A step by step guide for Growing Okra (Bhendi)
Today, we discuss the complete information about growing okra (Ladies finger), how to care okra plants, and harvesting procedure of okra in your home garden. Okra which is scientifically called as Abelmoschus esculentus is a vegetable which grows very well at the time of summer and this requires a temperature of at least 30°C continuously for two months to grow successfully. Okra is also called as “Lady’s finger” due to its pods which are long and narrow and are also edible. This will keep on growing all across the summer. As soon as a pod is harvested, another one will start growing in its place. It is somewhat related to the hibiscus plant and will also similarly give beautiful flowers. Oka will grow at its best when in hot climatic conditions. You can also grow okra by starting it from seeds in the indoor locations and then transplanting them when the climatic conditions are warmer. Go ahead and read the article below to know all about growing Okra.
Plantation of Okra:
- You will have to first decide how you are going to start the seeds of okra. If you are residing in a locality where the summers are hot and the winters are mild, it is very easy for plantation of okra in your garden patch instead of starting it in the indoor locations.
- You will have to start the plantation of seeds of okra at the time of early spring, that is after the completion of the last frost of the year and when you are sure that the temperature will not go below 13°C during night times.
- If the temperature is dipping below 13°C at nights, then it would be better if you start the seeds in the indoor locations at least 15-20 days before the last frost. When you find that the seedlings are sturdy and the climatic conditions are warm, you can start the transplantation of the seedlings to your garden.
- For starting the seeds in the indoor locations, the seeds have to be planted in a peat seed starter and should be watered very well. Keep them in a room which is warm and sunny or you can also make use of grow lamps for maintaining the warmth at the time of germination. The temperature has to be maintained between 18°C to 23°C.
- When the climatic conditions become warm and you are prepared for the transplantation of seedlings to the garden, you can follow the same steps you will use for growing okra from seed in the outdoor locations.
- Select the sunniest place in your garden. Okra is a vegetable which will grow at its best in full sun. If you wish to grow it in a shady place, it will not give much fruit even if it survives. Okra has to be planted in a place which will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight completely daily.
- There is no need to worry thinking that it will become too hot. Okra grows well when the summer is at its peak and the sun beats down on your garden when it is at its hottest.
- The pH of the soil has to be corrected before the plantation of Okra. Okra will grow at its best in the soil which has the level of pH in between 6.5 to 7. The pH level of the soil has to be tested for the determination of its proper pH range. You can also add some amount of limestone or bone meal for increasing the pH of the soil. If you do not like to change the pH of the soil making use of any drastic measures, then you can simply add a lot of compost which will increase the pH up to 7 which would make it neutral.
- Make sure that you are enriching the soil with nutrients. Okra will grow very well in the soil which is very rich and is packed with a good amount of nutrients. You can also consider enriching the soil making use of compost and organic fertilizer which is badded or even a slow-release fertilizer which has an n-p-k ratio of 4-6-6. In any of the ways, the soil has to be tilled up to a depth of 12 inches and you will have to add up to 4 inches of compost or fertilizer making use of a garden rake so that it would be distributed in a uniform manner.
- Make sure that you are not neglecting the addition of nutrients to the soil as this may lead to loss of production of the okra.
- Now it is the time for sowing the seeds of okra or for the plantation of seedlings. When the climatic conditions are warm, it is time for the plantation of okra in your garden. The seeds have to be sown at a distance of at least 4 inches from each other and a depth of 0.5 inches.
- If you have already started your seeds in the indoor locations, the seedlings have to be handled in a careful manner and then the plantation has to be done at a distance of 3 feet from each other and the rows should be at a distance of 1 foot.
- Holes have to be dug in such a way that they would be able to hold the root balls and after that, pat the soil which is present around the base in a gentle manner. The garden has to be watered to help the soil to get settled.
- If you want to speed the process of germination of your seeds, then you can soak them in water overnight before the plantation or you can also consider freezing them for cracking the shells.
- If you are going with the transplantation of seedlings, make sure that you are not breaking their taproots which are tiny. If the tiny taproots get crushed, there will be no growth in seedlings.
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Care and maintenance of Okra:
- The okra has to be kept well watered. It should be given at least 1 inch of water once a week. Watering has to be done every day in the morning to moisten the soil in a thorough manner. But make sure that you are not watering after heavy rainfall. Okra has the capability to tolerate slight drought, but it will grow better when offered with an adequate amount of water all across the summer.
- It is always better to water okra in morning times so that the plants will have some time for getting dry before the night arrives. If the water will remain in the garden bed for the complete night, then it would cause rotting to the plants.
- When you are watering okra, make sure that you are not watering on the leaves. This is because when the sun starts in the morning and beats down on the okra plants, the water which is present on the leaves will act as a magnifying glass and the okra leaves get burnt.
- The seedlings have to be thinned. When the seeds you have planted sprouted and have grown up to a height of 3 inches, you can start thinning the seedlings which are small and leave behind the ones which are strongest and standing.
- Okra plant spacing is very important. For this, thinning has to be done so that the seedlings which are left behind without thinning will be spaced a foot from each other and in rows, they would be at a distance of 3 feet from each other. If the transplantation of seedlings which you have started in the indoor locations is done, then there is no need to perform this step.
- The okra bed has to be weeded and mulched. When the okra plants are young, you can prepare the bed for the elimination of any weeds. After that, you will have to start covering the area which is present around the seedlings with a heavy layer of mulch like pine straw. This will help in the prevention of extra weeds from getting sprouted and taking over the bed which you have prepared for okra.
- The okra plants have to be dressed at the sides making use of compost. As the okra requires a lot of nutrients for growth, it is a very good idea to keep adding compost all across the summer. You should also consider side-dressing the okra by making use of compost at least three times. One time would be after you have thinned the seedlings, other time would be after you see the growth of first pods and the third time would be at the middle of the growing season. For side-dressing, you can rake in a few inches of compost surrounding the plants in a simple manner so that the soil which is present at that particular spot will get enriched.
- You can also take into consideration side dressing with more amount of bagged organic fertilizer or any slow-release fertilizer.
- Make sure that you are not side-dressing the okra plants frequently. Three times would be sufficient. Adding a large amount of compost or any organic fertilizer will cause harm to the plants more than the help.
- Make sure that you are monitoring the plants for pests. Stink bugs, aphids, corn earworms are the pests which would feed on the plants of okra. The okra plants are hardy and generally will not fail in terms of pests, but it is always better for keeping their numbers low to get the most out of your okra plants.
- The stems and leaves of the okra plants have to be checked regularly for any holes, leaves turning yellow or any other indications of pests. If you find any bugs, you can remove them by making use of your hand or even spray some soapy water on the leaves to keep the pests away.
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- After about 2 months of the plantation of okra, the pods will start growing. As soon as you find the first pods of okra emerging and getting matured, you can start harvesting them regularly. Make use of scissors or any hand pruner to remove the okra pods which are present just above the caps their stems which thick join the branches of the okra plant.
- As soon as you cut the okra pods, you will see the emergence of another okra pod from the same place. You can keep on harvesting the okra all across the summer until the growing season completes and the okra plants will stop the production of new pods.
- The pods have to be harvested when they reach the length of at least 3 inches.
- You can keep harvesting the okra every alternate day and when the climatic conditions are warm, you can harvest it every day for encouraging fast growth. You may even be required to harvest okra two times a day to support the growth when the season is at its peak. If the pods will become too big, they will turn to be tough and woody.
- It would be better for you to consider wearing gloves and long sleeves when you are harvesting the okra. This is because, as the okra plant leaves and pods of okra are covered with spines, that would cause irritation to your skin.
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Facts about Okra:
- The best varieties of okra to grow are Burgundy, Clemson, Emerald, Louisiana Green, Velvet, Annie Oakley, and Stewart’s Zeebest.
- The okra variety which is called Clemson is the one which is dark green and its pods are angular. This okra will take 1 ½ to 2 months to reach the stage of maturity.
- Okra which is less cooked would be better. The longer time of cooking and high heat will reduce health benefits. The slime okra is well-known for its mucilage and is generally very good for us for consumption. Okra has a high fiber and its content of mucilage is the best for digestion.
- You can plant okra at a distance of minimum 6 inches from basil so that there would be some space for basil to spread. Basil is the best repellent for whiteflies, spider mites, and aphids. When you are companion planting Okra and lettuce, okra will give shade for the lettuce whereas the lettuce will act as an attractive and edible ground cover which will prevent weeds growing around the okra plant’s base.
- You can also consider companion planting okra with radishes and peppers too. You can start the plantation of radish seeds and okra at a time at a distance of 4 inches from each other in a row.
- Okra is a plant which is very easy to grow and will not need plenty of work in the garden. The plants of okra will rise very tall but they are not similar to vining plants such as beans. You will not require any trellis or support for your okra plants. They will grow like tall shrubs.
- Okra plants will grow at their best when they are provided with regular watering. Okra plants would be able to tolerate a bit drought too. Okra plants need an inch of water on a weekly basis for survival. They become large and will also give production of huge numbers of pods when watered in a thorough manner.
- If you are interested to grow Okra but you do not have space in your garden or you do not have a garden, you can consider growing okra in containers or in a 5-gallon bucket too. This is the best alternative for growing okra. The plants will survive at the time of summer when there is no frost and when the temperatures are above 25°C. Growing okra in a bag is also considerable.
- Okra will grow at its best in the soils which are warm. So you can consider sowing the okra seeds directly in your garden at the time of spring. Anyways, to have a good start, you can start okra in the indoor locations about 2 months prior to the spring.
- For getting the okra seeds, you must dry the okra seeds on the wine and wait till they begin to split or crack. At this point in time, you can take off the pods and twist them. The seeds would be coming out easily, so make sure that you are keeping a bowl near to you.
- For storing the seeds of okra, you can make use of any plastic container or mason jar. The seeds have to be kept in a place which is cool and dry such as a refrigerator or a kitchen pantry. The seeds which are fried can be stored up to 4 years. Anyways, most of the seeds do not last for that amount of time. To get the best results, you can plant these seeds in the coming growing season.
That’s all folks about growing okra and farming procedure.
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