Turmeric is a very common herb and has many medicinal benefits. Growing turmeric indoor is so easy if you follow this complete guide.
Some facts about turmeric
Days to germination: Started by root cuttings, not seeds
Days to harvest: 250 days or more (8 to 10 months)
Light requirements: Full sun, or slight shade
Water requirements: Regular watering
Soil: Well-drained soil
Container: Necessary for most climates
Why You Should Grow Turmeric
For those whom may not know, Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is best known as a pungent and bright yellow spice in Indian cuisine. It’s a tropical plant, and can only be grown outdoors if you live in zones 9 or warmer. Turmeric is rarely able to tolerate any climate colder than 65F.
Turmeric is different from most herbs in your garden that you are not going to be harvesting the leaves, but the roots instead. It grows an underground tuber much like ginger does. It can take up to 300 days for a new crop of roots to develop, it’s not a plant that you can harvest in small pieces through the season.
It’s closely related to ginger and often referred to as the “Queen of Spices,” its main characteristics are a sharp taste, pepper-like aroma, and golden color. Turmeric is the main ingredient in most Indian curry powders. It sometimes goes by the name of Indian saffron but is not related to saffron at all.
Aside from its power as a seasoning, there is growing evidence of the health benefits from this herb. Its high in anti-oxidants and may have anti-inflammatory or even anti-caner properties.
Plant your turmeric
You won’t be planting seeds to start your turmeric plants, but using roots instead. It’s not just a matter of convenience, the plant doesn’t produce seeds for propagation.
If you have a market nearby where you can buy fresh turmeric roots, you may be able to use those to sprout a plant. Otherwise, you will have to find a local nursery or online store that carries them. Turmeric isn’t the most common of household plants so it may take some looking. If you have access to a supermarket that carries it, purchase 2 or 3 because they probably wont all sprout.
Once you have a fresh rhizome or root, all you need to do is plant it. A large rhizome will have several branches to it so you can cut these apart and grow more than one plant if you wish. Then you can get it sprout easily by just burying the root under 2 inches of loose potting soil. If there are any buds or knobs on the root, turn it simply so they are facing upwards.
Make sure to keep it damp but not sopping wet or its root may rot. Within a month or so, you should see sprouts come up.
Keep in mind that if you are going to grow turmeric outside, you should transplant it out in the late fall. And you can do this anytime for indoor plants.
Though you could always just plant your plants directly outside, but in most cases, it’s usually safer to keep them indoors until they have started to sprout.
If you are growing more than one, plant each seedling about 12 to 16 inches apart. The best location is sunny but a little bit of afternoon shade shouldn’t hurt either.
Once your plants are established and growing well, they will need just a little care from you. During winter months, turmeric needs less water but once the growing season starts you will want to water fairly frequently to keep the soil moist.
Bi-monthly or even weekly feedings with a liquid fertilizer is ideal.
Just in case, you see your plants going to flower, there is nothing to worry about. It won’t have any effect on your later root harvest, and the flowers don’t actually produce any seeds.
Pests and Diseases
Turmeric is a plant that is seldom bothered by insects or disease. So this is the great advantage when you plant turmeric. But your plants may develop leaf spot or leaf blotch, which is a fungus infection that will start out as brown patches on the leaves. The leaves will eventually turn yellow and drop off. In this case, Bordeaux fungicide can help control it if you catch it soon enough.
How To Harvest Turmeric
As mentioned above, you don’t usually harvest turmeric through the season like you do with leafy herbs but you have to take care of your plant for 8 to 10 months before harvest time. Eventually, the plant will start to turn yellow and the leaves will start to dry out. That’s when your turmeric is ready to dig up.
Just dig up the plant and cut the rhizomes away from the stems. Wash off the dirt and its ready to use. For more turmeric, take one or two pieces of root and start another plant. If you are careful, you can harvest a few root pieces without having to dig up the entire plant. To use, you will have to peel the root first.
For storage, just keep the unpeeled roots in an air-tight container. Then store it in a cool dark place and your roots can be in great shape for up to 6 months. It’s not practical for home growers to try drying turmeric in order to make a ground powder. The roots are just used sliced or minced instead.