Companion Planting Tips to Maximize your Ginger Harvest

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ginger root

Welcome to the world of companion planting, where the strategic arrangement of plants can work wonders for your ginger’s growth. Companion planting, also known as planting combinations, interplanting, or mixed planting, involves selecting plants that complement each other and provide mutual benefits. In this article, we will explore the best companion plants for ginger, considering its growing needs, culinary garden preferences, and how to utilize the process of plant companionship to you and your gardens benefit.

We live in the wet tropics of northeast Australia, right in the sweet spot for growing ginger. This article has been written to help those looking to extend food production from the home garden by placing plants, including Ginger, closer together without the plants competing with each other.

We grow much of our food onsite and prefer things to be simple, reliable, productive, and repeatable. Understanding ginger is a good foundation for planting combinations, or cooperative planting in the home garden.

Understanding Companion Planting and Ginger’s Growing Needs and Behaviors

Companion planting is a time-tested technique that involves planting different species together to enhance their growth. When it comes to ginger, a versatile and aromatic herb, understanding its growing needs is crucial.

Ginger, scientifically known as Zingiber officinale, requires well-drained soil with adequate organic matter. It thrives in a warm, tropical climate, and its rhizomes, or underground stems, serve as the primary focus for cultivation.

To ensure optimal growth, prepare the soil by incorporating compost or well-rotted manure. This will enhance soil fertility and moisture retention, providing a favorable environment for ginger’s roots to develop. Additionally, ensure the planting area receives partial shade, as direct sunlight can scorch the delicate ginger plants.

By using companion planting methods, you can benefit by filling holes in the garden with beneficial plants that are welcomed into the kitchen as well as partnering with plants close by. The ginger plants below are growing with macadamia and jaboticaba trees.

ginger starting to die off
These gingers are beginning to die back, and are now good to cut back as mulch.

Ideal Companion Plants for Ginger in the Culinary Garden

If you’re planning a culinary garden or a cooking paradise, ginger deserves a special place. Its distinct flavor and aroma make it an essential ingredient in Asian cuisine and beyond.

To create a harmonious culinary garden, consider companion plants like basil, turmeric, lemongrass, and mint. These herbaceous companions not only add vibrant flavors to your dishes but also contribute to a visually appealing garden.

Basil, with its fragrant leaves, not only complements ginger in the kitchen but also repels pests that may attack ginger plants. Turmeric, a close relative of ginger, shares similar growing conditions and creates a stunning visual contrast with its vibrant yellow roots.

Lemongrass provides a citrusy aroma while deterring pests, and mint acts as a natural pest repellent while adding a refreshing touch to your garden and recipes.

ginger companion planting
Papaya, coffee, peppercorn, turmeric, basil, sweetleaf, chilli and ginger all grow as companions

To maximize the benefits of mixed planting, we recommend plants that are well adapted or native to your location. This will help ensure the success and stability of your garden.

A quick word on permaculture design is warranted here. If you decide to interplant ginger and/or turmeric amongst perennials, be aware that both ginger and turmeric have leaves that die back annually in winter. This can be a mess if left alone but can also be a benefit if you invest a little time into cutting the tops off the rhizomes as they begin to dry off, and you then use the leaves as mulch.

use turmeric and ginger die-back for mulch generation
leaves of ginger and turmeric used as mulch after they die off.

Unleashing the Power of Companion Plants for Ginger’s Growth

Companion plants not only enhance the flavor palette of your garden but also offer practical benefits for ginger’s growth. One valuable aspect of companion planting is nitrogen fixation, where certain plants from the legume family, such as peas or beans, enrich the soil with nitrogen.

Ginger, being a heavy feeder, benefits from this nitrogen balance, promoting its healthy growth and development. However, there may be locations where planting beans and peas won’t be suitable, and we have a solution for you if this is the case.

We trialed a patch of ginger without any companions in a small garden patch to see what the outcome would be. We harvested a bumper crop, and the secret ingredient was the mulch we used. It was green wood shavings from a wood lathe, and the wood was a legume. The ginger was fed only by this mulch and the soil biology. The complete article on this event can be found here.

Consider planting nitrogen-fixing legumes near your ginger patch to improve the overall soil fertility. The legumes’ roots form a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, drawing in atmospheric nitrogen and converting it into a form that is readily available to plants. This natural fertilization process ensures that your ginger receives a consistent supply of nutrients for robust growth.

The Role of Soil and Native Regions in Companion Planting for Ginger

To ensure your ginger thrives, it’s essential to consider the soil conditions and the plant’s native region. Ginger prefers well-drained garden soil with a high organic matter content. Sandy loam or loamy soil types are ideal, as they provide proper drainage while retaining adequate moisture.

Be wary of clay soils as rhizome rot can be a curse in prolonged wet periods. To be fair, many plants struggle in clay soils, so we suggest working on the soil structure before starting to interplant with any confidence.

Moreover, understanding the indigenous habitat and the original area where ginger originates from can provide valuable insights into its growing requirements. Ginger is native to tropical regions, such as Southeast Asia, where it thrives in warm and humid conditions.

By replicating these conditions as closely as possible, you can create an environment that mimics ginger’s native habitat and promotes optimal growth.

Why Companion Planting saves space.

Placing many plants together as companions can bring a better return on that area and save space if you compare it to planting each group member singularly.

Many people have limited space to grow things, and when you want to head towards self-sufficiency, getting the most you can from every square foot of the garden is essential.

This is the framework we have used in our yard, or as we often call it, our system. The more we plant, the more holes become visible, waiting to be filled with the subsequent additional plant variety.

This process is perpetual, and success is measured in the quantity and variety of fresh produce coming into the kitchen to be eaten or processed and stored.

How to start companion planting with Ginger.

How we approach the idea of plant companionship is detailed below, and it avoids any second-guessing or conjecture on what plant does well with another. Do note that we are based in the wet tropics of NE Australia where ginger is prolific.

For cooler locations, you should look for planting locations that will allow maximum sunlight for the ginger as you place it in your garden. Also be aware of the seasonal growth habit of the ginger plant. The above-ground growth dies back in winter so keep this in mind.

A typical area in our yard holds primary shade trees that are either fruit or nuts. The opportunities for the next plant layer are visible when the sun/shade dynamics of the sun movement daily and seasonally are observed.

natural ginger mulch
There are kilograms of Ginger and Turmeric under that mulch. The Turmeric is shooting again as wet season is upon us. All under a Lime tree.

For instance, if the primary fruit tree is large like a Mango, an opportunity is available below it for smaller trees like Coffee. The spaces beside the Coffee can be filled with Black Pepper plants (The vine variety as explained in this article).

ginger companion to mango
Mango trunk in the background with Ginger shoots and Sweet Potato. Top right is Katuk, a great plant for salads and protein source for fish and chickens.

A ground cover plant like Sweet Potato or Gotu Kola will fit well, and Ginger and Turmeric rhizomes can thrive below the ground. All these plants grow together, making the shade of a single tree a valuable piece of the garden.

Now we have the opportunity to introduce Ginger and its close family member Turmeric, to the shade zones of all fruit trees. This method of design is called stacking.

Designed stacking is where the Ginger plant and its extended family shine. All through our system (yard), we have Ginger placed below and alongside a large variety of trees, bushes, and plants. What didn’t work was eliminated, and what was successful stayed in place.

It is an actual trial and error process that eventually produces food efficiently and productively. I am willing to bet most people would welcome a similar system into their yard.

We are not limited by a list of companion plants in a book or an article on the net. We try something, and if it works, we stick with it.

What plants grow well with Ginger?

There is a large list of plants that Ginger will happily grow under and alongside. Most fruit trees, many herbs, and a variety of spices will grow with Ginger.

We like to give examples of the information we share to give depth and context to the articles. This one is no different.

In 2015 we undertook a Permaculture Design Certificate course (PDC). Since that time, we have planted and replanted many areas in our yard, and the following lists represent the trees and plants that we know for sure grow together.

ginger shoots under papaya
Papaya trunk on the right. Coffee trunk left rear, Ginger shoots front left. Peacock ginger next to Papaya trunk.

What trees will Ginger grow under?

The trees listed below are present in our garden, and all have Ginger below them. Turmeric is often present alongside ginger plants.

  • Mango
  • Mandarin
  • Sapote
  • Grumichama Cherry
  • Indian Lime
  • Macadamia Nut
  • Guava
  • Lemon
  • Noni Fruit
  • Mulberry
  • Jack Fruit
  • Kaffir Lime

There is one detail that should be mentioned here, and that is to use a good layer of woody mulch under the trees as this suits the Ginger perfectly. It is also a handy location to place all those loose branches that a garden can generate.

What plants will Ginger grow with?

All of the listed plants below are present in our yard and are closely planted with Ginger.

  • Coffee
  • Basil
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Peppercorn or Black Pepper
  • Banana
  • Papaya
  • Passionfruit
  • Sweet leaf (Sauropus androgynus) or Katuk
  • Sweet Potato
  • Turmeric
  • Galangal
  • Chili (Thai/Birds-eye)
  • Jaboticaba
  • Mother-of-herbs
  • Pineapple
  • Gotu Kola

A note on Bananas: This plant is a heavy feeder and will out-compete Ginger for available nutrients, in our experience. We use Banana plants as shading elements, windbreaks, mulch, and for fruit.

ginger rhizome under bananas
That tired looking brown lump is a Ginger rhizome next to a Banana sucker.

While Ginger will grow alongside the Banana, the rhizome harvest is poor. We don’t recommend you rely on obtaining a Ginger rhizome harvest from these two plants being close together.

Why grow Ginger plants under fruit trees?

There are several reasons for placing Ginger plants under fruit trees. The list below shows the ones we recognize as useful and worthy of discussion.

  1. Soil conditioning.
  2. Food production.
  3. Pro-active health benefits.
  4. Shade creation.
  5. Mulch generation.

1. Soil conditioner

Calling Ginger a soil conditioner is based on our observations when harvesting Ginger rhizomes at the end of the growing season. We often find multiple earthworms entangled in the rhizome and roots as we lift them.

Earthworms are known for creating fertile soil, and our soil where the Ginger grew is often in better condition than before planting.

The worm activity has to benefit all plants near the Ginger, so it stands to reason that using Ginger as a companion plant is a net positive.

2. Food production

We use a lot of Ginger throughout the year, and it is simple to head out to the garden and dig up as much Ginger rhizome as is required, not concerned about using up all available Ginger in one go.

We don’t take this for granted, though. It took a lot of hard work and quite a bit of time to reach this point in our garden system. Now days we consider ourselves experienced in growing Ginger, enough to put a dedicated article together about growing and caring for it. You can find it here.

3. Health benefits

You don’t have to look far to find information on the health benefits of fresh organic Ginger, so we won’t add to the noise. Suffice it to say that having a medicinal plant like Ginger readily available at all times is gratifying.

4. Shade creation

Gingers can be used as a low-shading element if you get creative with your planting patterns. A Ginger frond thicket can shelter soft-leaved shade-loving plants in some circumstances.

This is more appropriate with early or late-day sun angles and should be explored. This is a more advanced method of growing and is suitable for those who have sun-mapped their yard to optimize the production.

To find out how to map your yard for sun and shade, this article can help.

5. Mulch generation

At the end of the Ginger growing season, the plant tops all dry off and collapse to the soil surface, forming a sometimes-thick layer of natural mulch that can protect the rhizome over the resting season.

plant stacking for companion plants
Dry turmeric leaves with mother of herbs, Katuk, and Coffee seedlings all under an Indian lime.

This is great when you leave the rhizomes in the ground over winter. Gardeners in cold climates should lift the rhizomes yearly, with cold meaning heavy frost or colder.

Does Turmeric like the same Companion Plants as ginger?

For all intents and purposes, it is safe to interchange all of the plants listed above as suitable for companion planting with turmeric. The primary difference to consider is the leaf size between turmeric and ginger.

Turmeric has a broader leaf so consider this when using turmeric as a shading screen. Both ginger and turmeric grow to a similar height and enjoy very similar soil preferences.

We grow a lot of both plants and have them side-by-side in many garden spots. We recommend planting both ginger and turmeric together and try to plant them in a similar ratio to your use of these spices in the kitchen.

Summary.

As I close this article out, I am reminded of how effective a PDC is for long-term food production stability. Hopefully, we have described stacking plants with Ginger well enough for you to consider starting this food-growing method. We know it works, as it is modeled after the natural systems of forest and edge plants.

Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.