Row by Row Episode 189: Top 7 Tips To Successfully Grow Okra
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Row by Row Episode 189: Top 7 Tips To Successfully Grow Okra

Row by Row Episode 189: Top 7 Tips To Successfully Grow Okra

While okra may be considered a "southern thing", it can be grown in most USDA planting zones. There are many benefits to adding okra to your "things to grow this season" list, okra is an excellent source of vitamins and it is one of the easiest things to grow in the garden. Most okra varieties are heat-lovers, have low watering needs, and the beneficial pollinators love the blooms. What variety should you grow? Let's discuss!

General Information:

  • Excellent source of vitamins A, C, Folate, and magnesium.  Low in calories and carbs. Provides protein that many other fruits and vegetables lack. Contains antioxidants that contributes to brain and heart health.
  • So many ways to cook, roasted, grilled, sauteed, fried, pickled, soups, gumbo, freeze dried.
  • Comes in 2 colors, Pods usually green, but numerous red varieties out there as well.
  • Okra is an annual. Okra grows the best in hardiness zones 6 – 11. You can grow okra in zone 5 but will need to take greater care with the plants.
  • It does especially well in the south in growing zone 7 and zone 8. In zones 9, 10, and 11, watch for early consistent temperatures over 100 degrees which can stunt growth if they aren’t watered enough. 
  • Okra takes 50 – 65 days to grow and mature
  • The ideal growing temperature is 75 – 90 degrees. 

Starting Seeds: (soak or not to soak?)

Takes longer to germinate, have to be patient, 5-17 days

  • Transplants: Likes soil temps of 65-degree F to germinate. Will need a heat mat with thermostat.

For transplants start 4-6 weeks before last frost date. Will need to harden off before planting outdoors. Be careful transplanting. If root breaks, it will not thrive. (taproot) (fragile roots)

Water immediately after transplanting.

  • For direct sow: evening temp above 60 after last possible frost date.

(Northerners can lay black plastic over planting location 1 month before planting to raise soil temps)

Plant seeds 3/4″ – 1″ deep.

Plant spacing 2 feet apart, Row spacing 3-4 feet apart (grows over 6 feet and 3 feet wide, need plenty of space) Be sure to read you seed package information specific to the variety you are planting.


  • Choose a location that receives full sun. 12-16 hours daylight

Okra loves the heat

  • Grows best with pH that is close to neutral, anything 6.0-8.0 will work
  • Well-draining soil amended with lots of compost or organic matter

Water Requirements:

  • Okra has low water needs and doesn’t like wet feet.
  • No more than 1 inch per week if no rain.
  • Water under foliage, right at ground level to avoid getting leaves wet.
  • Best to water in mornings so water on leaves will evaporate during the day.


  • Prior to planting, Complete organic fertilizer, compost, organic matter
  • Micro boost, Fish emulsion

Pest and Diseases:

  • Not particularly prone to pest or disease, usually manageable
  • Use crop rotation, high quality seed, keep garden clean removing old vegetation
  • Powdery mildew (white and powdery spots) of in humid, overly moist conditions
  • Fungus is possibility where there is too much moister (drooping yellow leaves)
  • Root knot nematode
  • Ants
  • Aphids


  • itching, irritation when harvested. Can grow spineless varieties.  Recommend wearing long sleeves and gloves to protect skin.
  • Check daily, grow quickly within a few days after flowering.
  • Most varieties intended to be picked when the pods are no longer than 3 inches long. Usually every other day
  • Pods grow fast, pick frequently to encourage the plant to produce more pods.  The larger pods taste woody and need to be tossed, don’t let go to seed.
  • Best to snip rather than snap due to fragile roots.
  • Can be stored in fridge 2-3 days

Saving Seeds:

  • Open pollinated varieties will produce replicas of parent plants
  • Make sure plants are isolated from other okra varieties
  • Pollinated by insects that can bring pollen from plants.
  • Only grow one variety if wanting to save the seeds
  • Some can remain viable up to several years, best to use them the next growing season

Okra Varieties:

  • Perkins Long Pod: heirloom variety that dates back to the 1800s. Elongated pods are bright green and tender up to 5″. Productive plants start producing early and often.
  • Clemson Spineless: standard okra variety for many since it’s All-America Selection in the 1930s. An open-pollinated variety. Pods can reach 7-9 inches
  • Star of David: heirloom, open-pollinated okra that is our go-to variety for frying. Plants produce short, thick pods with extensive ribs or spines.
  • Cowhorn: heirloom variety with long, slender pods that remain tender even at 6 to 10 inches long. An early producer.
  • Red Burgundy: highly-productive, heirloom variety that produces deep, red pods that remain tender at longer pod lengths.
  • Emerald Green Velvet: heirloom okra variety introduced in the 1950s by the Campbell Soup Company. Dark-green pods that are ribbed and remain tender at longer lengths
  • Jing Orange: Asian heirloom okra variety with beautiful red to orange pods that are spineless and stay tender at 6″ long
  • Chinese:  heirloom, multi-purpose variety that can be used as okra substitute when harvested young, or for making sponges and other household items if allowed to dry on the vine
  • Green Fingers: hybrid variety that produces small, flavorful 3-4″ green pods and is ideal for gardens of all sizes. The plants are early producers and the compact plants will start producing at only 15″ tall and will continue to produce until frost. self-pollinator. It is ideal for container growing and for balcony/porch growing!  
  • Jambalaya: hybrid variety that is the most productive

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Red Dragon Lettuce

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Speckled Pup Squash

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