How to Grow Turmeric Tips
Turmeric, Curcuma longa is an edible, medicinal, attractive self-pollinating perennial plant. Turmeric is worthy of a place in everyone’s garden, even in a pot. I believe it is one of the most healing herbs you can grow and use for preventative health benefits. It’s a member of the ginger family and is known for good reason as the Spice of Life!
Where to Grow Turmeric – Likes and Dislikes
Turmeric is a rhizome (root crop) and is planted from a piece of turmeric rather than seed. It prefers a well-drained, consistently moist compost-rich soil in a partial to full sun location. Turmeric thrives in warm, humid subtropical and tropical climates protected from strong winds and frost. In these conditions, turmeric will grow with just morning sunshine. However it benefits from shade relief in intense heat, especially over hot summers.
If you are in a cool climate, plant it in a full sun position with maximum warmth. Avoid wet or waterlogged soil or the rhizomes can rot. Turmeric is sensitive to drought or drying out completely. Avoid frosty conditions or heat stress.
How to Grow Turmeric in a Container or Garden Bed
Use a nutrient-rich, moisture-holding potting mix and a thick layer of mulch. I have several in pots that just keep producing year after year with very little effort required to maintain them. The quality of the potting mix makes a HUGE difference, so don’t skimp.
If planting into a garden bed, improve the soil with plenty of compost and mulch. Turmeric is a hungry feeder! So prepare the soil well with nutrients (rock minerals and trace elements). Make sure the soil is well-drained so your crop doesn’t rot.
Turmeric is grown from plant material. Start with a large healthy organic turmeric rhizome. Ideally, it will have roots or small knobbly bits that are starting to shoot. The larger the original rhizome, the more energy the plant will have to grow and produce more turmeric. Makes sense right? So don’t skimp on your planting material! Sow 15-20cm (6-8″ apart).
Always put a plant marker in the garden or pot. It’s easy to forget your dormant turmeric plant is there sleeping! You can lose it while it’s snoozing, accidentally damage it or forget to care for it. So label it well!
When to Plant and How to Feed Turmeric
Feed the soil regularly during the growing season from spring onwards to support strong healthy growth. If you neglect the soil pantry, don’t expect abundant growth!
- a few handfuls of compost;
- worm castings; or
- slow-release organic fertiliser and liquid seaweed.
Keep up the nutrients along with a thick layer of mulch. Turmeric needs consistent water while growing. This can include liquid feeds. Make your own free compost, manure, comfrey or weed teas. Soak a handful of these materials in a bucket of water, strain and use.
What you give, you receive. If you neglect your turmeric, don’t expect a bumper harvest! If you put a little extra effort in, you will be rewarded.
Once the roots establish, you will see green shoots emerge from the soil. These grow long stems and attractive bright green oval leaves. Stunning white flowers also form. A healthy mature plant will have a LOT of leaves.
Growing a Healthy Harvest of Turmeric
How do you Know When Turmeric is Ready to Harvest?
When you think you may have killed it! Seriously though, there is a visual clue! When the stems start to turn brown, dry out and fall over in the cooler months. Keep a garden journal so you know the date you sow. Maintaining garden records is one of the most valuable actions you can take. Count forward approximately 8-10 months. Then you will have a guide as to when you can expect your turmeric will be fully mature. You can also harvest when the plant is immature in the first year if you really need to.
How to Harvest Turmeric
When harvesting, there are two methods. You can either pick as you need or harvest the lot at once. There are pros and cons for both options!
Harvesting Method 1: Pick Turmeric Fresh when Needed
You just leave your plant in the soil or potting mix. So you can simply harvest pieces as you need them with a sharp knife. This way, you will have the most nutrient-rich turmeric possible. The ‘mother’ plant retains the nutrients. These are stored in the new ‘hands’ she grows each year. If you remove them, she loses that energy so growth slows down.
To harvest just a small quantity, pull back the mulch and locate one of the ‘fingers’. Cut vertically downwards with your knife until it releases. Ideally, if you have multiple plants, rotate when harvesting.
This is the method I personally prefer and teach. I end up with a stronger, more robust plant with bigger yields with this harvesting method. I intentionally don’t harvest the entire crop at once. Only what I need to use on the same day. I leave the rest for the parent plant as an energy source. It’s about ‘give and take.’ This sits with my values and just feels right too.
However, if your soil is not well-drained, you may lose a small amount of your harvest if it rains heavily and the soil becomes waterlogged. I have had this happen. It’s a calculated risk! It’s not a major problem though. That’s because the rotted parts of the plant just turn into beautiful rich soil to grow more turmeric. So, it’s just nature’s way of recycling nutrients to feed the plant anyway! You can’t lose.
Harvesting Method 2: Dig Your Turmeric Up all at Once!
If you’re time poor, have a bad back or not keen to spend time in the kitchen processing turmeric for long term use, this method may not be for you. The biggest issue with this decision is what to do with a large quantity of turmeric. It requires planning!
So many people expend a lot of effort digging, have a great harvest and then look at it wondering what to do with it all! Think about how you are going to prepare and store the excess. Are you going to grate and freeze it? Dry it into a powder? How much do you plan on using fresh? Are you prepared to start all over again and replant? Or would you prefer to minimise your workload and save your energy by harvesting what you need fresh? Think before you dig!
Harvesting Turmeric in a Garden Bed
If you decide to harvest your entire crop at once, gently dig up your plant using a garden fork. Don’t go in too close to the plant. You could skewer the turmeric fingers on the end of the fork! I’ve also noticed my turmeric is usually covered in earthworms. So you don’t want to accidentally kill these beautiful, soil workers. Try to dig up the entire root ball.
You may have to dig down 20-30cm (8-12 in). Loosen the whole plant and soil attach. Then lay on a few sheets of paper, cardboard or plastic sheeting to harvest. Gently brush off the excess soil first. Identify the mother rhizome and any other ‘mothers’ that have formed if there are multiple plants. Set these aside. You will use these to replant. Remember, you will need to start replanting all over again if you choose this harvesting method. Food for thought!
Harvesting Turmeric in a Container
If growing in a pot, planter or grow bag, tip your plant contents out onto paper, cardboard or a protected surface. Give the root ball a few bangs to loosen the potting mix. Brush off with a clean dishwashing brush or old toothbrush. Then you can start to use your knife to cut the fingers off. Keep the mother plant with the initial rhizome intact and a few fingers for replanting. Once you have removed the fingers you want, add some fresh potting mix with nutrients back into the pot. Replenish the soil pantry! Chop any dead leaves off and use as mulch. No waste.
Replanting Turmeric Rhizomes after Harvesting
Once you have improved the soil or potting mix, you can transplant the mother rhizomes. The best time to do this is during the waning moon on a root crop day. The moon’s gravitational pull influences the moisture in plants and soil. By timing your planting in harmony with the moon cycle, your turmeric and other crops can establish faster and develop new roots at the optimum time of the month.
Water in well with liquid seaweed to prevent transplant shock. The plant will remain dormant until the weather warms up and the rhizome starts to shoot again in spring. The cycle of life!
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Health Benefits of Turmeric
This is such a huge topic in itself! There are copious research papers on the health benefits of this healing herb. Curcumin is the polyphenol identified as the primary active agent in turmeric. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory plant chemical that can help reduce pain and symptoms associated with inflammation. Curcumin is responsible for over 150 potentially therapeutic activities. These include:
- helping to detoxify the liver;
- regulate high blood pressure, metabolism and weight;
- maintain cholesterol levels;
- improve memory and brain function; and
- promote digestive health just to name a few.
Curcumin’s anti-cancer properties are well documented in research studies, particularly its ability to inhibit tumors. Curcumin has been shown to slow down the formation of new blood vessels in tumors, stopping them in their tracks. One of the key benefits of curcumin is that it is nontoxic and selectively targets cancer cells. Current evidence from preclinical studies suggests the strong potential of curcumin to slow the development of cancer, against a variety of tumors. Many studies concluded that curcumin matches or surpasses the ability of drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen (NSAIDs) to combat health problems, but without the expense and side effects.
“Turmeric is 5-8 times stronger than vitamins C and E, and even strong enough to scavenge the hydroxyl radical, which is considered by some to be the most reactive of all oxidants.” – Dr Mercola
Hungry for More Turmeric Tips?
To learn more about how to grow and use this culinary and medicinal herb, download my Guide to Using Kitchen Herbs for Health – Quick, Easy Ways to Grow and Use Herbs Daily. You’ll learn how to set up a healing herb garden regardless of climate, space or skill. I share how to grow 25 edible and medicinal kitchen herbs and establish a home pharmacy garden. It’s designed as a quick reference guide and packed with practical tips. Read reviews.
- Guide to Using Kitchen Herbs for Health – Quick, Easy Ways to Grow and Use Herbs Daily* This article is an extract from The Micro Gardener’s eBook and chapter on Turmeric. For the full plant profile and health information click here.
- 100 Evidence Based Awesome Health Benefits of Turmeric
- Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Polysaccharide Fraction of Curcuma longa (NR-INF-02)
- Potential Therapeutic Effects of Curcumin, the Anti-inflammatory Agent, Against Neurodegenerative, Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Metabolic, Autoimmune and Neoplastic Diseases
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