If you are looking for fun gardening projects to try at home, give growing your own vanilla bean and turmeric. Whether you are successful or not in producing a vanilla bean, learning how to grow these spices teaches us all about the joys of food production.
Believe it or not, vanilla comes from a special orchid. While the plant does require warm temperatures, high humidity and indirect sunlight, it can be grown at home with a little work. Below are the supplies and growing directions for this baking staple.
Vanilla Orchid plant
Orchid planting medium
- Order your Vanilla Orchid plant from a reliable source.
- When the Vanilla Orchid plant comes in, prepare the pot and knife. To do this, take the orchid pot and place it in a basin of water with a capful of bleach. Allow to soak for 5 minutes. Next, scrub the orchid pot and rinse in clear water. Sit out to dry.
- Clean the knife in the bleach water and rinse in clear water. To make sure that the knife is sterilized, wipe it down with a little bleach or rubbing alcohol.
- Mix together some orchid planting medium and fir bark in a bowl.
- Fill the orchid pot 1/3 with the orchid/fir bark mixture.
- Gently tap the orchid pot on a hard surface to settle the soil.
- Take your Vanilla Orchid plant out of its pot and cut 1/3 off the bottom of the root ball.
- Gently tease the roots and place the Vanilla Orchid plant in the orchid pot and fill in with fir bark.
- Since the Vanilla Orchid plant is a climber, you will want to provide support. If your plant is small, one stake placed near the plant will be enough to support it. On the other hand, if you have a large plant then consider using several stakes. Whether you use one or many stakes, be careful when you place the stake in the pot. You do not want to nip the roots nor the plant.
- Once the Vanilla Orchid plant is planted, it is time to move it to its permanent location. This room should be kept at 86 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The light should be indirect and the pot should be placed on a humidity tray, which will increase the amount of moisture in the air around the plant. While you can purchase a humidity tray, it is just as easy to make one. To do this, simply take a tray, fill it with stones, and add water. Place the Vanilla Orchid plant on top.
- Once you have it in its new home, water the plant in. You want to keep the top layer of the soil moist at all times without making it soggy.
- Feed your Vanilla Orchid plant every two weeks with a 50-50 dilution of orchid fertilizer during the spring and summer.
- If everything goes right, your Vanilla Orchid plant will bloom in 3 to 5 years. But these blooms will not pollinate on their own and need help. To pollinate the blooms, take a toothpick and pick up pollen from one flower and place it on the stigma. Repeat this process several times to make sure that the flower has been pollinated.
You will see the pod form in a few months and will be able to harvest your vanilla bean in 6 to 9 months.
Yes, growing your own vanilla bean is an adventure and yes, it really is no more taxing than growing any other orchid but this plant does have a few pest problems. This includes spider mites, and mealy bugs. It is also known to get root rot.
A simple spider mite treatment is to just spray the plant off with a heavy squirt of water. Repeat to dislodge spider mites from the plant. Mealy bugs can be treated with a homemade insecticide, which consists of one part rubbing alcohol, to three parts water and a splash of dish soap. Mix the solution up and wash the plant down with this mixture. Allow to dry and repeat as needed.
Root rot is caused by overwatering. Prevention starts with testing the soil to see if the soil is evenly moist and watering only as needed. The second treatment is to examine the roots at least once a year and removing any questionable roots prior to replanting.
Turmeric is another unique herb or spice that one can grow at home. If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7b through 10 be then you can plant your herb in the garden. For the rest of us though, you will need to grow your turmeric in a container. Below is the how-to on growing your own turmeric.
When it comes to growing turmeric in a container, the size of the container is very important. Your basic size is going to be 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. The container will also require a drainage hole. Once you have picked out your container, the next step of the process is to clean and sterilize it. This is done by filling a large basin with water and a capful of bleach. Allow the container to soak for a few minutes and then scrub it to remove any soil. Next, rinse the container off with clear water and allow to dry.
While your container is drying, mix up the planting medium. This planting medium consists of 1 part compost and 1 part all purpose potting soil. To aid in drainage, sprinkle a little sand in the mix. Once your container has dried and you have added drainage material, fill the container with the potting medium until you reach 2 inches from the top. At this point, place the turmeric root(s) on the soil surface and cover with 1 inch of soil.
Ok, I know at this point you are wondering where to get the turmeric root. Well, believe it or not, you can grow the turmeric root that you see in the grocery store. Once you have bought and planted your root(s), place the container in a sunny location and water in. Keep the soil evenly moist and mist the plant when the air conditioning and heat are on.
Before you know it your turmeric will have leafed out and you will be on your way to harvesting fresh turmeric.