Grow Your Own Okra!

veg_okra_300When I grow okra, it starts out as just a seed in a round mound or mounded row. It is an interesting plant with large, prickly leaves that hide your new okra fruit so well, you’ll be surprised at what you miss. Okra can get very large, very quickly. Once it starts producing its vegetable, you cannot afford to miss one day of checking each plant, or you will have some over grown.

My favorite recipe is the chili powder, spicy okra, with onion, bacon, and tomatoes – YUM! Nothing is better than everything fresh – okra, onion, tomatoes – grown in your own garden!

Planting
Okra needs full sun. It will grow in ordinary garden soil but does best in fertile loam. I have discovered through a generous neighbor, mushroom compost, and use this to add around the base of my plants once they have sprouted and are about 4 inches tall. They love it. All of my plants love it, including the roses.

Gardening is a rewarding hobby and you can grow your own okra! When seeding okra directly in the ground, wait until after the soil has warmed and the air temperature is at least 60°F. Use fresh seed, and soak it overnight or nick each seed coat with a file to encourage germination. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep in light soil and 1 inch deep in heavy soil; spacing is 3 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Thin seedlings to 18 to 24 inches apart, always leaving the strongest of the young plants.

Growing guidelines
When okra is 4 inches tall, after piling a little mushroom compost around the base of the plant, mulch to keep out weeds and conserve moisture. Water during dry spells. Every 3 to 4 weeks, side-dress with compost or feed with compost tea. In areas with long, hot summers, cut the plants back almost to ground level in midsummer and fertilize to produce a second crop.

Harvesting

About 50 to 60 days after planting, edible pods will start to appear. They are tough when mature, so harvest daily with a sharp knife when they are no more than finger sized and when stems are still tender and easy to cut. Pick frequently and the plants will keep producing until killed by frost. Be sure to remove and compost any mature pods you might have missed earlier.

Many people find their skin is sensitive to the pods’ prickly spines, so wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting, or plant a spineless variety such as ‘Clemson Spineless’.

Okra is another fine candidate for a raised garden bed. Make sure you follow the thinning instructions to allow growth room for each root system.



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