All plants require some sort of growing medium to obtain nutrients, and ginger is no different. The best soil for growing ginger is any free-draining acidic soil that contains plenty of organic matter and allows the nutrients to be plant-available.
This is the simplified short answer, and there is far more to it as you will see below. To learn more, read on.
To take your ginger growing to the next level, we posted an article titled “Growing lots of ginger, is this the best mulch?” and it details exactly how the process of acidic mulches can benefit a ginger crop. Add that info to this post and you are on the way to success.
Where does ginger grow naturally?
The natural setting of the ginger plant, or the general locations that it found are tropical rainforests of the world. This means plenty of rain, and plenty of trees.
Where we live here in the wet tropics of North East Australia, gingers grow wild on the edges of the rainforest and also in clearings within the rainforest proper where a tree has come down for whatever reason.
The gingers are opportunistic in behavior just like many other plant varieties are. The soil in these settings are the beneficiaries of a fast mulch hit, where the leaves and tangled vines decompose once they dry up and fall from the mother plant.
This sets the scene for the gingers to start growing. How they arrive is beyond my pay grade but they most certainly do grow in these situations.
If we model what is happening in this scenario in our own gardens we can grow ginger with ease. Understanding the ginger family is important to begin with, and “is ginger annual or perennial” is a good place to start to understand what is happening in the rainforest clearing.
Because of the high rainfall and the heavy vegetative load that drops in these locations, there is a constant recycling going on from living matter to decomposed matter back to living again. The gingers are just a part player in the grand picture.
What soils will ginger grow in?
Ginger will grow in many soil types in many climatic zones, but it grows best in humus rich organic matter heavy soils that are well mulched.
These are often the infertile soils of the rainforests of the world. What. What? Infertile? How can so much vegetation grow if the soil is poor? The nutrient load is all above ground in the trees and plants is how.
As soon as anything woody touches the forest floor, the natural systems for recycling jump into action and return the nutrients back into the living system. Gingers have no need for deep soils because the grow in the top 3-4 inches of soil.
The major nutrient recycler is the fungus family members. They are the prevalent microbial actor in the mulch cycle, and it is why there is such a strong symbiotic relationship with ginger plants and mycorrhizal fungi.
This is indicative of why composts work so well with ginger, as well as with most other plants. Gingers love fungal based soils.
The shallow soils have an effect on trees as well, and the soil is really just a substrate that holds the tree upright. Rainforest trees have massive buttress root systems that help the tree stand in the poor soils but the feeder roots are shallow.
Commercial growers like to have loamy soils to grow in and they force feed the plants a diet of things the soil is depleted of. As home gardeners, self-sufficient or not, we get to adapt our soils naturally to suit the plant rather that force the plant to adapt to the farm soil.
For this article, and for much of this site actually, we lean towards following natures instructions and try to match what is happening in the natural setting of any particular plant.
What pH does ginger grow best in?
The optimum soil Ph for ginger is between 5-6.5 but it will grow outside of this range however. At this pH level, most nutrients that gingers needs are plant available. That’s the short answer. To get the full picture of Ph and soils, read on.
There is more to the pH question than a simple number because in the forest settings where ginger grows naturally, there is a lot going on with the soil structure that is not visible.
Every soil type has what is called a cation exchange capacity (CEC), and this is a measurement of the soils ability to hold minerals and nutrients in it. A high reading tells us the soils is rich in minerals, trace elements, and minor trace elements.
These are what plants require to grow. If the cec is low, as are typical rainforest soils and where gingers come from, there are very few minerals and nutrients held in the soil for plants and trees to access.
The reason for this is the heavy rainfall has leached away the available minerals and this leaves the rainforest soils bereft of nutrients.
It is why the plants that fall get recycled so fast. It is why gingers have shallow roots and can be so productive in a thin mulch layer, and it is why the soils are acidic in nature.
As vegetation breaks down, acids are released to further act on the nutrients held in the vegetation and this in turn creates humus and organic matter for the next series of plants to access. Most of these nutrients are immediately taken up by the plants and what is left often washes away in the next wet season.
One of the plants that benefit from the vegetative composting process described above is the ginger. It thrives in these conditions, so we, as growers looking to maximize the harvest, would do well to mimic the soil surface conditions that are humus rich.
To see this process in action and to measure how significant this recycling process really is, we can look to the deforestation of the amazon where the jungles are being cleared and are planted out with crops.
The soils, once cleared of vegetation, will support just one years crop growth and then it is depleted with no way of regenerating itself.
The local peoples move to the next patch and repeat. Madness. You might be able to see the similarities between the commercial ginger growers and the land clearers of the tropical jungles.
The difference is the commercial ginger growers have the financial capacity to feed the plants through chemical processes and can bypass the natural biological growing pathways as is the process in the rainforests. This chemical cocktail can give larger crops but organic growing is still very beneficial in the home garden. “How much ginger can one plant produce?” details our experience.
The article above now lets you see into the world of the ginger, and how it gets its nutrients. They don’t always come from the soil but do mostly come from composts and good quality mulches that can break down.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.