Some plants need that first bite of cold weather to produce the flavors we love. My ginger told me the time was right to harvest in Houston.
I love gardens with some character. I have performed a few new construction home inspections recently, and I am always impressed at how quickly the bare yard is transformed into a garden. My only problem is that these scenes have been standardized, and I realize that I should not expect something else. In between inspecting two new homes, I concentrated on my meditation garden. This is the space that my wife and girls want based upon a little garden by a church. I moved the current landscape out of the way to begin making the path in a shape of a cross. The children and I began working on making decorations for a tree in the front yard that we want to look like a Christmas tree. With all of this going back and forth through the gardens, I noticed that the ginger was receding. The few Houston cold snaps had convinced my ginger to go dormant, which means that harvesting was in order.
I wonder if others have a hard time with ginger in their gardens? I was told that all ginger was edible, but you would find that they do not have a great flavor. I had an easy time with the more ornamental gingers, so I thought growing the edible variety would not be too hard. I purchased a hand of ginger from a grocery store. I planted pieces in various places around the garden. I had some grow, yet I was not achieving a great result. I planted the cousin of ginger, galangal, which spread rapidly. I discovered that I had to find a place that was partial shade. The soil had to be loose. I had to keep the garden bed fairly well watered. This is my second year harvesting, and each year the crop becomes a bit larger. I am not obtaining the big, luscious hands of ginger that you will see in the stores. I think that I have to improve my soil quality, and I may need to water a bit more than I did.
The ginger has not produced the showy leaves of other plants in that family. I had stems come up about two feet each year. Some of the ornamental gingers has leaves of three to four feet in height. The galangal reached seven feet. When you stop seeing new growth, and the stems begin to wither, the ginger is preparing for the colder months. The plant is storing its energy into the rhizomes. This is the time to harvest. Being Houston, I find that the weather does not encourage the plant to fully go dormant. I dig the bed out, sifting through the soil for the ginger. I have a few small shoots still growing, so I set those aside. I mix compost into the soil, making sure that there are no clumps. What I have not tried, but might help, is to mix some sand into the bed for the ginger. This would help keep the soil loose, allowing the ginger to easily expand.
Once the bed has been prepared, you can prepare for next year’s harvest. I take my cuttings, the shoots which were still growing, and replant them with a good drink of water. I follow this step with a good layer of mulch. I found that adding some compost to the soil in the summer seems to help the plants. I was thinking that I should add some organic fertilizer that helps root growth, like potash. I might try that this year. To make this garden bed more productive, I let my New Zealand spinach grow in that bed. That plant found its own way to that bed, and they grow well with the ginger. I have been so happy with my harvest, that I added ginger to each of my meals. The galangal will have to do as my main flavoring element when looking for this pungency later. For now, the ginger will reign.