Clear Mountain Garden Treasures
 

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Turmeric

rhizome
A usually horizontal stem (sometimes underground)
that grows new roots and shoots along its length
see also Bulbs, Corms and Tubers.
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monsoon
A seasonal wind in tropical areas
that usually brings a lot rain.
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slow-release
Granulised fertiliser enclosed by a shell that
slowly releases the food over a long period of time.
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monsoon
A seasonal wind in tropical areas
that usually brings a lot rain.
Hide
slow-release
Granulised fertiliser enclosed by a shell that
slowly releases the food over a long period of time.
Hide
Turmeric

Rhizomes and Shoot
Family Zingiberaceae
Name Curcuma longa
Common Name Turmeric

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Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a kind of ginger grown for its orange coloured rhizomes. It is used as a spice and the orange can also be used as a food colouring. The leaves can also be used. They have the same but lack the colour and the pungent taste. A plant of tropical origins, it is only half hardy in New Zealand.

Culture

When you receive the rhizomes, plant them immediately, each into its own pot. Plant at a depth where the shoot is not covered by the potting mix. The exact depth is not important but the rhizome should be at least 50mm below the surface. The rhizome grows vertically, so it is better to use a deep narrow pot. Fill the pot half way with potting mix, plant the rhizome, and then top up just enough to support the rhizome and shoot. As the shoot grows, add more potting mix, but make sure any leaves are not burried.

If you are unable to plant them immediately, store the rhizomes in moist saw dust in a cool but bright area. The shoot should not be covered and must remain vertical.

After planting, water the pot thoroughly and place the pot somewhere bright but out of direct sunlight. Water sparingly until one full leaf has unfurled. Gradually move to a spot in full sun, while gradually increasing the frequency of watering to daily. Turmeric comes from wet monsoon areas in India and requires plenty of water during the growing season.

Feed with 3 month slow release fertilizer, such as Osmocote. Thereafter, feed once yearly, once the plant starts to make growth in the summer.

Reduce water as the weather cools in mid autumn, and when the foliage starts to die down, stop watering. Allow the plant to remain dormant over the Winter. The potting mix must be kept very dry when the plant is dormant. Move the pot to a frost free area, such as your garage.

Resume watering in late spring. If grown in a glasshouse or conservatory, you can start watering in early spring, or anytime when the minimum night time temperature does not fall below 9°C. It may take a month or more for the shoot to appear. Plants grown cool seldom flower, but glasshouse or conservatory grown plants will flower every alternate year in late autumn - as long as the rhizomes are not harvested.

Autumn Planting

If you receive your rhizomes in the autumn, you will need to over-Winter them indoors or in a conservatory for the first winter. Get the plant started as per the above, but continue to water, but not feed, through the winter. Watering frequency will depend on the amount of light and how hot the room is. As a guide, water when the top inch of the potting mix feels dry. Do not allow water to sit in the saucer or the rhizomes will certainly rot.

In late spring, when the weather starts to warm up, specifically, when the night time minimum is above 9°C, move the turmeric out. Pot on to a larger pot if necessary, and commence feeding once the plant starts to put on growth. This can be in the form of new leaves or new shoots.

Harvesting

Both the leaves and rhizomes can be eaten. The leaves can be harvested at any time during the growing season. Make sure you leave enough to allow the plant to build up its reserves for the winter. Harvest the leaves whole and use to spice baked fish. The rhizomes can be harvested when the plant is dormant. Tip all the potting mix out of the pot and sieve for the rhizomes. Use the largest piece and replant the smaller ones. Turmeric is relatively slow growing and it may be several seasons before you can get a root harvest.


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