By National Gardening Association Editors
- In most parts of the country, plant okra directly in the garden when the nights stay above 55° F and the soil has warmed to 65° F to 70° 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.