Growing Turmeric

Turmeric is surprisingly easy to grow if you are lucky enough to get some rhizomes to plant. Occasionally good nurseries have them or you might be able to order them online.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant which is part of the ginger family.

A rhizome is a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants.

Turmeric is a warm season crop and the ideal temperature range for this crop is 20°C to 35°C. However, it is best grown in light or partial shade.

A few days before planting, cut the rhizomes into 5–8cm long pieces, making sure each one has at least two buds. Cutting them ahead of time allows the surfaces to dry, reducing the chance of disease.

Turmeric likes fertile, well-drained soil, to which bonemeal has been added.

Plant the rhizome at an angle, with one side about 7cm deep, and the other just below the surface. Position it so that the growth buds point upwards. Cover with compost and press down firmly. Water well until the ground around the rhizome is soaked; keep it moist until the first green shoots appear – which can take anything from 20–45 days.

The plant gets to about 1m tall and has stunning flowers. The turmeric crop should be ready for harvest in 8 to 9 months depending on variety and time of sowing.

Once the flowers have died down, it’s time to look at lifting your crop. Turmeric rhizomes should be gathered by hand picking.

Lift the roots, rinse them and clean with a soft brush and allow to dry in a cool place. Use the damaged pieces first.

After you have harvested, mulch the remaining plants with compost and they will appear again in late spring, as soon as the weather is warm enough.

It spreads by growing new rhizomes underground, forming large clumps above ground.

If you have harsh frost on your smallholding , you can also grow turmeric in containers. Make sure that they are at least 30cm deep and don’t let the soil dry out.

With acknowledgements to Jane Griffiths for her story on turmeric: Garden and Home, July 2018.

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