Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growing ginger in a microhabitat

Ginger plant hidden away in a safe greenhouse microclimate where it can grow protected from intense sun, heat, and cold.

I'll admit, I'm pretty obsessed with figuring out how to grow things.  There is so much that can be learned through simply trying to grow new plants.  Even if its not something particularly or immediately practical, figuring out how to grow it can teach you about how to grow other more practical things.  Ginger is an excellent example of this.  Ginger: not practical where it is cold, or where it is hot, or where the sun is intense.  Being we are in Phoenix Arizona, the sun is too intense and hot during the summer and too cold during the winter.  One of my coworkers tried growing ginger plants from store bought roots (or stolons) several times before he finally figured out how to protect the plant.  It turned out to require moist rich soil, and a shaded, cooler, and wetter portion of the greenhouse.  Even here though the plant dies back during the hot part of the summer and cold part of the winter but comes back each fall and spring for several months.  The goal is to eventually get it to flower, which may require a slightly different set of conditions.

The problem and reason why most people have "brown thumbs" is that they try once, it doesn't work, so they give-up.  I have seen people grow things very productively in circumstances where they in no way should grow.  The rule is, as with most everything, if at first you fail try again.  The key is in growing the ginger... Microhabitat!  A microhabitat is a small area in the landscape where conditions are slightly different from the rest of the habitat.  For us to grow ginger successfully we had to find the microhabitat of temperature and light intensity different from the surroundings.  The same goes for growing just about anything else, you must create or find the ideal light intensity, soil, and temperature for that plant to grow in.  The same exact principle holds true in the environment.  Why do most all plants grow in the desert?  Microhabitat!  Without plants like Palo Verde creating a shaded, cooler, moister, and better soil environment under their canopy very few desert plants would grow at all. 

While growing ginger is an interesting lesson in microhabitat, ginger itself is a pretty interesting plant.  Supposedly it has been found to have anti-viral, anti-bacterail, and anti-cancer compounds in it.  If you want to read more about ginger click here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger

If you want to figure out how to grow your own ginger, purchase a ginger root from the local grocery store and plant in potting soil.  The ginger root itself is actually a stolon, a sort of underground stem that also functions as a root and stores nutrients for the plant.  The stolon will require moist but well drained soil and sunlight.  While I don't know exactly, ginger doesn't seem to like temperatures above 100 degrees or below 40 degrees, and prefers humidity and partial shade.  You will have to play around with the conditions to create the "perfect" microhabitat.

Ginger root, actually a stolon, which is a modified underground stem the plant uses for storage of nutrients.  If you want to figure out how to grow your own ginger, purchase one from the local grocery store and plant in potting soil.  The photo is in the right orientation to how you should plant the stolon.  You may have to try several different things before you find the correct microhabitat. 

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