Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
September, 2001
Regional Report

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A beautiful edible, 'Burgundy' okra has pink blooms that produce little green pods. The pods turn dark red after a day in the sun, but after cooking become green again.

Ode to Okra

Of all the pretty hibiscus in bloom this time of year, my favorite is the one you eat. Yes, okra is an odd looking crop and not everyone appreciates the tender succulence of young pods, but for those of us who love okra, it can provide lots of pods until frost.

Keep Okra Coming

August is hard on okra. The plants spend lots of energy blooming and producing pods. By the end of the month, plants often are tall and lanky, shedding the leaves closest to the ground. They come into September weak and tired, ready for some tender loving care.

I like giving plants a deep drink of water laced with a 1/2 strength solution of plant food. Normally okra requires little fertilizer and water by nature, but spoiling the plants helps coax into a last spurt of productivity.

Pruning Back

Many okra plants respond to a light pruning or topping by growing lateral stems. These eventually produce new flowers and pods. Study plants looking for small buds on the main stem and cut the stalk back to 2 inches above the top most bud. If your plants are very spindly and don't show secondary buds, leave them alone. To protect yourself from being pricked as you prune, wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt.

A little feeding and pruning will yield tasty rewards. Okra pods that grow when nights are cool in fall gain size more slowly, making it easier to keep up with the harvest. And there's no finer accompaniment for October beans or purple hulls than crunchy nuggets of pan fried okra.

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