Okra is about as southern as it gets. Yep, that’s right; it is even more southern than grits. Okra is a great starter crop for a beginner, as it produces quickly and only really needs occasional water. Okra is a warm season vegetable that will not germinate until soil temperatures have reached 70 degrees.
Because okra produces in 55 to 65 days, there does not need to be a huge rush to get it in the ground. If you want to prolong fruit production, you can start them inside the house a couple weeks before your last frost date, where you can then plant them outside when the low temperatures are in the 60’s and high temperatures are in the 80’s. Okra continues to produce fruit until frost, just like indeterminate tomatoes.
Just because okra is associated with the south, does not mean it can’t be planted in the north. Because of its short production time of less than 2 months and its 70 degree soil temperature requirement, gardeners up north can plant it in late June and still get plenty of okra before first frost. Okra also likes a soil pH of 6.5 to 7, just like your other vegetables. Be sure to plant them in a sunny location that receives at least 8 hours of sun to get the best results. Plant them in rows that are 3 foot apart and plant each plant 1 foot apart.
Okra is tougher than other crops when it comes to drought. This is partially due to the fact that it produces a deep tap root. When other crops are dying due to drought, okra will keep on kicking it, requiring only 1 inch of water a week. A well balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 13-13-13 will be perfect for your okra.
Okra can be grown in pots, raised beds or just strait in the ground, as long as there is plenty of sun. Once the okra pods are about 3 inches long, go ahead and harvest them. Okra does not store well so you will need to cook it within 2 days or so. The hairs on okra irritate some people’s skin so gloves and pruners are a good option when picking okra. Over-ripe okra will turn woody and will need to be cut off the plant to redirect nutrients. Because a pod can grow 3 inches in 2 days, be sure to check the garden every 2 days.
Okra may not be on your list of favorite vegetables but because they are so easy to grow, put some in the garden because certainly there is someone in the family that likes it. Ants like okra plants so if you must spray the plants then just spray the bottom few inches of the stem with Liquid Sevin to kill the comers and goers.
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