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News from the Good Food Project

Growing Okra

As more gardeners discover that they really like okra, the range of this warm natured hibiscus cousin is steadily edging northward. Growing okra require warm weather, but by using seedlings, you can shave 3 weeks or more from its usual long season. As long as okra seedlings are handled gently, as if they were breakable eggs, they can be slipped into the garden or into large containers, just as the hot season begins.

Okra needs warm soil and weather to grow well. Okra seedlings don't like cold. They must be planted well after the last spring frost when the ground and air have warmed. Choose your sunniest spot for growing okra, and wait until the weather is warm to set out your plants. Plants like it when nights are at least in the 60's and days 85 or warmer.

Okra seedlings have fragile taproots that cannot be broken. Thoroughly water your seedlings an hour before you plant them. Gently break open the sides and bottoms of their biodegradable containers, separate the seedlings, and set them about 10 inches apart. Plant slightly deeper (about 1/2 inch) than they grew in their pots. Water the little plants if rain is not expected, but wait a few days before mulching to give the soil a chance to absorb the sun's warmth. Okra is appreciated for its ability to withstand drought compared to other vegetables, but for good growth and production, you'll need to water at least an inch a week, just as with other vegetables. Just know that if you run into an extended dry period and can't seem to water enough, okra will be the last to suffer.

Okra is related to the Hibiscus and produces blooms that look similar to hibiscus flowers.

The early growth of okra is often slow, but the plants grow much faster once summer starts sizzling. In addition to gaining height, okra's leaves get bigger as the plants grow and begin producing yellow blossoms followed by tender pods. Plants are erect with a main trunk, making them look a little tree-like in the garden. Harvest the okra when it is about 2-3 inches long. Harvest every other day.


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