Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Okra Plants
When planting okra the best time to plant is during the spring, summer, or fall months. Due to these plants loving the warmer weather temperatures they need to be planted in an area with plenty of sunlight. We recommend transplanting okra in the early spring to get a jumpstart on production and early germination of plants during the growing season. When transplanting using our seed starting trays this will ensure you develop a solid root ball because of the internal root training ribs that help the plants grow properly and reduce transplant shock when placed in the garden area. If you would rather direct seed okra plants the best time is either late spring or summer using our walk-behind garden seeder. It comes with six adjustable seed plates that allow for a variety of different seeds to be planted in the seeder. The two most productive okra varieties we offer is Jambalaya and Red Burgundy. The Jambalaya okra is a hybrid variety that produces green pods that have heavy yields that are great for pickling, frying, or stewing. While the Red Burgundy is a highly-productive heirloom variety that has dark red pods that stay tender at longer pod lengths. Another benefit of growing okra is they work great for succession planting throughout the warmer months. When picked regularly you are able to get multiple harvests off one okra plant. The best time to harvest okra pods is when they reach around 3 to 5 inches in length. However, once okra plants get so tall they become less productive and harvesting will be more difficult. A major pest that can harm the growth of okra plants is root-knot nematodes. Which cause knots on the roots of the plants that can drain the nutrients from the plants leaving them wilted. There are a couple of different ways to control these nematode problems in the garden area. Travis recommends using a cover crop like Broadleaf Mustard that will release chemicals to help suppress nematode, fungi, and insect populations and increase organic matter which will improve soil tilth and quality of the soil structure in the vegetable garden area.
Pruning Okra in the Vegetable Garden
In this week’s episode, Travis talks about how to prune okra for an easier harvest. In the garden, Travis currently has okra plants that are around knee-high that started producing pods when they were only about a foot tall. When going to prune okra instead of cutting it off right below the pod, Travis prefers to cut the pod and the lateral branch too. He prefers to do this because it will keep the bottom of the plant nice, clean, and easier to see the okra when it comes time for harvesting. So when using the pruning shears, he will cut where the okra pod and the lateral branch stem meet which gives us a clean-cut and a nice little okra pod picked. The difference between pruning and “whooping” okra plants is when whooping you are beating the side of the okra plants. The theory behind beating the okra plants is you are stressing the plants in order to get more production in the vegetable garden. Travis has tried the pruning or whooping method before in the garden and says it does make the garden easier to harvest and get better production of okra pods. Overall, when pruning okra cut them at the meeting of the okra pod and lateral branch stem to ensure you get an easy harvest and manageable okra plants in the garden area all throughout the growing season.