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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a perennial plant and member of the Zingiberaceae, or ginger family grown for its edible rhizomes typically used for flavoring in curries. Recently, there has been much interest in its possible medicinal value. Native to tropical Asia, its growing conditions are similar to ginger: moist and warm but not hot. Gardeners who do not live in subtropical and tropical climates can be successful growing turmeric, although it is unlikely the plants will be as productive.
GardenZeus recommends growing turmeric in containers: containers make it easier for home gardeners to approximate turmeric’s preferred growing conditions, allowing gardeners to protect growing turmeric from frost, extreme heat, and dry soil.
Begin by selecting turmeric from a local grocery store; select rhizomes with buds, or eyes. Place whole rhizomes (do not break them apart) in a seed tray with buds facing up and cover with a light coat of potting soil, then cover the entire tray with a plastic bag and seal. Place in a warm room of at least 75° F. Remove plastic bag once shoots emerge and transplant sprouted rhizomes into containers.
Select loamy, well-draining soil high in organic matter.
Apply a balanced fertilizer at time of planting, such as Dr. Earth Flower Girl Bud and Bloom Booster. Avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers which will likely produce too much leaf development at the expense of root development. Reapply fertilizer regularly according to package instructions.
Plant sprouted rhizomes at a distance of 12 inches from each other and 2-3 inches deep in the container. Apply a light layer of mulch.
Ideal air temperature for turmeric is at least 65° F during the day but not over 90° F. Turmeric is highly sensitive to frost.
Turmeric cannot take direct sun. It tolerates filtered morning sun, but not afternoon sun. Place in complete shade in hottest climates.
Keep turmeric moist. Remember, it is native to tropical Asia! Do not allow soil to become waterlogged. Consider misting above-ground leaves in extremely dry climates.
Unlike ginger, turmeric cannot be harvested successively over time. Wait to harvest until flowers fade and leaves yellow. Then dig up all rhizomes with trowel. Turmeric matures in 8 to 10 months.
Fresh turmeric rhizomes last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. To store for longer periods of time, wash, peel and freeze in a freezer bag. Turmeric grates easily when frozen. Beware when using fresh turmeric: it has significantly stronger flavor than dry!
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