There is a common misconception caused by the seasonal dieback of some ginger varieties, particularly the common ginger and the well-known turmeric, that the plant is an annual. If you didn’t know better, it is a logical conclusion someone could arrive at.
It makes sense in a way because they grow for a season, then they appear to die. This notion is wrong, though.
Gingers are perennials. Some have herbaceous growth all year round, and some have tops that die back at the end of the growing season, leaving the living rhizome hidden below the soil surface during the dormant phase. This can create confusion for newbies.
This perennial growth habit can continue indefinitely until you lift the rhizomes and remove them from that garden bed or something that finds in-ground ginger rhizomes attractive and eat the things on you.
This could be a fungal attack or a bacterial problem in your soil. Healthy soil will help guard against this happening. We work on improving the soil all the time, and this article titled “compost for self-sufficient gardening” explains the composting process we use.
We suggest you learn this skill if self-sufficiency is something you would like to try to achieve.
We leave a lot of ginger and turmeric in the ground each season, and it almost always comes back the following season. Other times we put in a crop to harvest, process, and store, and “Growing lots of Ginger” explains our growing process.
Do ginger rhizomes need to be harvested annually?
Ginger rhizomes don’t need to be harvested each season and can be stored in the ground if this suits your garden. The older rhizome from seasons past will become more fibrous as they age, and the flavor can change a little, but the rhizomes definitely become tougher.
You may need to lift the rhizomes due to garden space availability, so where the ginger grew becomes the garden bed for an alternative crop. You will also need to raise the ginger if your winters include freezing.
We don’t approach ginger growing in this fashion, though, as we have all of our ginger predominately under fruit trees, where they form a symbiotic connection and partnership with the fruit trees. Your situation may well be different.
If you leave the rhizomes in the ground, and once the tops of the plant have died off, the weather should turn cooler, and the rhizomes will become dormant for a few months. They will then start to shoot once the temperature returns to the warmer times that ginger prefers.
If you are similar to us, you might like to harvest and process homegrown food crops, and ginger suits this well. It can be dehydrated and powdered to be added to many recipes, and the rhizomes can be sliced and pickled. Candied ginger slices are great as well.
Will ginger rhizomes rot in wet weather?
Ginger can rot in the ground if the soil has poor drainage, and the time of year is outside the ginger’s typical growing season.
This means a wet winter, and the rhizomes have been left in the ground instead of lifting them as a crop. Where we live, we have a very distinct wet season where the gingers grow like mad and a very distinct dry season where the ginger rhizomes lay dormant in the soil.
We rarely have excessive winter rain of such a magnitude that it could rot the rhizomes in the ground. Your situation where you live may be different, and if you are in doubt, we recommend you lift the ginger each season and replant it once the rhizomes start shooting again.
This will ensure your next ginger crop is on the way. The most important thing to consider is your soil, and if you get this right, most of the rest of growing is straight forward. “What is the best soil for growing ginger?” can help.
Ornamental gingers are also perennials, however they maintain foliage throughout the year, generally speaking. Some are edible, as this article titled “are any ornamental gingers edible?” explains for you.
Will Ginger Rhizomes need mulching if left in the ground?
This should be considered best practice, in our opinion. It becomes more critical as you move farther north or south from the equator. Keeping the soil from becoming too cold is a priority in colder climates.
In the warmer climates, particularly where we live here in the tropics, mulch keeps the soil moist. We don’t need to worry about cold related problems at all.
Last words on annual planting of perennial ginger crops.
- Ginger will grow then die off.
- This is the time to harvest the rhizomes.
- If left in ground, the perennial rhizome will shoot again.
- You can harvest some and leave the rest in the ground.
- If you have issues with ground wildlife, we suggest lifting the rhizomes and storing them until next year.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.