Planting okra facts
- Hardiness: Very tender annual, frost will injure top growth; needs warm weather to grow.
- Planting: Sow seed outdoors after the soil has warmed to 65°F. (2-3 weeks after the last frost). For an earlier harvest, sow seed indoors 5-6 weeks before all danger of frost has passed, and plant the transplants. Okra has a hard seed coat that can result in slow and uneven germination. Scratch seeds with sandpaper or a wood rasp (scarification) and soak them in for 12 to 24 hours in water to improve germination. Seeds can also be pre-sprouted prior to planting.
- Days to maturity: 50 - 60 from transplanting.
- Spacing: 12"-18" in-row x 36"-48" between rows.
- Fertilizer needs: High requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Needs a continuous supply of nitrogen for a prolonged pod set. Side-dress at least one time after pods begin to form. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
- Approximate yield: 10-15 lbs. per 10-foot row.
Growing and care of okra
- Okra is a beautiful plant on its own, tall with striking yellow flowers. It will consistently yield okra pods from the height of summer until the late fall. Plants can grow to 6 - 10 ft. in height. Only one flower opens on a single stem in a single day. The fruit can be green, creamy-white, or burgundy colored.
- When plants are 24 inches tall, pinch off the growing points to promote branching to increase yields.
- Watering - Okra is somewhat drought-hardy, but additional watering may be needed in very hot and dry conditions.
- Weeding- Maintain a weed-free bed and apply an organic mulch to maintain soil moisture.
- Most plants are spiny, so wear gloves and use clippers or a knife to cut pods from the plants.
- After the first of the yellow flowers come and go, the plants will start producing pods to be harvested.
- Harvest young and tender 2- to 4-inch long pods approximately one to three days after the flowers open, before pods get woody (they become tough). For a continuous harvest, remove any over-mature pods so plants will continue to bloom.
- Harvest okra three times a week, continually cutting the pods at their base.
- If you find pods that you previously missed, cut them off and compost them because maturing pods will slow down production. It's easy to mistake unopened flower buds for okra pods.
Storage and preservation
- Keep the okra pods unwashed in a paper bag in your refrigerator drawer and make sure you are using the oldest first.
- Pods become pitted if stored for more than one week in the refrigerator.