How to Sow and Plant
Planting in the Garden:
- Choose a location in full sun to light shade with rich, well-drained soil. If you live in a cooler zone than zone 9, plant in large containers with a commercial potting mix to bring indoors for the winter. Plants grow to 3 feet tall, use a container at least 20-24 inches tall and wide. Turmeric prefers a soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.8. Turmeric prefers hot and humid climates, plant in sun in areas with cooler summers.
- Prepare the bed by turning the soil under to a depth of 8 inches. Level with a rake to remove clumps of grass and stones. Add several inches of compost to the bed.
- Dig a hole for each plant large enough to amply accommodate the root ball.
- Carefully remove the plant from its pot and gently loosen the root ball, if tight, with your hands to encourage good root development.
- Place the top of the root ball even with the level of the surrounding soil. Fill with soil to the top of the root ball. Press soil down firmly with your hand leaving a slight depression around the plant to hold water.
- Use the plant tag as a location marker.
- Water thoroughly, so that a puddle forms in the saucer you have created. This settles the plants in, drives out air pockets and results in good root-to-soil contact.
- Do not allow plants to dry out, but never let the soil stay wet either.
How to Grow
- Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
- Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For herbs, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
- Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Do not allow the soil to dry out. It’s best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
- Use a slow release balanced organic fertilizer following the manufacturer’s directions.
- If you see your plants are going to flower do not worry, this will not take the strength of the plant from root production. The flowers do not produce seed and make fine cut flowers.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
Harvesting and Preserving Tips
- Do not harvest turmeric as needed through the season, wait until the plants start to turn yellow and the leaves dry out it is time to dig up the plant. Turmeric requires 8-10 months to mature before the roots may be harvested.
- When the leaves start to die back, dig up the plant and cut the rhizomes away from the stems. Wash off the soil. You can start another plant from roots you do not use. You may also be able to harvest some root without digging up the entire plant if you do so carefully.
- Before using the root you will need to peel it. Wear gloves to avoid staining your fingers.
- Store roots unpeeled in air-tight containers in a cool, dark location. Roots can last 6 months.
- It is difficult to dry the roots as in the powdered turmeric you buy in the store, just slice or mince the root to use in cooking. They are also much stronger in this form so test with smaller amounts first.
Common Disease Problems
Bacterial Wilt: Bacterial wilt is evidenced by rapid wilting and the death of the plant. It is caused by a soil-borne bacteria. Infected leaves will roll and curl; leaves turn yellow; the plant becomes stunted and may die. When affected stems are cut near the soil line, the area is dark and oozes a gray slime. Burpee Recommends: Plant in a well-drained soil. Do not grow plants in the same family in that area or nearby for 4 or 5 years. Continue to apply generous amounts of healthy compost to soil while fallow or support other crops.
Leaf Spots: These can come from various fungus diseases and cause spots on leaves. Burpee Recommends: Avoid getting water on foliage and provide plenty of air circulation. Remove very affected leaves.
Root Knot Nematodes: These are microscopic worm-like pests that cause swellings (galls) to form on roots. Plants may wilt or appear stunted. This is a serious problem in many Southern states. Burpee Recommends: Do not plant into infested soil. Try planting ‘Nema-Gone’ marigolds around your plants.
Root Rots: A number of pathogens cause root rots. Burpee Recommends: Do not plant related crops in the same area for several years. Pull up and discard infected plants. Make sure your soil has excellent drainage. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps who feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Can I plant turmeric in a container? Yes turmeric is ideal for indoor growing and container growing. Choose a pot that is at least 20-24 inches deep and wide and use a commercial potting mix rather than garden soil.
Can I grow turmeric in zone 6? You can grow it only if you bring it indoors for the winter. Turmeric cannot thrive in temperatures lower than 65 degrees F.
My turmeric is flowering! Should I cut the flower off? No, it will not take away from the development of the rhizome. Enjoy it or use it as a cut flower.
If I replant the rhizome part I don’t need will it produce another plant? Yes, if it is healthy. Replant about 2 inches below the soil surface and it can grow after a few weeks.