If you are looking for something new and different to grow in your garden, consider okra. The plant is easy to grow and thrives well in warm weather.
Moreover, due to its nutrients, okra benefits the body in many ways. It is also great in soups, salads, and stews.
Here’s how to plant 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 insect pests that can damage your plants and ruin all that hard work.
Companion planting okra with other crops such as peas, Swiss chard, sunflowers, cauliflower, basil, and kale will improve its growth.
Additionally, thyme, oregano, dill, rue, geranium, sage, and peppers 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.
Health Benefits of Okra
Though the fruit has a unique taste with a slimy feel, it benefits the body in many ways.
- Nutrient-rich. The lady’s finger vegetable contains potassium, folic acid, vitamins, and other nutrients that are good for your body.
- Improves digestion & more. It can help make digestion easier, improve the look and feel of your skin, and help your vision.
- Antioxidant-rich. Contains antioxidants that help to boost up your immune system and keep you from getting sick.
- Good for diabetes. The drinking of okra water to decrease blood glucose levels is a popular remedy in many cultures . Other okra water benefits include weight loss management and keeping the liver healthy.
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.
There are many okra recipes, however, 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!