Growing your turmeric is one of the best things you can do, even if the value in growing it by and for yourself is hard to measure.
First of all, it is expensive at the store. We live in a tropical area in Australia, and even here, where turmeric grows so easily, the price at the time this article is written is over AUD 45 per kg or USD 20 per lb.
This is the reality of the situation, so it makes sense to grow your own. The question now is, where do you get the turmeric to begin with, and can it even be produced from store-bought roots? The answer is yes; you can grow turmeric from rhizomes purchased from the grocery store. However, there are things that you need to check first.
Where do you get good turmeric roots to grow?
Well, if the rhizomes are in the organic section of your store, yes, you can grow turmeric from these roots. There are a few things to be aware of before you grab just any rhizome, and the first is to be sure that there are growth nodes on the root.
These small button-like lumps will sprout when the time is right. The next thing is to check that the root is whole and healthy. An old rhizome that is starting to fade is more likely not to grow, so these should be avoided.
What if there is no turmeric in the organic section?
This is where it can be chancy because some commercial growers will treat the roots with chemicals that can stop or retard the growth of fresh shoots, possibly limiting your success.
There is a chance that the chemicals can be washed off and the rhizome will shoot, but this cannot be guaranteed.
Suppose you have no luck with the roots from the grocery store. In that case, it could be worth contacting a local growers group like a permaculture club or similar because they will completely understand your situation and can probably get you started with a few rhizomes or plants.
The next port of call would be the local farmers’ market, where backyard growers meet to sell the excess from their production.
The important thing here is to get the best rhizomes to begin with, and you will be fine.
How do you sprout turmeric?
To get turmeric to sprout, we leave the rhizomes on an indoor bench in the open air and wait for the fresh tips to appear.
This is the simplest way to regrow turmeric from rhizomes stored from last season’s growth. You can also sprout turmeric similar to how ginger rhizomes are, and this is in a moist paper towel in a sealed container.
This can trigger growth because the turmeric thinks it is now the humid, warm time of the year and now is the time to grow. If you use this method, a lockable plastic bag or container is ok to get started.
Take care with the young tips as they arrive because they are pretty easy to knock off, which could be the last growth tip of that root section.
What conditions does turmeric grow in?
Turmeric grows in many places, and the best environment is warm, moist soil rich in compost and other organic matter. The soil should be deep and free draining to avoid waterlogging, which can cause rhizomes to rot.
The plant is a tropical variety, so the closer you match these conditions, the better your results will be. We live in the wet tropics of Northeast Australia, where the conditions are perfect for this plant, so it is easy for us to grow enough to be completely self-sufficient in this spice.
We also understand that many others have difficulties growing this plant due to their location. If you can match the soil conditions and have access to a greenhouse, you can extend this plant into the colder climates with care.
The colder you have it, the more work you will need to put in, but it is worth the trouble. If you have the conditions suitable for these plants, they can be grown in many different locations, and to get some ideas, “6 gingers to suit a balcony herb garden” is worth investigating.
What can I feed my turmeric plant?
Turmeric, like all of the other gingers, is a heavy feeder. To get the best yield from your plants, prepare the planting beds or pots with quality compost and aged animal manures before planting your rhizomes.
Be careful to avoid fertilizers that are heavy in nitrogen because this will give you lush leaves and a great-looking plant above ground but can leave you with very little in the way of rhizomes at the season’s end.
This is why we recommend aged animal manure, as the bulk of the nitrogen has dissipated, so the manure is more useful to you.
You can give the turmeric plants a feed with a liquid fertilizer every month or so if you think that they require it. We don’t fertilize this type of plant at all here and rely on natural processes to grow the roots for us.
Mind you, we also have many plants available each year, so a large crop per plant is not needed in our situation. We have used mulch as a slow-release fertilizer before, and while it was a ginger crop, the same can be used for turmeric. The article is “growing lots of ginger, is this the best mulch?” We recommend it to you for a fresh idea.
The cool part of this is that the plants in our yard are all over the place under trees, filling holes that would otherwise be left empty or potentially filled with weeds.
It really is a case of using the turmeric as a filler to keep weeds down, and this gives us an abundance of turmeric and ginger.
Why is my turmeric turning yellow?
Turmeric will turn yellow if the temperatures are too cold for the plant to survive. It can also be from a lack of water, it could be from too much sun, and it can also be the end of the growing season, and it is time to harvest the roots.
If you think it is near the season’s end, “when should turmeric be harvested?” is worth a read. To understand the average season of the turmeric plant, “how long does it take to grow turmeric?” is also recommended.
There is a slight chance you may also have a soil-borne bacterial infection called fusarium, which can be problematic. Our tomato plants suffer from this every year, which is challenging to deal with.
Turmeric and gingers, in general, can suffer from this, but it is not a common problem as far as we know if your soil is well draining. Many, if not most, problems that turmeric suffers from are caused by excess moisture in the soil and generally poor growing conditions.
It is worth trying a few rhizomes from the grocery store to see if you can get some started. Once you are successful, you will have your supply for as long as you want, as long as you save some excellent quality rhizomes each year to plant out the following year.
We started with just a single handful of roots, and we are now self-sufficient in turmeric. You too can achieve this if you want.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.