Let's see what ginger offers to your permaculture design, and how other parts of your design can look after needs of your ginger.
First I have to make a confession. When I wrote the "Growing Ginger" page yesterday I realised that in the case of ginger I'm not practising what I am preaching.
(In my defense: I went outside immediately after I uploaded the page and fixed that.)
The way I've grown ginger in the last few years has been very successful, but I could have done better. So, after looking at how ginger fits into a permaculture design I will tell you where I went wrong and how I fixed it.
Let's look at what ginger needs and what it offers. Then we can come up with ideas how ginger and the other elements in our permaculture design can work together to save us work.
Ginger belongs into permaculture zone two. If you grow a lot of ginger you could also consider growing ginger in zone three. You should still keep some in zone two for regular use. Zone three would provide big crops for processing or sale.
Zone two is generally fully irrigated and mulched, something that ginger likes. It is also densely planted, so there will be many suitable sheltered locations.
Grow ginger near other ingredients that you frequently use in Asian dishes (kaffir lime, lemon grass, chillies...). Saves you trecking through your whole garden to gather what you need.
Because it loves filtered sunlight ginger is an ideal understory plant to grow amongst smaller fruit trees and shrubs.
If you plant ginger near trees then plant it so that it may get some morning sun, but definitely no afternoon sun. Consider how fast and big the tree will grow. Find a permanent location that will not be totally shaded out in two years.
In a permaculture design fruit trees will be interplanted with legumes to improve soil fertility. Legume shrubs like pigeon pea are perfect companions for ginger. Their canopy is very open, letting enough light through. You can prune them if you need mulch, and their root nodules add nitrogen to the soil.
It doesn't matter if you damage the pigeon pea roots when digging up your ginger. Pigeon Pea will self seed and regrow. But you don't want to damage the roots of your fruit trees.
Other plants that would feel at home here are the related turmeric, galangal and cardamom.
So what's wrong with the way I've been growing ginger in the last few years?
It's simple. I've been storing my ginger in the freezer, when I could have been storing it in the ground instead. Mind you, my electricity is 100% hydro power, so at least I don't contribute unnecessarily to global warming. Still, it just doesn't make sense to rely on an electrical appliance when there is a perfect natural solution.
It's also not safe. All it takes is an extended power failure and I'll have to get by without ginger for the rest of the year. Or, gasp, buy it!
So, after uploading the "Growing Ginger Root" page yesterday afternoon I ts, ts, tsd at myself, went outside, and carefully dug some ginger plants out of one of my tubs.
I planted them in half a dozen different locations amongst my fruit trees, just as described above. Some grow under pigeon pea and crotolaria (another legume) near my kaffir lime tree, the lemon grass is not far away, and there are several chilli bushes and Thai basil plants along the path from the kitchen.
I have two other clumps (or rather soon to be clumps) fairly close to the kitchen as well, because I like to put a piece of ginger in my fresh fruit juice. I don't want to have to walk too far to get it. That ginger is cohabiting with my rosella bushes, another thing I like to add to my juice.
Ginger is also handy to have nearby when feeling a bit off colour. You definitely don't want to walk too far then, do you?
I will maintain one of my tubs as well, though. It is just too handy to have at least some ginger in the freezer, already cleaned and chopped and ready to use, for days when I get home after dark for example.
Do you have any permaculture ideas or solutions yourself? It doesn't have to be about ginger. Anything that works particularly well in your garden? Tell us about it here!