How to Grow and Care For Okra

Learn How to Grow and Care For Okra

How to Grow and Care For Okra

Image by Fernando Augusto from Pixabay

In some English-speaking nations, okra, Abelmoschus esculentus Moench, is also referred to as gumbo, bamia, or lady’s fingers. The long, pointed seed pods of this plant are cultivated for use primarily in soups and gumbos. It has historically been grown in the southern US states. Okra’s popularity is growing, and its range is expanding northward as more gardeners become aware of it. This plant is a wonderful addition to your diet because it produces not only delicious vegetables and lovely flowers but is also high in vitamin A and low in calories.

Okra is a delicate, heat-loving plant that can reach heights of four to seven feet (120–210 cm) and yield a seedpod that is green. Once the dark-colored seedpods are three to five inches long (8 to 12 cm long), they are harvested. When the soil temperature reaches 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, okra seeds are sown directly into the garden in the spring. The plants grow quickly and will take nearly two months to produce harvestable seed pods. Seeds can be started indoors in biodegradable pots three to four weeks before the last projected frost date in regions with short growing seasons. Okra plants dislike having their roots disturbed.

Botanical NameAbelmoschus esculentus
Common Names Okra, gumbo, lady’s finger
Plant Type Annual, vegetable
Mature Size 6-8 ft. tall, 3 ft. and wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Water Needs Average
Characteristics Fruit and Berries, Showy
Soil Type Moist, fertile, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic (6.0 to 6.8)
Bloom Time Seasonal
Flower Color Yellow, white
Hardiness Zones 2–11 (USDA)
Native Area Africa, Asia
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early,Mid,Late), Fall
Spacing 48″ – 60″(120cm – 150cm)
Time to Maturity 50-60 days, depending on cultivar
Companion Planting Melons, cucumbers, sweet peppers, eggplant
Planting should be avoided with short, sun-loving vegetables and flowers whose light may be blocked.

Growing Conditions For Okra

Because okra is a warm-weather plant, it requires direct sunlight. It is highly adaptable and will thrive in most soil conditions, but it prefers well-draining, organic-rich soils. For growing okra plants, the soil should be slightly acidic, with pH levels between 6.0 and 6.8.

Planting Okra

Because okra is an annual and a heat-loving plant, it should only be planted in areas with 55 to 65 days of sunshine and temperatures above 85°F (29°C) in order for it to reach its full growth, flowering, and pod development. Seeds can be started indoors four weeks before the last frost date.

Sow seeds four weeks after the last average frost date in the spring season, when the soil temperature is at least 65°F (18°C). Temperatures below 70°F (21°C) may have an impact on the plant’s future yield. If you use a cold-frame, you can sow seeds before the last frost.

Sow okra seeds about six inches (15 cm) apart, 12 to 1 inch (12 to 25 mm) deep. Rows should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart (60 – 90 cm). Successful seedlings should be thinned to 12 to 20 inches tall (30 – 50 cm).

Image by Rajesh Balouria from Pixabay 

Care For Okra

Weeds should be removed when the plants are young, and then heavily mulched (4 to 8 inches) to prevent future weeds. Plants should be side-dressed with 10-10-10, aged manure, or rich compost (1/2 pound per 25 feet of row). You could also use a balanced liquid fertiliser once a month. Avoid using too much nitrogen, which inhibits flowering and promotes leafy growth. Learn more about soil amendments and soil preparation. When the seedlings reach about 3 inches in height, thin them out to 18 to 24 inches apart.

Throughout the summer, keep the plants well watered. One inch of water per week is ideal, but if you live in a hot, arid area, use more. Okra growth can be slowed by high heat. When okra plants reach 5 to 6 feet in height, prune the tops. As a result, there will be more side branches. As needed, prune those. When productivity slows in the summer in warm regions, some growers cut plants to about 2 feet. The plants regrow and produce a new crop of okra.

Pests and Disease

Although okra is not particularly susceptible to pests or disease, both are always a possibility. Crop rotation, high-quality seed, adequate air circulation, and adequate moisture reduce the need for later troubleshooting. Maintain the cleanliness of your vegetable patch by removing dead leaves and old vegetation.

Every day, walk through your garden, keeping an eye out for aphids and stink bugs feeding on the juices of emerging pods. Remember that beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, are your friends in the vegetable patch and should be allowed to stay!

Check the undersides of leaves for bug eggs and whiteflies, and look for cabbage worms and flea beetles munching on the leaves. To avoid an infestation, hand picking insects or dousing them with a steady stream of hose water is usually sufficient. Furthermore, where there is too much moisture, a fungus known as fusarium wilt may develop. Drooping yellow leaves are its telltale sign. Plants that succumb to this must be destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading to other plants.

Another potential problem is the anthracnose fungus, which causes black spots on leaves. Again, remove any infected plants from the garden to prevent further spread. Powdery mildew, which causes white and powdery spots on plants, may also affect okra grown in humid and overly moist conditions. Remove affected areas, prune back plants to allow for adequate airflow, and always plant in well-draining soil.

Suggested Varieties

Spineless okra varieties are easier to harvest, but be aware that they are not completely spine-free. Consider the following okra varieties:

Annie Oakley‘ is a hybrid plant with a high yield. It can grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall.

The heirloom variety ‘Burgundy‘ has deep reddish seed pods that lose some of their colour when cooked. It can reach a height of about 4 feet.

Clemson Spineless‘ is an heirloom plant with a delicious flavour. It is a larger variety that grows 4 to 5 feet tall.

Emerald‘ has seed pods that are 7 to 9 inches long. It is a spineless heirloom plant that can reach a height of 4 feet.

Another heirloom plant is ‘White Velvet.‘ It can reach a height of 5 feet and has tender white pods.

Harvesting Okra

After the flowers have bloomed and about 50 to 60 days have passed since the seedlings have emerged, the edible okra fruits—the seed pods—typically start to appear. Picking okra pods when they are young is best. When they are 2 to 4 inches long and as wide as a pinkie finger, they are at their most delicate. Within six days of flowering, they typically reach this size due to their tendency to grow quickly.

Okra pods get tougher and more stringy as they grow bigger. For the best eating and to keep the plant producing more flowers and pods, harvest pods frequently and early. Touching okra plants is unpleasant. No matter how prominent or hair-like the spines are, they are irritating and scratchy. Gloves and long sleeves are helpful. Also, it’s simpler to

How to Store Okra

To store okra, place the uncut and uncooked pods in freezer bags and freeze them. Alternatively, wash and blanch the okra before freezing it.