Okra Growing Guide
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Okra Growing Guide

Growing Okra in Your Garden

Okra is a Southern staple that has been grown in gardens all over for centuries. Okra belongs to the mallow family along with roselle hibiscus and also cotton. Originally from Africa, okra has been widely adapted to grow in most climates but does very well in hotter growing zones like Georgia and Louisiana. Africans know okra as “gumbo” and it is a key ingredient in the popular dish from Louisiana. No matter how much space you have, okra can be grown in rows, raised beds or containers depending on the variety you choose.

Okra Plant Varieties

Growing Okra In Your Garden

Okra is a Southern staple that has been grown in gardens all over for centuries. Okra belongs to the mallow family along with roselle hibiscus and also cotton. Originally from Africa, okra has been widely adapted to grow in most climates but does very well in hotter growing zones like Georgia and Louisiana. Africans know okra as “gumbo” and it is a key ingredient in the popular dish from Louisiana. No matter how much space you have, okra can be grown in rows, raised beds or containers depending on the variety you choose.

What Are Heirlooms?

If you’ve ever explored the world of growing your own vegetables, you’ve no doubt heard the terms hybrid and heirloom. Heirlooms are varieties that have not been crossbred for 40-50 years or more. These varieties can be passed down through generations and keep their characteristics through those generations because of the careful planting to prevent cross-pollination.

Hybrid varieties have been specifically bred to have characteristics that are desirable to the grower. These characteristics can be anything from size, color, flavor, or disease resistance. When planting a hybrid variety, you have a much better idea of the characteristics of the fruit that the plant will produce.

Jambalaya & Cowhorn Okra

Jambalaya Okra, for example, is a hybrid variety that produces up to 2 weeks earlier than other okra varieties and is way more productive. Keeping this in mind, if you don’t want to have to pick okra as often, this may not be the right choice for you.

The heirloom Cowhorn Okra is a reliable variety that tends to be more forgiving for the home gardener. The pods will stay tender up to 10 inches and doesn’t have to be harvested quite as often. This variety is great if you’re growing okra for the first time.

What Season Should You Plant Okra?

If you have read our How To Grow Okra From Seed Growing Guide, you will know that the most common mistake that people make when growing okra is planting too early in the Spring season. Okra seeds will not germinate in cool soil so if you are planning on having a Spring okra crop, starting seeds indoors and transplanting is the way to go. Once the soil has warmed to at least 70°F, you can direct sow your okra seeds with no problem.

Choosing the right okra variety for your garden and your needs can be pretty easy and just takes a little research into the different varieties and their unique characteristics.

Can You Grow Okra In Containers?

You can absolutely grow okra in containers as long as you choose the right variety. The best okra to grow in a container is our Green Fingers Okra. The plants are super compact and start producing at only 15″ tall. In the photo, we have 8 okra plants in our 45 gallon root pouch and those 8 plants will produce enough okra to feed 2 people throughout the season. The pods on the Green Fingers Okra are only between 3″-4″ so it makes an excellent choice for containers and small garden spaces.

Did you know?

The gorgeous flowers that okra produces are not just beautiful, they're also edible! Rich in Vitamin A and low in calories, okra flowers are delicious when breaded and lightly fried and make a great and surprising addition to your meals.

Okra Plant Spacing

Maximizing Space

If you transplant your okra seedlings in the Spring, be sure to check the weather to know that the danger of frost has passed and the okra plants are firmly rooted in their start trays. Test the plants by very gently tugging on the base of the stem and if all of the roots and soil stay in tact, they are likely ready for transplant into the ground.

Stepping Up Okra

If the danger of frost has not quite passed but your okra plants are outgrowing their cells, transplanting them temporarily into 4″ pots will give the root system more time to develop while staying in a controlled environment.

Hardening Off Okra

Because okra doesn’t tolerate the cold very well, they need more time to adapt to the cooler air outside of the greenhouse. This adaptation process is called hardening off. For okra, it’s best to let the plant dry out slightly, stop fertilizing, and put them outside during the day to let cooler air circulate around them to help with the transition.

In-Ground Planting

Row Spacing – 3 to 4 feet
Plant Spacing – 12 to 24 inches
Planting Depth – Transplant at soil level

Raised Bed & Container Planting

Row Spacing – 2 feet
Plant Spacing – 12 inches
Planting Depth – Transplant at soil level

Okra Plant Soil, Irrigation, & Fertilizer

Soil Requirements to Grow Okra

  • Well-draining loam
  • pH between 6.0 and 6.8
  • Rich in organic materials
  • Good quality compost added to the soil

HOSS always recommends getting a soil sample to your local extension office several weeks before planting. Once you get your results, you will need plenty of time to adjust your soil accordingly and make sure your plants are getting the best nutrients possible as soon as they hit the ground.

Click here to find your local extension office.

Using a Drip Irrigation System

Maximizing Space

Drip irrigation will control the amount of water each plant gets and will push water into the soil slowly and precisely for maximum absorption. Too much water too fast can cause stress to the plants and keep oxygen from getting to the root systems. On the flip side, too little water can result in low yields and increased disease and pest issues, and a host of other problems. As a good rule of thumb, regardless of how you water your okra plants, be sure they’re getting at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week but checking in on your plants and watering as needed is really the best way to manage irrigation for okra.

Being sure to not only water enough, but the right way will be a major factor in your crop. Drip irrigation is the only method we recommend for irrigating your okra plants. Overhead watering is not a good option because having moisture on the leaves can introduce problems like disease and pest control resistance. Getting water directly to the base of the plant will help prevent excess evaporation, disease spreading through the crop from moisture on the leaves, and ensures water gets down into the soil directly to the root.
However, if you are growing okra in containers or drip irrigation is not an option, using the Dramm Watering Can will help you to direct water to the bottom of the plant at the root system and avoid getting moisture on the leaves.

Raised Bed & Container Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.2 – 6.8, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Sidedress 1-2 cups of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per 10 ft. of row.

Every 14 Days After

Mix 1 tablet each of Dr. Joe Nutri Bubble -AND- Dr. Joe All Purpose Growing Bubble into 1 gallon of water. Apply as a drench per 4 plants.

In-Ground Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

1 Week Before Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 6.2 – 6.8, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

Using the Hoss Fertilizer Injector, mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium 20-20-20 Fertilizer -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Every 14 Days After

Mix 1 cup of Hoss Premium 20-20-20 -AND -1-2 cups of Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement per 20 ft. of row.

Okra Pest & Disease Protection

Root Knot Nematodes

Of all the pests, okra is the most susceptible to root knot nematodes.
Home gardeners are limited to a few methods of controlling root knot
nematodes in the garden. The best ways to control this issue is good
crop rotation, succession planting and incorporating a good cover crop
rotation.

Insects

Organic Controls

Spinosad Garden Insect Spray
Thrips, Horn Worms

Horticultural Oil
Aphids, Stinkbugs, Whiteflies, Spider Mites

Bug Buster-O
Aphids, Whiteflies

Monterey BT
Armyworms

Take Down Garden Spray
Aphids, Armyworms, Whiteflies

Diatomaceous Earth
Cutworms

Non-Organic Controls

Bug Buster II
Aphids, Horn Worms, Stinkbugs, Whiteflies, Spider Mites

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Common Diseases

Non-Organic Controls

Bug Buster II
Aphids, Horn Worms, Stinkbugs, Whiteflies, Spider Mites

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Harvesting, Preserving, and Storing Okra

When & How To Harvest Okra

Okra should be harvested when the pods are still tender and haven’t gotten too large to become fibrous. Each variety, however, is different when it comes to what size is best for eating or preserving. Cowhorn Okra, for example, can stay tender with the pods being as long as 10 inches whereas Green Fingers Okra should be harvested when the pods are between 2 to 3 inches. Be sure to check the seed packet or the product page for the maturity date to give you a better idea of how long it takes that specific okra to reach full maturity. You can also keep an eye on the flowers and once they start to drop, it’s a good sign that you should start harvesting in the next couple of days.

The Best Method to Harvesting Okra

Harvest your okra using a sharp knife or pruning shears and be sure to make a clean cut. Don’t yank the fruit and damage the stem, as it can introduce harmful bacteria while storing. Okra pods are delicate so be careful when handling the pods so they don’t bruise. Because okra has spines and can cause irritation to your skin, we recommend wearing gloves while harvesting to avoid discomfort.

Storing & Preserving Okra

After harvesting your okra, be sure not to wash it right away if you’re intending to store it. Washing it will cause it to get slimy and will mold. You can store okra in the fridge for up to 3 days in a ventilated bag. Okra also stores well in the freezer either by just freezing the pods or blanching beforehand. Pickled okra is a staple in Southern kitchens and is a great way to enjoy your okra throughout the year.

Come See Our Okra!

Okra Growing Tips & Tricks

Keep Your Plants In Check!

Okra plants can easily grow to 12 to 14 feet tall if left unchecked and make it almost impossible to be able to harvest. Once your okra plants reach a reasonable height for you to be able to harvest and keep the plant producing, “top off” your okra by pruning back the plant at the top. The ideal height is between 24 to 36 inches tall.

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