Planting an Okra Crop
On this week’s episode, Travis is growing a productive okra crop in the vegetable garden. You can typically plant around two or three crops of okra from spring to fall. Throughout the warm growing season, it is best to succession plant okra to ensure you can get maximum yields for harvesting. In the Spring, Travis always likes to transplant an okra crop to get a headstart on the growing season. By transplanting you are able to get around a two to four-week head start in the vegetable garden instead of direct seeding. To get the best transplants he recommends planting in seed starting trays to ensure you develop a solid root ball with internal root training ribs that help the plants grow properly and reduce transplant shock. If you are in a tight space in the area it is best to plant okra on double rows so you can easily harvest both rows at once. This year Travis is going to plant on a single row with three-foot row spacing. When going to prune okra instead of cutting it off right below the pod, Travis prefers to cut the pod and the lateral branch because it will keep the bottom of the plant clean and easier to see when it comes time for harvesting. Unlike other crops, okra is not a heavy feeder and does not require lots of irrigation or fertilizer. However, we still suggest planting okra on drip tape because the plants can have a tendency to strike-off when it becomes dry during the summer months. Once the vegetable garden is set up and prepared for planting, all that’s left is to plant the okra transplants and wait for them to grow.
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 can cause knots on the roots of the plants that can drain the nutrients from the plants leaving them wilted in the vegetable garden. There are a couple of different ways to control these nematode problems in the garden area. Travis recommends using a cover crop such as 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.
The first variety is the Jambalaya which is a hybrid that produces the most productive okra in the vegetable garden. Another excellent variety is known as Red Burgundy which produces deep red pods that remain tender when growing longer pod lengths. The Silver Queen is an heirloom variety that creates light green pods that are almost white. Another heirloom variety is the Cowhorn Okra that makes slender pods that remain tender even when grown at 6 to 10 inches long. When it comes to the Star of David variety it is the go-to okra for frying because of it’s thicker pods. However, the standard okra variety is the Clemson Spineless that produces pods that can reach 7 to 9 inches in length and be harvested at between 3 to 4 inches long. The newest okra variety we have available is the Perkins Long Pod that creates elongated pods that tend to produce early in the garden.