Ginger, also known as "Zingiber Officinale" is technically a rhizome-the bulb section attached to the root of the plant. To begin growing ginger, select a few of these rhizomes from your local grocery store. Look for specimens which are firm, dry and have visible growth buds. These are the small bud-like "eyes" (similar to those on a potato) where the roots grow from.
Because ginger is a tropical plant, it requires rich, well-drained soil and consistent moisture. Ginger may be misted weekly to supplement moisture. Whether you plant your ginger in a pot or in the ground in springtime, be sure the soil is fertile and loose. Ginger will not thrive in heavy dense soil. Potting mix generally doesn't contain enough fertilizer for ginger plants; adding compost to the soil will help ensure the plant has sufficient nourishment, or using a liquid fertilizer periodically will also help.
Planting the Rhizomes
Plant in late winter or early spring, for most locations. Plant the rhizomes 2 to 4 inches deep and approximately 6 inches away from each other. Firmly pat down the soil on top and water lightly. If planting in the ground, mulch thoroughly around the ginger to help maintain moisture levels and minimize growth of weeds. If planting in a pot indoors, be sure to keep the pot in a warm place and out of direct sunlight.
At first, plants will show above ground development of only a stalk and a few leaves. By the end of a growing season or two, depending on how much water and nutrients they receive, the rhizomes will produce a relatively thick growth of leaves. The leaves give off a light pleasant fragrance when brushed against. The ginger will eventually flower after 1 1/2 to 2 years, but if you would like an outstanding flower, you should choose and purchase a specific flowering variety.
Preparing to Harvest
Towards the end of the summer, begin reducing the amount of water your ginger receives. It is desirable to let the ground dry out during this time, because this helps the ginger focus its energy on growing new rhizomes. When the leaves begin to die off at the end of the summer, you can begin to harvest your ginger. Generally it takes about 8 months or longer to grow enough new ginger rhizomes to harvest, although you may break off a small new rhizome piece or two occasionally after 3 or 4 months.
Harvesting the Ginger
At this point you can dig up the whole plant or just select a few growth buds to break off. The plant won't need any additional care or maintenance until the next warm season. If you leave some of the plant growing, you will have an indefinite supply of fresh ginger for the next year.