Planting and Growing Okra

by David Schulze

On this page, I talk about planting and growing okra, with helpful tips and some advice based on my (David's) own experiences.

Before you begin read our pages on Okra is not a Native of Texas and Germination Tips.

Before beginning read our pages on germination, soil testing and soil temperature.

Okra loves the heat. When the temperatures get to 90 degrees or more, okra just smiles and keeps on growing. It is why it is one of the best crops to grow in Texas.

Okra come in two colors--green and purple. Most people choose green to grow since they are not familiar with the purple color.

Okra can be direct sown or started in pots for transplant.

When direct sowing, place one seed every 6 to 12 inches about 1/4 inch deep.  Once the first true leaves appear, thin to one every 12 inches. 

I am the world's worst at thinning. So I will put two seeds in a 1/4 inch holes, that are 8 to 12 inches a part and then thin out the weakest plant. To me it saves time and money on the number of seeds I have to use.

Most directions call for 36 inch spacing between the rows. But for the home gardener, using raised beds, I think a three to four foot wide row will give ample spacing.

When growing plants from transplants, place two seeds in one four inch pot about 4 to 5 weeks before transplanting out. Thin to one plant when first true leaves have grown.

It will take anywhere from 6 to 18 days for seeds to germinate.

Plant outside when the soil is at least 70 degrees and all danger of frost has passed. Okra will not tolerate any frost.

Okra can be directly sown as well.

Okra can also be grown in containers.  There are many YouTube videos that talk about how to do this.

Okra can suffer from several pests and diseases, including cucumber beetles, white mold, Southern Blight, vascular wilt, bacterial spot, and powdery mildew. Growers in southern states should also protect against root knot nematode infestation.

You will need to do a web search on how to deal with these should they affect your crops.  One thing you can do is use insecticidal soap like Safer to help keep bugs from even getting started on your plants.  Hot pepper wax insect repellent will also help keep them off.

There are many types of organic insecticides and fungicides on the market to help with insect and disease prevention.  I use several different types so I am not using the same one each time.

Be aware that there are many types of bugs that will congregate inside the greenhouse as well.

Okra pods are harvested for eating when they are young and immature, just after the flowers fade.  Okra pods can/should be harvested every few days. 

You will need something sharp like pruning shears knife to harvest pods.  They do not break off easily. Also some okra has spines so wearing gloves when harvesting is suggested.

Most types call for harvesting when they are 3 to 4 inches long.  You will need to check your variety for specific instructions.  You can expect to start harvesting in about 60 days.

Okra can be stored in the refrigerator for about five days or so.  It can be blanched and stored in the freezer.  Or it canned be canned or pickled.

One tip, some say, in order to help germination is to nick the seeds in order to break the hard coat.  There are plenty of YouTube videos that explain how to do this.  I do not really think this is necessary.

Water about one inch a week.  Fertilize every two weeks with fish or seaweed fertilizer.  Make sure to follow manufacture's instructions for fertilizing.  Some other good products I have found are Garret Juice and Medina Has to Grow for vegetables.

Some also say to soak the seeds for 12 to 18 hours prior to planting.  I have tried this with pepper seeds but did not notice any significant difference.

Another thing you may want to do is use CowPots if you are transplanting.  CowPots are designed so that the whole pot can be dropped in.  Much easier, quicker and better for the roots when done this way.

On 4-20-2019, I planted about fifty seeds for okra seed production.  I planted the Beck's Big Buck which was developed here in San Antonio.  Mr. Beck recently passed away.

We could not buy the seeds in bulk so we bought our own to see how they do.  This will be our first seed in our "Texas Grown Series."  We hope to expand this line in years to come.

If you have any questions please write us and ask. We will try to answer or point you in the direction of a source that can.

Below are some pictures of my picked okra (along with some tam jalapenos) and mature okra.

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