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Growing Okra

Okra is a great addition to many homemade dishes. Grow your own okra at home and you have it available to use, fresh as can be. This is a guide about growing okra.
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April 17, 2006 Flag

Botanical Name:

Abelmoschus esculentus

Description:

Traditionally a southern favorite, Okra is a member of the hibiscus family that produces, small, slender, edible green pods, with a mild flavor and ridged texture. When cooked, the pods release a viscous substance that is sometimes used as a thickening agent. Prefers warm climates
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Planting Time:

Start indoors three to four weeks after the last frost date or sow seeds directly outdoors when soil warms to 68ºF. Warm climates can start a second crop in early summer.

Exposure:

full sun

Soil:

deep, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8

Planting:

Plant seeds _ to _ inch deep spaced 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 12 to 24 inches apart. If you prefer, stratify (nick) and soak seeds prior to planting to speed germination. When seedlings reach a height of four inches, thin by cutting extras with a scissors. Transplants should be spaced 12 inches apart.

Watering:

Keep soil evenly moist (not wet) to encourage continuous production of pods. Plants are susceptible to stem rot, so avoid getting water directly on plants.

Maintenance:

Mulch around plants to control weeds and retain soil moisture. Apply an organic fertilizer, like compost tea, every few weeks to boost production.

Harvesting & Storage:

Pods should be harvested when they are young and tender and have reached a length of 1 to 6 inches. Harvest frequently to keep plants producing. Okra is highly perishable and should be frozen, pickled, canned or eaten within 24-48 hours of harvesting. Dry over-ripe pods for arrangements.

Diseases and Pests:

Common okra problems include cabbage worms and aphids. Remove worms by hand and spray aphids with an organic insecticide or spray them with a hose.
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August 16, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for printing an article on how to grow Okra. I live in New England, and would like to try it in a few large containers next year. If I use organic soil for potting early started plants, do I need to mix anything else into the soil 1st to ensure an abundant growth when transplanting outside; ie: fertilizer or lime, or some other soil amendment so the PH will be right?

Do I use just plain seed starting soil to start them & do I need to use heating pads or lights? Hope you can answer this in a future article or as feedback on the site. I love southern foods & growing my own foods to save $, but it can get expensive when you invest time, labor & $ & nothing comes up. I'd like to get it right the 1st time. Thanks for any help.

Related Content(article continues below)
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2 found this helpful
June 17, 2010 Flag

If anyone is having problems getting okra seeds to grow, try soaking them in pure bleach overnight. The next day don't wash off the bleach and plant them as usual. My dad planted some four days ago he'd soaked in bleach and they're already up and 3 inches tall.

Source: My Dad

By branbrumom from Vian, OK

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Questions

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August 30, 2007 Flag

Every year I have my vegetable garden and I always plant Okra, which I love. When I get around the plant and start picking, I start itching like I have gotten into poison ivy. I use long rubber gloves for my hands and part of my arms, but my neck, face and the rest of my body itches so bad that I can't wait to take a shower and lotion down. Can anyone help me with this problem?



Kay from Clyde,TX

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August 31, 20070 found this helpful

I would try to find someone to pick for me. Perhaps if you offered them some veggies in return? Then hose them down before bringing them in. Worth a try. Good luck.

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August 31, 20070 found this helpful

I think I'd buy it at the farmers market!

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August 31, 20070 found this helpful

This is very common with okra harvesting! The okra stings and makes my hands itch when preparing it for cooking. I love it, so I don't let it bother me too much.

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September 1, 20070 found this helpful

I don't know about okra, but I discovered this summer that Virginia creeper does it to me. I Googled "poison ivy" and learned that Virginia creeper does affect some people this way. It's a vining plant that has 5 leaves instead of poison ivy's 3. Just sending this in as an informational warning to others!

Cantate

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September 1, 20070 found this helpful

I have the same problem. I cover up as much as possible (as stated),then harvested with a very sharp knife in one hand while trying not to come in contact with the plant at all...letting the okra drop to the ground and gathering them up after I'd cut all I wanted. I didn't itch unless I touched the leaves...so wash up as soon as you get in the house and avoid touching your face before you wash.

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September 28, 20070 found this helpful

Go to your local hardware shop and see if you can buy an extension pruner. It is on a long telescopic handle, with a gripper next to the blade so that what you cut does not fall down. Might take a bit of practice to get used to.

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June 12, 2012 Flag

What is a good spacing between okra plants?

By Hugh

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June 13, 20120 found this helpful

I believe it is about a foot on any side (to the one in front and back of the plant, and across to plant on each side, if any).

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August 11, 2011 Flag

For three or four years we have had trouble getting okra to grow and produce. We don't know if it is our soil or the seed. This year we even bought new seed. Can anyone give us some pointers?

By Linda J

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2 found this helpful
October 7, 2012 Flag

This is a beautiful picture of a flower from my okra plant. To me the flowers are a blend of an orchid and magnolia blossom. I love the way I captured the morning dew. Who knew such a beautiful flower would come from a vegetable plant! I froze the seeds in an ice cube tray and direct planted the cubes in my raised garden bed. All six plants came up!

By Cookie from Wilmington, DE

Closeup of okra flower.

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1 found this helpful
October 18, 2011 Flag

I think we have the tallest Okra in the South. My husband is picking it, because I am only 5 feet tall. I would need a ladder. And the stalks are like small trees!

By Harlean from Hot Springs, AR

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October 19, 20110 found this helpful

Your plants are lovely and tall.

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