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Australian Grow Guide: Turmeric

Turmeric has spiked in popularity over recent years thanks to its health-giving qualities. However, it’s been used for centuries in Asian cooking to add flavour to curries and soups.

Most commonly, it’s the root or rhizome of the turmeric plant that is used in cooking. However, all parts of the plant are edible.

If you live in a tropical or sub-tropical region, you can grow this plant in your garden. It can even be successfully grown as far south as Sydney. However, the plant will go dormant over winter in cooler areas. 

When to plant turmeric

Turmeric rhizomes should be planted around September or October once the soil has warmed up. Like other tuberous plants, it prefers loamy soil that is free-draining and rich in organic matter.

Manjal plant tumeric | Fruit & Vegetables
Tumeric / Photo by D Neethidoss / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Ideally, you want to plant your turmeric in a spot that is partly shaded. Preferably, with morning sun and afternoon shade. 

It’s also a good idea to work the soil a little so that it’s loose and friable. While you’re doing this, add some quality compost or well-composted manure.

How to plant turmeric

You can usually purchase turmeric rhizomes online or you might find them at your local garden centre if you live in the tropics. Each rhizome that you plant should have one or two buds forming. 

The rhizomes should be planted in loose soil and at a depth of around 5 to 7 cm. You can use a bulb planter for this to get the right depth. Space your rhizomes around 15 to 30 cm apart. However, you don’t need many plants to get a decent crop each year.

Turmeric leaves 3 | Fruit & Vegetables
Tumeric / Photo by Ashay vb / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

Once your rhizomes have been planted, you should water well to help settle them into the soil. It’s also a good idea to add a thick layer of mulch over the soil as this will help to retain moisture. Sugar cane mulch is perfect for this.

How to care for turmeric plants

Being a tropical plant, turmeric does like to be kept well-watered as long as the soil is free-draining. The plant doesn’t like to dry out and it also doesn’t like to be waterlogged.

Curcuma tumeric | Fruit & Vegetables
Tumeric / Photo by Forest and Kim Starr / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Therefore, you should aim to water your plants at least once a week during prolonged dry spells. In its natural habitat, it’s common for a turmeric plant to receive around 2000 mm of rain in just a single year.

Other than that, turmeric is fairly low-maintenance. You can side-dress your plants with additional compost once a year or give them some slow-release fertiliser such as Dynamic Lifter annually. 

How and when to harvest turmeric

Turmeric is normally harvested in late autumn or early winter. The ideal time for harvest is when the lower leaves start to yellow off or the stems start to dry and fall over.

At this point, you have two options. You can either dig up the entire clump to harvest all the rhizomes at once. If you do this, be sure to save a few of them for replanting in spring. These can be stored in a paper bag in a cool, dry spot.

tumeric 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

Alternatively, you can just gently dig around the sides of the base of the plant and remove a couple of rhizomes as you need them. Bear in mind though, that your current plants will need to be replaced every 3 to 4 years from the rhizomes that you’ve collected.

Problems, pests, and diseases

In general, you’ll find that turmeric will have very few pest or disease problems. Only if your plants are not growing in free-draining soils, could they suffer from fungal diseases such as root rot.

Can you grow turmeric in colder regions?

If you live anywhere south of Sydney where the winter is cold and you experience frosts, you can still grow turmeric over the hot summer months but it should be grown in pots.

Turmeric in pot | Fruit & Vegetables
Tumeric / Photo by Balaji R / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

If you grow your turmeric in pots, you can keep these in a greenhouse or even indoors until all danger of frost has passed. You can then put your plants outside where they will receive some morning sun but are shaded in the afternoon.

Make sure that you keep the pots well watered and that they have good drainage. Your turmeric will grow well over summer and then you can harvest the rhizomes once the weather cools down.

FAQ

Do turmeric plants come back every year?

Turmeric plants grow from underground rhizomes. Therefore, the plants will come back year after year. However, it’s recommended that you divide your plants every 3 to 4 years to refresh them.

Are turmeric leaves edible?

Yes, turmeric leaves are edible and are commonly used to flavour curries, soups, pickles, and chutneys. They contain the powerful antioxidant curcumin and have a slightly gingery flavour.

Can turmeric be grown indoors?

It is possible to grow turmeric indoors. However, the plants will benefit from being placed outside during the warmer weather.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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2 thoughts on “Australian Grow Guide: Turmeric”

  1. Excellent info, thanks for that. I have some Tumeric growing in a large pot in Qld but I didn’t really know what it needed. I’m going to relocate it to a morning sun position now and harvest a few from the sides!

    Reply

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