EAST BRANCH GINGER NEWSLETTER April, 2012

Spring Issue
Presprouting Ginger, 2012
Presprouting Ginger in Specialized Chamber. Photo courtesy of Plum Granny Farm.

Hello Ginger, Turmeric and Galangal Growers!

Thank you for subscribing to the newsletter. Herein are some tidbits about the cultural requirements and FAQ's during the early phases of growth for these unique crops.

Some quick takeaway bits for now... more in the newsletter below.
  • If your growing area (hoop house, containers, field) is ready for transplanting but not all the ginger, turmeric or galangal is sprouted, it's okay. Transplant as long as the soil temps are actively warming from 55F. See transplanting on the website.
  • If the area where you are planting is NOT ready, that's okay, too. If your ginger and other crops have shoots then feed them a mild fertilizer like fish emulsion at each watering (remember not to over water during this time!). The extra food now will help the crop get a good start.
  • If your rhizomes have not sprouted yet, dig one up (stick your finger under the rhizome and lift from the bottom so you don't break off any shoots that might be just under the surface - they're tender right now). Squeeze the rhizome. If it is still firm then they are fine. If they have not sprouted but are still firm, then they may have been too cold (below 65-70F - ideal is 70-80F). They may also have been overwatered (media kept saturated). Watering during presprout and at the onset of transplant requires a 5-7 day regime. Perhaps a little less if your media is heavy and mucky, perhaps a day or two more often if temps are on the higher end of 70-80F and your media dries out faster.
  • Turmeric takes a lot longer to sprout than ginger and galangal. It will grow. If your turmeric has no swollen buds on it at the time of transplant, leave it in the presprout stage for a week or two longer and then plant it out.
  • After transplanting, the crops will sit for a week or two (perhaps longer if soil temps are closer to the 55-60F). This is normal. They are getting used to their new surroundings and will jump ahead once acclimated.
There is a lot more info in the heart of the newsletter below and some good pics to help explain the nuances of growing these crops. Also, take a look at the short blurbs to the right about dormancy and coconut coir.

We're here all season so email or call with your questions and comments. If you call, be sure to leave your questions in the message if I don't answer so I can leave you a message with the answers.

Take care,
Susan

 
Presprouting-Ruhi Ginger
Presprouted Ginger
Presprouted Ginger - Got a little chilly on two nights which is why tops look burned.
Ginger - Ruhi sprouts faster than Big Kahuna if given the warm temps of 70-80F and watered at a minimum. If your ginger has not sprouted yet it may take longer if temps are lower than 70-80F or if it has been overwatered (perhaps more than once over 5-7 days). If the soil or area where you will be growing the crop for the season is ready, then you can go ahead and transplant the seed pieces even if there are no sprouts. Remember that the ginger will be fine in presprout for longer than 4-6 weeks as long as it is fed a mild fertilizer beyond the 4-6 week mark. If there are no sprouts (and therefore no roots) then it does not need to be fed. The above picture shows a fairly successful presprout. The ginger got too cold at one point so that damage can be seen on the shoots. This ginger was kept at 70-80F for about 3 weeks in a 'germ chamber' (closet with a thermostat controlled heater kept around 80F - monitored with a thermometer, watered about every 7-10 days, media is coconut coir). The ginger was then moved to an unheated GH where it experienced two nights that dipped below 45F. The shoots show this damage. A makeshift chamber was made in the GH to accommodate for chillier nights (plastic sheeting that can be placed over flats with an electric heater on the bench under the plastic tenting to keep temps warm on chilly nights). This ginger can be transplanted at any time the final growing location is ready.
 
 Presprouting-Yellow Ginger
Yellow vs. Ruhi
Yellow ginger flesh on bottom. Ruhi on top. Note internode length is longer for Ruhi (yellow marks on both pieces are internode lengths).
Yellow ginger takes longer to presprout than the Ruhi variety. If your planting area is ready and you see buds swelling on the yellow, go ahead and transplant it along with the Ruhi. It will be fine. Yellow ginger rhizomes are much daintier (thank you to the grower who used that term on the phone a few weeks ago - an apt description for yellow ginger rhizomes!). The best way to tell is to scrape the skin in a very small area and compare the flesh color to that of a known Ruhi piece. The yellow ginger has a much more yellow cast to the flesh color than that of Ruhi. After you determine the differences, be sure to mark your rows or individual plants so you know at harvest time what you're bringing to market.
 
Turmeric
Turmeric.Presprout.2012
Turmeric Rhizome Sprouting. The media may have been kept a bit too wet. The nights were cool for a few days in a row (below 55F) so may have slowed the process. Remember that the rhizomes are not damaged unless below 45F.
Turmeric will take longer to sprout. Be patient with it. It is a little less tolerant to cooler temperatures during presprout so keep in between 70-80F. No hotter than that, though. During presprout we are mimicking tropical soils which stay about 70-80F, not much hotter, not much cooler. Turmeric takes about 8 months to get to a harvestable stage. At about 8 months it will have curcumin levels high enough to impart that beautiful orange color to the flesh (and yellow color to recipes) and be medicinally beneficial. Turmeric must be cultured with that 8 months in mind. Transplant now to an area (containers, greenhouse, hoophouse) where the soil will stay above 55F until November/December. 
 
Galangal
Galangal.Presprout.2012
Galangal During Presprout
Galangal sprouts a bit faster than turmeric and ginger. It is a tough plant and will take about 8 months to get to the woody rhizomes that you may be familiar with. Galangal can be harvested earlier than 8 months and sold as baby or immature galangal. Immature is easier to work with, has a milder flavor and can be consumed in the recipe in which it is used. More mature galangal is sometimes so hard that it is not consumed with a recipe but pulled out prior to serving or just left in the soup or dish as you eat.
Transplanting  
Ginger being transplanted
Ginger ready for transplant. Presprouted in coir for about 4 weeks. Thanks to Plum Granny Farm for this and the first picture in the article!
Many of you have already or are ready to transplant your ginger, turmeric and galangal. Please take the time to review how to transplant ginger on the website. Here is a link to the growing instructions for ginger, turmeric and galangal that came with your shipment. Click on the link for the crop you need information about. The documents are saved in Office 2007.

Here is a synopsis of transplanting BUT please review the instructions that I mention above.
  • Be gentle separating the presprouted pieces from one another. The roots may be intertwined so gently tease them away from each other. Also, the shoots are fragile so be careful not to break them off while transplanting.
  • Plant the seed pieces at about the same depth you had them during presprout. If you did not have them planted then no more than an inch deep. The seed pieces will be covered with no more than an inch of soil or media.
  • Be sure to place some fertilizer in the hole when you plant.
  • Water similarly as during presprout. It is important not to overwater just after transplanting. A heavy drink every 3-5 days, depending upon your soil/media type. Ginger likes water but not being waterlogged.
  • It is common for the ginger/turmeric/galangal to sit for a week or two just after transplanting. The plants are acclimating to new soil/media and new temperatures therein. Remember, they have been snuggly warm for weeks and now they are going to soil/media that may be close to 55-60F. They will be fine. Give them two weeks to acclimate and begin growing again.
  • Have row cover handy if you're in an area where ambient air temps might get below 40-45F at night.
  • Remember to feed your ginger, turmeric and galangal well!
  • Hill ginger for the first time when base of ginger stems change form white to bright pink, about 2-4 weeks from the time of transplant. Wait for the color change; that indicates the onset of rhizome growth. Hill with about 3-4" of soil or media. There will be more on that in a newsletter soon, with pictures of the color change to look for!
  • Turmeric and galangal are hilled only if rhizomes are peeking out of the soil as the crop grows.
Have fun with these crops. They are forgiving, for the most part, but do feed them well. They will yield a lot more for you if you supplement feed them. Here is more info on fertilization. There will be more about fertilization in the next newsletter, too.
 
Food and Water  
As mentioned earlier, feed your presprouting ginger if you are going to keep it in that stage for longer than 4-5 weeks. Feed with mild fertilizer like fish emulsion. Be sure to add fertilizer to the final growing location when transplanting. Water every 5-7 days during presprout and after transplanting until canopy is well established.
 
Over watering (mucky soil) causes ginger to remain dormant. If your crop has been watered more often than every 5-7 days and has not yet broken dormancy, then taper back on watering to once a week until you observe sprouting... OR, if the area where the crop will be growing on is ready, then transplant and taper back on the watering.
 
Thank you   Farm Some Pink!
I want to say a sincere thank you to all those folks who have given such productive feedback about the ordering process, about your ginger shipments, about your presprouting experience, and about your growing ginger crop! This is a new business catering to farmers' ginger needs. We are farmers ourselves so we appreciate all of your patience and productive feedback as we strive to provide you with the best quality ginger that we can. Keep those questions and comments coming.

Take care,
Susan
 
Info In this Issue
Presprouting
Transplanting
Food and Water
Thank you
Dormancy Broken
Coconut Coir
Dormancy Broken! 
3 Weeks after Presprout
Kept at 70-80F, watered about every 7 days.

Your ginger may look like the above and that it great! It has broken dormancy and that is the goal during presprout. As long as the final growing location has soil temps actively warming from 55F, the ginger is ready to be transplanted.
 
Coconut Coir Available 
Tomato Seedling in Coir
Tomato Seedling in Coir

Coir provides an excellent media for growing ginger, turmeric and galangal, as well as many other crops. The pictures of the presprouting ginger in this newsletter are all in coir. The above tomato seedling is being grown in straight coir. Many growers offered the feedback last season that it was difficult to find coir in wholesale quantities at reasonable prices. My new business partner and I started a company called AeroCoir. We imported a low salt coir that is a blend of 5mm chips with the cocopeat. This special formulation is made for optimum aeration and good drainage for a healthy crop. Coir can be used to grow seedlings in spring or fall, can be used to grow on crops in containers (I grew tomatoes and okra in grow bags with coir last season!), and can be used to grow potted plants. If you are interested in pricing, please call 207-313-4358 or email  susan@aerocoir.com
I am working on a website with all the information pertaining to this growing media. Stay tuned. Coir is more sustainable than peat moss, won't dry out like peat moss, can be used like peat moss in any self-made mix or can be used as a stand alone media.
 
Farm Baby Ginger!
Susan Anderson
East Branch Ginger
207-313-4358