If you are looking for something new and different to plant in your garden, consider okra. It is easy to grow and thrives well in warm weather.
Here’s how to grow okra in your backyard.
Also called ladies’ fingers, okra is a flowering plant that belongs to the mallow family.
It is grown as an annual vegetable, which means you will need to plant it again each year. The plant will not come back once it has died.
Okra plants grow best in warm weather. However, the seeds can be started indoors in cool climates and transferred outside when it gets warmer.
The part that is harvested is the seed pods (as seen in the image above), which are long, green (or red) seed pods. These pods resemble a lady finger.
There are many varieties of okra; some grow into enormous plants with long pods. The Cow Horn, for example, is an heirloom variety that produces remarkable pods up to 14 inches long. Clemson Spineless and Louisiana Green Velvet follow, in terms of size.
Growing Okra From Seeds
Depending on where you live, you will need to figure out when to start your seeds.
If you are wondering when to plant okra, start in spring or early summer. Planting after the frost has passed in fertile, well-drained soil will bring in good yields.
Plant the seeds outside when the temperature is warm and utilize full sun. Also, they will grow at their best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8 .
Additionally, add organic fertilizer to your soil. Without proper nutrients in the soil, the plants might not give you a lot to harvest.
To grow okra from seed, plant the seeds one inch deep directly in the ground. Also, the rows should be three feet apart.
Sowing the seeds directly in the ground is the best way to plant okra, though you can also grow them from transplants.
Furthermore, to make okra grow faster, soak the seeds overnight before planting. This will help speed up germination.
Care and Maintenance
Once planted, you will want to take good care of it. Here’s how to care for the lady finger plant.
They can tolerate a dry spell after the germination and flowering stage. However, the plants still need regular watering. Give them at least an inch of water per week.
Water in the morning but avoid wetting the leaves as this can invite disease.
Thin your okra seedlings when they get to be 3 inches tall. Next, replant them 12 to 18 inches apart in rows that are 3 feet apart.
Additionally, place mulch around the plants to keep the soil moist and keep down weeds. You can also add compost a few times throughout the growing season.
As with any garden, it is important to keep vigilant of any pests that can damage your plants and ruin all that hard work.
Look for aphids, corn earworms, whiteflies, cabbage looper, caterpillars, and mites . Either pick them off or spray your plants with an organic pest control spray.
Companion planting okra with other plants such as peas, calendula, sunflowers, cucumbers, basil, and cilantro will help improve its growth.
Additionally, thyme, oregano, dill, rue, geranium, and marigolds will help repel cabbage worms, aphids, and other pests.
How Long Does Okra Take to Grow?
After 50 to 65 days from planting, you are likely ready to begin harvesting from your okra plant. However, don’t let the pods start to get hard or too big before picking.
The great news about lady’s fingers is when you harvest one pod, another one will grow on the plant.
It usually gives an abundant harvest if it is well taken care of, so you can keep getting fruits throughout the growing season.
To harvest, cut the seed pods just above the caps where the stems meet the rest of the plant. Pods should be about 3 to 4 inches long when ready to harvest.
Furthermore, you will know when the growing season is over when the okra plants stop producing pods.
Where to Buy Seeds?
Find a variety of high-quality okra seeds online at SeedsNow or at your local gardening store. Varieties include Clemson Spineless, Burgundy, Silver Queen, Dwarf Long Pod, and more!
What to Do With Okra?
It is best to use it within the first few days after harvesting. Of course, this is when it is freshest and will taste the best.
Besides putting it in some great dishes such as gumbo and fried okra, you can also pickle it. Pickled okra lasts long and maintains its flavor.
You can also freeze it until you are ready to use it. However, the best way to freeze is to blanch for 3 minutes and immediately place in ice water for cooling. Next, chop into small pieces or leave them whole. Place into a freezer bag and put in the freezer.
As for cooking, there are many okra recipes. But, the most common is to boil it in saltwater for 8-10 minutes and have it alone or with butter. You can also cook it with meat or add it to soups.
Now that you know more about cultivating the ladyfinger vegetable and the benefits of it, all you will need to do is get the seeds and get started planting.
You can buy the seeds sold online and at most local farm stores.
Growing them is so rewarding, they are worth the wait. Not only is it a delicious vegetable, but it is also a beneficial one with many vitamins and nutrients your body needs.
Enjoy your growing season!