the garden as you want it. This avoids any issues with benchtop storage and refrigeration.
Long term storage for ginger rhizomes.
Ginger can be frozen after harvest and cleaning but be aware that this ginger will not be viable for replanting. We have a separate article planned that details methods of storage and use for your homegrown ginger crop, so keep an eye out for this one. It should be a good one.
Can ginger rhizomes be harvested before the end of the growing season?
Yes, you can take from a growing ginger plant carefully, and we have a dedicated article on this topic here. How you take from the plant will determine your success long term.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.