Plant okra seeds indoors in pots or trays under full light 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost date.
You can also start the seeds directly outside but the soil needs to be to 65 to 70 degrees F.
Plant okra about 1/2 to 1 inch deep and 12 to 18 inches apart. You can soak the seeds overnight in tepid water to help speed up germination. Be sure to space out the rows 3 to 4 feet apart since okra plants get very tall.
When to Water
Okra is appreciated for its ability to withstand drought compared to other vegetables, but for good growth and production, you’ll need to water 1" a week.
Okra seedlings don’t like cold. Plant well after the last spring frost when the ground and air have warmed.
Fireants can cause damage to developing flowers that forces them to abort. Other pests that you may run into include Japanese beetles, stink bugs, aphids, corn earworms, and flea beetles. Cool weather is a big problem, and stressed plants may fall victim to verticillium and fusarium wilts, which are soil-borne diseases that cause them to wilt and die. Another serious pest is root knot nematode.
Plants benefit from a generous amount of compost or other rich organic matter, which should be thoroughly mixed into the soil before planting. Okra grows best in soil with a near-neutral pH between 6.5 and 7.0, although it will do okay in a pH as high as 7.6.
Okra plants can reach a height of 3 to 7 feet.Take that into consideration when planning your garden. Make sure there is enough distance between your tall vegetables and short vegetables. That way both will get enough sun light.
Pods grow quickly, so check plants every day once they start producing. A pod can grow from nothing to full size in 2 or 3 days. Pods first appear at the base of the plant up and they are ideal when they are 2 to 4 inches long; if they stay longer on the plant they become tough and stringy. Make sure you use pruning shears and gloves to cut the pods, because some of the pods might have tiny thorns. Always remove any that are too big to eat because they keep the plant from producing.
The perfect climate for growing okra is hot and humid climates with long growing seasons, planted in very sunny locations.
When seed pods start to grow, apply a fertilizer on the ground around the plants and water it in (keeping the fertilizer and water off the plant directly).
Watering from above the plant can cause "stem rot". Instead try watering beneath the leaves. Consider using drip irrigation when growing okra.
After the first big harvest of pods, top-dress the plants with a balanced organic fertilizer, gently mixed into the top half-inch of soil. After fertilizing, water thoroughly with a hose to soak the fertilizer into the soil.
Okra's taste and texture is best within a few days of harvest. You're likely to have an abundance of okra you can use to make classic dishes like the following: Fried okra, Gumbo, Stewed okra.
Growing okra requires full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours per day, and warm temperatures. Okra thrives when temperatures get above 75°F, and continue to flourish with temperatures 90°F or higher. There are a few cultivars that grow well in cooler conditions, such as 'North & South', which can be successfully grown as far north as Maine.
Short vegetable plants should not be planted next to okras because they will have to compete for sunlight next to the giant okras.
The following vegetables will do well when planted next to okras: Beans, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Melons, Peas, Potatoes, Squash, Sunflowers. Planting certain vegetables next to each other can deter insects and encourage growth.
Next year, DO NOT plant okras, cotton and cacao in the same location where you planted okra this year. Because they are all members of the Malvaceae family. Instead use that spot to plant other vegetables from a different family such as:
- Carrot (Umbelliferae): celery, carrots, parsley
- Legume (Leguminosae): peas, beans, lentils
- Mustard/Brassica (Cruciferae): broccoli, caulifower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes.
- Sunflower (Compositae): lettuce, artichokes.
- Cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae): pumpkins, melons, squash, gourds, cucumbers.
- Nightshade (Solanaceae): tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers
- Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae): spinach, Swiss chard, beets.
- Allium (Amaryllidaceae) - onions, garlic, leeks, and chives.
Growing Okra Overview
In General, okras are easy to grow as long as they get enough sun light and warm temperatures above 75 degrees F. For more planting information, please visit our Farming Tips homepage.