Okra Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • In most parts of the country, plant okra directly in the garden when the nights stay above 55&deg F and the soil has warmed to 65&deg F to 70&deg F. (/li>
  • In the most northern areas, start seeds indoors in peat pots several weeks before the soil warms up. Or direct seed through black plastic and cover the rows with grow tunnels.

Preparation

  • Choose a site in full sun, preferably on a southern slope for maximum warmth.
  • A week or so before planting, work into the soil 1/2 pound of 10-10-10 or its equivalent per 25 feet of row.

Planting

  • To hasten germination, soak seeds overnight in tepid water or freeze them to crack their coats.
  • Sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep, 3 to 4 inches apart.
  • Set out transplants to stand 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart.

Care

  • When the seedlings are about 3 inches tall, thin to stand 1 to 2 feet apart.
  • Provide at least 1 inch of water per week; more in hot, arid regions.
  • When plants are young, cultivate lightly to eliminate weeds. Mulch heavily (4 to 8 inches) to keep weeds down and conserve moisture.
  • Side-dress plants with 10-10-10 fertilizer (1/2 pound per 25 feet of row), aged manure, or rich compost. Side-dress three times: after thinning, when the first pods begin to develop, and at least once midway through the growing season.
  • See our article Summer's Bad Guys by Charlie Nardozzi for controls of common okra pests such as flea beetles.

Harvesting

  • The first pods will be ready in 50 to 60 days. Harvest the pods when still immature (2 to 3 inches long).
  • Pick at least every other day to encourage production.
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid coming in contact with the irritating spines on the leaves and pods. Use a knife to cut the stem just above the cap.


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