How to Grow Okra, Lady Finger

Okra (Lady Finger) is a wonderful vegetable used in many dishes, the range of this warm-natured hibiscus related is steadily edging northward. Growing okra requires a lot of sunlight, so find a place in your garden that doesn’t get much shade. Also, when planting okra, be sure there is good drainage in your garden.

In the South, plant the first crop in the early spring and a second crop in June. In short-season areas, start plants indoors six weeks before setting them out (three to four weeks after the last frost date). Sow two seeds per peat pot and clip off the weaker seedling.

When seeding okra directly in the ground, wait until after the soil has warmed and the air temperature reaches at least 65 degrees. Use fresh seed soaked overnight or nick each seed coat with a file to encourage germination.

Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep, spacing is 3 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Thin seedlings to 16 to 22 inches apart, always choosing the strongest of the young plants.

When okra is 5 inches tall, mulch to keep out weeds and conserve moisture. Water during dry spells and side-dress with compost every three to four weeks. In areas with long, hot summers, cut the plants back almost to ground level in midsummer and fertilize to produce a second crop.

growing-okra

About 60 days after planting, edible pods will start to appear. A pod can grow from nothing to full size in 2 or 3 days. They’re tough when mature, so harvest daily when they are no more than finger-sized and stems are still tender and easy to pick. Okra is a “cut-and-come-again” vegetable. Keep cutting the pods every day or two, and they will keep on coming until killed by frost.

Water the plants every 5 to 7 days. The plants can handle dry conditions, but regular water is definitely beneficial.