It’s easy to plant onion, garlic and ginger in the garden, writes Stephanie Choo.
WE use onion, garlic and ginger to season our dishes. We make chips and tasty dishes out of the arrowhead which is a popular ritual during Chinese New Year.
Did you know that these spices and root vegetable have uses beyond the kitchen? They will grow into a new plant if you plant them in the garden.
Bulb is the general term given to swollen, underground, food-storage organs which includes true bulbs and bulb-like structures such as corms, rhizomes, tuberous roots and tubers. They serve as a reproductive structure to give rise to identical offshoots of the parent plants genetically and consequently develop into independent plants. This process, vegetative (asexual) reproduction, occurs faster than seed or spore (sexual) propagation.
TRUE BULB — ONION AND GARLIC
Both onion (Botanical name Allium cepa) and garlic (Allium sativum) are true tunicate bulbs. They are covered with thin membranous outer scales (tunica).
Onions are simple tunicated bulbs. Their overlapping fleshy scales or leaf bases (made of modified leaf tissues) are arranged in a concentric ring around the central axis and surrounded by a single common tunic.
Garlic are compound tunicated bulbs. Their lateral buds become fleshy and form cloves (bublets) which are arranged concentrically. Each bulb can yield up to 20 cloves.
Each clove has its own tunic and the entire bulb is enclosed with a common overlapping white tunic.
CORM - ARROWHEAD
Although corms look like true bulbs, they do not grow outward in concentric circles. They are solid inside. Roots and cormels appear from the underside of corms. The arrowhead (Sagittaria sp.) has roots growing out even from the neck area of its sub-globose corms.
Corms are vertical, fleshy underground stem. They store starch for the plant and send out new buds which will produce stems and flowers on the topside.
RHIZOME — GINGER
The underground part of the ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a thickened branched stem. Its outer layer is brownish. It produces leaf growth from the top while roots emerge from the bottom. Unlike true bulbs and corms, the old part of the underground stem does not die. Its lateral buds grow into new rhizomes.
HOW TO GROW
1. Get the bulbs to sprout roots and shoots in water first. Submerge the arrowhead bulb entirely and its neck in water in a bowl.
2. Sit the ginger rhizome and the garlic bulb onto some water in a shallow plate.
3. Place them at the window to receive sunlight. Change the cloudy water with fresh water daily.
There is no need to sit onion in the water beforehand although you can do so. At the end of its storage life, the onion will sprout naturally. Just plant the sprouted bulb by burying the entire bulb except its tip into the soil.
Break sprouted garlic bulbs apart and plant individual cloves into the soil. Use fertile, well-draining soil to grow onion, garlic and ginger.
Since arrowhead is an aquatic plant, get a pot without holes and fill it with some soil and rocks to anchor the bulb. Fill water to cover the entire bulb and its neck. Alternatively, grow the sprouted arrowhead bulbs at the edges of an existing pond. It makes a beautiful addition to the garden.
Grow bulbs in full sun to partial sun. Water daily and fertilise regularly with any organic fertiliser or sheep manure pellets.