How to Grow Taro in Your Backyard
Growing taro in your backyard can be a fun and rewarding way to add a tasty and nutritious crop to your home garden. Taro is a tropical plant that produces large edible tubers that can be cooked and eaten much like potatoes. With some planning and care, you can successfully grow taro even in temperate climates.
Selecting a Planting Site
Taro needs warm temperatures, high humidity, and abundant moisture to thrive. When choosing a planting site, select an area that gets at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Taro prefers soil that is rich in organic matter and retains moisture well, such as loam or clay loam. The ideal pH range is 5.5 to 6.5.
Amend the soil with compost or other organic material to improve drainage and nutrient content. The planting bed should be raised to improve drainage. Nearby trees or shrubs can help increase humidity around the taro plants. Ensure the planting area has access to plenty of water, as taro needs 1 to 2 inches per week, either through rainfall or irrigation.
Obtaining Taro Plants or Tubers
You can start taro from small plants or sections of the tuber that contain growing eyes, known as huli. Taro tubers can often be found at grocery stores, nurseries, or specialty growers. Be sure to select varieties optimized for your growing zone. Cooler climates may need faster maturing varieties like Bun Long or Chinese. Warmer zones can grow larger varieties like Blue Hawaii.
When starting from a tuber, select huli that are at least 2 inches long containing 1 to 3 growing eyes. Allow cut surfaces to dry for 1 day before planting. Soak whole tubers for 2 days before planting to trigger sprouting.
Taro grows best when temperatures are 70°F to 90°F. Plant tubers or starts outdoors 1 to 2 weeks after the last frost date for your area.
Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Plant tubers or starts 4 to 6 inches deep, with the growing eyes facing up.
Water thoroughly after planting and ensure consistent moisture. Taro requires very wet soil. Apply mulch around plants to retain moisture.
Caring for Taro
Taro grows quickly when conditions are ideal. The large green leaves can reach 2 to 3 feet tall. Hill soil over the base of the plants as they grow to provide extra support.
Water taro regularly to keep the soil moist. Taro is sensitive to drought and needs irrigation during dry periods. Too much water can lead to rotting, so take care not to oversaturate.
Apply a balanced fertilizer or compost tea every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Watch for pests like aphids, spider mites, or snails, and treat organically if issues arise. Remove weeds to prevent competition for nutrients and moisture.
Taro tubers reach maturity 6 to 12 months after planting, depending on the variety. Carefully dig around the base of a plant to check tuber size. Tubers are ready to harvest when 2 to 6 inches in diameter.
Use a digging fork to gently loosen the soil and lift out the entire plant. Remove tubers, retaining as much of the root mass as possible. Replant the tops and soak the tubers to remove soil.
Cure tubers for 7 to 14 days in a warm, dry area before eating. Store cured tubers in a cool location for several months. Leaves, petioles, and tubers can all be consumed. Cook thoroughly before eating to remove irritating compounds.
With some simple preparations, taro can produce an abundant harvest in backyard gardens. Pay close attention to water, fertilization, and pest prevention for best results. In warm climates, taro will keep producing year after year.