Okra is a tall growing, warm season annual that is well adapted to a wide range of soil types. Its actual origin is disputed to be either from South Asia or from western Africa and Ethiopia. It is a member of the mallow family, which also has hibiscus and cotton as members. Okra is called lady’s fingers or gumbo in other areas of the world.
Spade or turn the soil as deeply as possible. Okra will grow best in soil which has been worked 8 to 10 inches deep. Okra can be established by sowing seeds directly into the garden. To enhance germination, soak okra seeds in water for several hours or overnight before sowing. Space rows 3-feet apart; sow seeds 1-inch deep and 4- to 6-inches apart within the row. When seedlings are several inches tall, thin the row so the remaining plants are spaced 1.5- to 2-feet apart.
When to Plant
Because okra seeds do not germinate well in cool soils, plant seeds after the soil have warmed in the spring, probably a week to 10 days after the date of the last frost for your area.
During the Season Cultivate around the okra plants to remove weeds and grass. Hand-pull weeds close to the plants to avoid damaging the roots of the okra. After the first harvest, apply 1 cup of garden fertilizer for each 10 feet of row. Scatter the fertilizer evenly between the rows. Mix it lightly with the soil. Water the plants after fertilizing
Varieties Lee Emerald •Burgundy – open pollinated, burgundy red pods, 4-foot-tall plants.
Clemson Spineless – open pollinated, spineless, dark green pods, 4- to 5-foot-tall plants
Water the garden to provide a uniform moisture supply to the crop. The garden should be watered in the morning so that the foliage is dry before dark. Water the garden sufficiently to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 inches.
The okra will produce large flowers about 2 months after planting. The okra pods will be ready to pick 3 or 4 days later. Harvest the pods when they are 3 to 4 inches long. If the okra gets too large, it will be tough and stringy.
The more serious okra disease pests include rootknot nematode, Southern stem blight and wilt. A combination of crop rotation and good soil management is important for controlling these diseases. Foliage blights may occur, but generally they do not reach a level that requires treatment. Blossom blight can be serious during persistent rainy periods.
Okra seed is easily saved for next season by leaving some of the last pods on the plant until they get very large. Remove them and allow them to dry. The seeds will shell easily from the pods. Other plant material such as leaves and stems can be put into the compost pile.
Nutritional Value & Health Benefits
Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of which is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. Nearly 10% of the recommended levels of vitamin B6 and folic acid are also present in a half cup of cooked okra.
Okra | Texas Plant Disease Handbook