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There’s nothing like a cold bottle of ginger ale to quench your thirst. This aromatic and flavorful drink has been an age-old home remedy for indigestion or motion sickness for thousands of years. With so much to offer a health-focused diet, growing ginger in aquaponics gardens is a great way to produce this vegetable in your backyard all year round.
In this article, we will show you how to successfully cultivate ginger in your aquaponics system.
Getting to Know Ginger
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) belongs to the botanical family called Zingiberaceae, a flowering family which also includes ginger lily, galangal, turmeric, and cardamom. Ginger and its relatives are considered an invaluable ingredient in many Asian recipes as the root and rhizome (main stem) of these plants are used as flavor enhancers for their dishes.
Health Benefits of Ginger
Although ginger has many culinary uses, it has a long history as a medicinal plant by many folk healers in Asia, Micronesia, and even Hawaii. That said, research on alternative medicine has shown that there is an active pharmacological ingredient in ginger called Gingerol, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Gingerol is what makes ginger spicy as it is closely related to capsaicin, which is found in pepper.
Another study revealed that ginger is as effective as metoclopramide in treating and preventing vomiting and nausea caused by pregnancy or chemotherapy. It is not surprising that ginger has these health benefits because according to the United States Department of Agriculture, one teaspoon or 2 grams of ginger will give you the following nutrients:
- Dietary Fiber – 0.04g
- Calcium – 0.32mg
- Iron – 0.012mg
- Magnesium – 0.86mg
- Potassium – 8.3mg
- Zinc – 0.007mg
- Copper – 0.005mg
Types of Ginger
There are many types of ginger, but there are four popular varieties that are widely used for culinary purposes. Here are the different types of ginger:
Chinese or Common Ginger
Chinese ginger, also known as the common ginger, is what you would usually see in supermarkets and is grown in different parts of India and Southeast Asia. This cultivar can grow up to four feet tall. Its roots are usually 5 to 6 inches long.
Baby ginger, also known as young or spring ginger, is a different variety derived from the Chinese ginger. The roots are less fibrous and have thinner skin, which makes it a perfect ingredient for salads. It is usually eaten raw due to its mild flavor and is also good when pickled.
Galangal is often called tropical ginger or Thai ginger and is cultivated in Asia both for culinary and ornamental purposes. The plant itself grows up to 7 feet and has beautiful white or red flowers. The edible root looks like smaller, carrot-like versions of the common ginger. Depending on the cultivar, galangal rhizomes can be yellow, white, black, or red. Galangal is sweeter and less pungent among all ginger types.
A close relative of ginger, turmeric has been cultivated for over 5000 years in Indonesia and other Asian countries. In the West, turmeric is often sold in jars as either a spice or as a health drink. In Asia, it is sold raw or in dried slices. Turmeric is not as big as its other relatives and will only grow up to 3 feet. Its rhizomes are also smaller and have a distinct vibrant yellow-orange color. This type is less resistant to cold and can only survive in warmer temperatures of 60°F and above.
Cultivating Ginger in an Aquaponics Garden
Here are guidelines you must observe to cultivate ginger successfully in your aquaponics garden:
Ginger, like onions, grow well in media beds with a flood and drain system which structurally supports the plant as it grows. Its rhizomes can grow up to 3 feet wide under the growing media. This aquaponics system is perfect for any root crop as it keeps the plant hydrated without soaking its roots, which can cause rotting.
It is recommended to keep your water’s pH levels between 5.5 to 6.8 for healthy ginger rhizomes to grow. As always us a quality pH meter.
Hydroton or expanded clay pellets are perfect for growing ginger in an aquaponics system as it is pH neutral and less compact than soil, which makes harvesting easier.
Water and Air Temperature
Ginger plants thrive in a warm and humid environment. It is recommended to keep your air and water temperature between 75 to 79°F.
Ginger plants don’t need full sunlight to grow. It can grow in partial shade as long as it gets at least 2-3 hours of dappled sunlight.
Since ginger plants thrive in warmer temperatures, tilapia is a great fish to use. Tilapia is perfect as it is resistant to diseases and can provide you with a hearty fish dinner later on.
Ginger is not a fast grower even when cultivated in an aquaponics garden. It takes approximately 11 to 12 months before you can harvest its rhizomes.
Ginger plants can be eaten and destroyed by different pests such as the Fijian weevil, aphids, and mealybugs. Always check the underside of the leaves for any eggs and manually remove them. You may also sprinkle diatomaceous earth as a natural pesticide to prevent any infestations.
Common Problems Growing Ginger
Ginger plants are very sensitive to the cold and may have to be grown in warm houses or greenhouses. This plant also requires high nitrate levels, so it is recommended to have enough fish in your tanks to support its growth.
Where to Buy Ginger For Planting
- Always check for salts in your water as ginger plants are very sensitive to it and may die.
- This plant is called a “heavy feeder” by most aquaponics enthusiasts, which means that it has a higher nutrient demand than most plants. It is best to add chelated iron, calcium hydroxide, and kelp-based potassium supplements to produce a healthy yield.