Okra

Abelmoschus esculentus
Okra is a relative of hollyhock and hibiscus that hails from the hottest parts of Africa. Gardeners grow the tall, leafy plants for their immature fruit pods or seed pods that they use to thicken soups and stews and to cook as vegetables.

• More detailed information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing

• See also:

Home Garden Okra

Georgia Gardening

Vegetable Garden Calendar

Small Garden Plan

When to Harvest Vegetables

Okra is what makes gumbo . . . gumbo! And what Southern buffet doesn’t include a heaping helping of sliced, fried okra and a side of spicy pickled okra?

WHEN TO PLANT
A warm-weather crop, okra should be planted after soils have warmed up (70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher). There is no need to get an early start because the hard-shelled seeds will not germinate in cool soils. Sow seed directly in the garden a week or so after the latest date of last frost. Or start okra indoors under lights about May 1, and set out seedlings when soils have warmed.

WHERE TO PLANT
Plant okra in full sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice) in a well-drained part of the garden. Locate these large, tall plants in an area where they will not shade out smaller plants.

HOW TO PLANT
Apply a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at a rate of 11/2 pounds per 100 square feet of garden. Spade or rototill the soil. Seed are slow to sprout, but can be sped up by soaking overnight in water or, as older, experienced gardener proved to me, soak the seeds for exactly 5 minutes in pure chlorine bleach; rinse the seed three times, and plant – they’ll sprout the very next day! Sow seeds in rows at least 36 inches apart, then thin to 1 plant every 12 inches. In a bed, sow seeds in hills 24 inches apart, then thin to 1 plant per hill. Usually, 2 plants across the bed is enough. To prepare transplants indoors, sow 3 seeds in each peat pot, thin to 1 seedling, and set the plant into the garden at the spacing noted above after soils have warmed. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing while being careful not to damage the roots. Water in the plants with a transplant starter fertilizer mixed according to label directions. This complete fertilizer has a very high-soluble phosphorus analysis, such as 10-52-17, 10-50-10, or 10-30-10.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Okra needs little care to produce a good crop. Provide 1 inch of water per week, and remove the weeds by hoeing or pulling. There are few major pests, other than pod-rot in hot humid weather and ants, which are after the sweet, sticky sap that comes off pods and flowers. If you must use an approved garden insecticide for ants, spray just the base of plants, which will get them as they come and go.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Harvest the pods when they are about 3 inches long and still tender. Use a knife or shears, and cut them every 2 days so they won’t become woody. Okra plants have irritating hairs that cause some people to break out in a rash, so wear gloves and long sleeves when working with them. Be sure to remove any overripe pods to stimulate continuing production. The plants will produce until killed by frost. Okra does not store for over a day or two, so cook quickly after harvest.

VARIETIES

Varieties
Days to Maturity
Comments

Burgundy
60 days
Red pods. AAS.

Cajun Delight
50 days
Early, attractive plants fit in flower garden. AAS.

Clemson
56 days
Nearly Spineless spine-free. AAS.

White Velvet
55 days
Prolific 5-foot plants with spineless pods

Cowhorn
55 days
Tall plants with long, tender pods

Emerald Green
55 days
Tall plants suitable for cooler climates

Dwarf green
52 days
Small plants, Long pod ribbed pods.

Tags For This Article: ,