Row by Row Episode 5: The Complete Guide to Growing Okra

Growing the Best Okra

On this week’s episode, Greg and Travis discuss all things okra. They talk about their favorite varieties of okra based on several trials that they’ve conducted over the years. Last year at the SunBelt Expo demonstration garden they trialed the Star of David, Jambalaya, Cowhorn, and Red Burgundy. The two okra varieties that came out on top for them was the Jambalaya and Red Burgundy. Although many people only grow the Clemson Spineless variety because it’s probably the most available, there are many other varieties that provide increased productivity and better texture. The guys have tested the Clemson Spineless against the Jambalaya and Red Burgundy and it does not compare in production. The cowhorn variety tends to be more popular in Louisiana because they use it in gumbo. Travis says the Star of David is excellent for frying because the pods are large, wide, and round so it soaks up the batter and grease when cooking. Chris Smith, who is with Sow True Seeds out of Asheville, NC, has around 130 varieties of okra that he has collected over the years. He’s currently has a blog and is working on a book called “In Defense of Okra” where he will elaborate on those varieties and everything okra. Okra is a crop that requires very little maintenance in the vegetable garden. It is not a heavy feeder, and so it doesn’t require much water or fertilizer relative to crops like corn or onions. Greg and Travis recommend doing several succession plantings of okra through the growing season. They transplant the okra in spring, then direct seed several other successions starting in May and throughout the summer to have the best harvests.

Show and Tell Segment

On the show and tell segment this week, Greg has just picked a bowl of fresh blackberries from his thornless blackberry patch. These blackberries are extremely prolific and great to eat raw, in smoothies or to make delicious blackberry cobbler. They also talk about the cucumber varieties they have grown this year. They grow a “pickle” variety and a “slicer” variety each year. The pickled variety they are growing this year is called Max Pack, which is an F1 hybrid selected for productivity. The slicer variety they’re growing is called Olympian, which they have grown for several years and prefer it for its uniformity and excellent production. Because both varieties are hybrids, they can grow them on the same row without having to worry about cross-pollination. The tool of the week is the handy twine knife or a “ring knife”, which is a ring that you wear on your finger that contains a sharp blade that makes cutting plants like okra a breeze in the garden.

Viewer Questions Segment

On the question and answer segment this week, the guys answer questions about using Sevin Dust, a popular insecticide that can have a negative impact on pollinators and beneficial insects. Instead, the guys like to stick to more natural chemicals like Neem Oil that won’t kill their beneficiaries and pollinators in the garden. They also answer a question about storing potatoes and other vegetables, and how washing these vegetables can affect their shelf life. Travis does not wash his potatoes or any crops until he is ready to eat them. The crops will last longer in storage if you let them dry out and store them without washing them off. Greg explains a little trick if you prefer to wash them before storing you should use baking soda because it will help that crop not break down.

Tool of the Week

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