Growing okra is a warm season crop that is ready to harvest along with your summer squash and tomatoes.
Most varieties mature in 50 to 60 days making okra a great annual in northern parts of the country.
In the southern parts of the country okra grows in the hot summer and is available most of the year.
Okra is a member of the same family as hibiscus and hollyhocks growing on long stems with leafy vegetation.
Okras large red or yellow flowers are eatable either stuffed or deep fried similar to zucchini flowers.
There are so many ways to eat okra, fried, stuffed, in soups and raw with dips that you will find ways to enjoy this nutritious vegetable if you haven’t already.
Okra makes a great ornamental boarder in your garden.
If you miss picking the okra pods when they are young and tender the mature the seeds can be harvested for roasting and brewing a coffee substitute drink.
Choose a warm spot with full sun. Okra plants like warm weather nights in the 60’s and days in the 80’s. Plant the same time as you plant the sweet corn when the soil has warmed.
Okra can grow tall like corn if the weather is warm so plant in where it won’t shade your other vegetables on the boarder of the garden. Add in good compost before planting.
Okra seeds are large and do best if planted directly into the soil. Okra plants have long tap roots and do not transplant well. For faster germination the seeds can be soaked the night before planting.
Plant seeds in wide rows 12 to 15 inches apart. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep 3 seeds per hole. Cover lightly with soil.
When the okra plants germinate and are about 6 inches tall, thin out to the strongest plant every 15 to 18 inches.
Okra can be slow growing in the spring until the weather gets hot. If the spring is cool you can place hoops and covers over the rows to keep the plants warm. Remove when the weather warms around the end of June.
If you have poor soil you will need to add some fertilizer every few weeks. Use a good 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 following the package directions. For an organic fertilizer use some compost tea or fish emulsion every few weeks.
When the weather warms up okra plants grow quickly. The flower bud will start to form. Check the plants during this time. The flowers bloom for one day and then die. The okra pods form on the base of the flower buds.
Pick the okra when the pods are about 3 inches but not longer than 4 inches. The longer the pods get the tougher they will become.
Once the okra pods begin to form they need to be picked every other day or so to keep the plants producing. Okra will continue to produce as long as the weather stays warm. When night temperatures fall into the 50’s the plants will slow down.
Use pruning shears to cut pods from the plants. The tiny hairs on the plant can irritate the skin and cause itching similar to summer squash. Wear long sleeves as you pick if the plant irritates your skin.
If the growing okra plants get out of control toward the end of the summer trim the plant back and it will promote side shoots.
Store fresh picked okra in the refrigerator wrapped in paper towels or a paper bag.
Eat with in a few days or freeze, can or pickle to enjoy through out the winter months.