Secrets Of Growing Okra

Like many gardeners, I am always interested in trying something new - what if a new crop or variety is worthy and "will take root" in our family? One day my inquisitive eye fell on the okra, and I decided by all means to get acquainted with this mysterious culture more closely. In the first season I planted only two bushes and got a tiny harvest. It did not let me fully enjoy this crop, but gave me the opportunity to learn that okra, as they call okra, has a very pleasant taste and is worth growing it on a larger scale.

Secrets of growing okra
Secrets of growing okra

After that I decided to plant okra in considerable quantity, but it turned out to be real luck that this vegetable has not caused me any problems in the first year. Subsequently, I could not get a crop of okra for several years in a row. And only on the third season I was able to experience again the pleasant oily taste of the pods of this unusual plant. In this article I would like to solve all the problems associated with growing okra, to give gardeners the opportunity to get a significant harvest in the first season.

Challenges of seedling age

The main problem of okra at seedling age is an excessive tendency to stretch out. The okra sprouts literally emerge from the ground already overgrown - 6 or even 10 centimeters long. Subsequently, this leads to the fact that the seedlings warp, lodge and twist between themselves, making it difficult to pick. To avoid this, containers with seedlings initially kept on the south window, or moved to a minimum distance to the phytolamp.

Many sources note that okra does not like transplanting, but I have not noticed that the un-potted seedlings suffered much. Besides, this will help to bury a long stem, if the seedlings still overgrown.

Nevertheless, I still prefer from the beginning to sow two seeds in individual half-liter pots, germination of okra, as a rule, good, and the extra seedlings can simply pluck. In this case, I initially fill the cups to half, and as the seedlings grow, gradually pouring soil, and new roots are formed on the stem.

One of the most serious problems in growing okra - planting in the open ground. It is at this stage that I have repeatedly completely lost beautiful strong seedlings. The fact is that, although in the future okra can grow a huge plant with a thick trunk, becoming similar to a palm tree, okra seedlings are extremely vulnerable.

Unaware of this, I traditionally tried to plant okra in the middle of May together with tomatoes and peppers. But it turned out to be devastating for the okra, all that the usual crops endured without serious problems. Due to the fact that at seedling age the okra has very thin, weak stems, it can be problematic even to bring it in the car to the place of planting without losses. What to say if the weather at this time turns out to be too windy...

The other problem is temperature. Bamyeh is more sensitive to low temperatures and while most vegetables are ruined by frost, for the heat-loving okra even getting close to zero temperature can be fatal. It was the combination of wind, rain and low temperatures in May that resulted in several years in a row I completely lost seedlings that were planted strong, healthy and breathing life.

Secrets of growing okra
Bamia, or Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Benefits of sowing okra late for seedlings

Generalizing my negative experience, I came to the conclusion that planting okra seedlings in May in our climate is too risky, which meant that I had to radically reconsider the sowing dates.

The majority of sources recommend sowing okra for seedlings from the middle of March to April. However, it is likely that such early dates are recommended because you sometimes have to wait 2 to 3 weeks for the okra to sprout. My experience has shown that the most common soaking of okra seeds in the preparation "Epin-Extra" significantly reduces the time of germination, and seedlings of most varieties appear in a few days (maximum in a week).

After germination, okra begins to develop with great speed, and if sown in March, by May the seedlings reach considerable size, which increases the risk that long stems will break for various reasons. Practice has shown that before the stems harden as they grow, not even a garter is saved, because they break even in those places where they are garter.

So I decided to completely abandon the early sowing, and carried out the sowing of seeds only in early May. This was done in the same way as for planting in early spring - indoors, on the southern window sill, in individual cups, after soaking the seeds in advance.

The seedlings did not get to the permanent place until the last days of May, when there was real summer weather and no cold strong winds or threat of a significant cold snap. Thanks to the late sowing the seedlings were not overgrown, survived the transportation better and took root faster.

In the summer sun the okra immediately began to grow and soon reached an impressive size. Some of the specimens that got the most sunshine were over 1.5 meters tall and had huge lobed leaves, creating a tropical feel. The okra bloomed at the end of July, and in August I was already able to harvest it.

Secrets of growing okra
The flower of okra "Alabama Red" has classic lemon tones, but the stems and petioles are red. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Complications of harvesting okra

I would like to focus attention on the fact that okra is a relatively low-yielding plant. To have enough pods to eat, taste and get a lot of them, you have to have a small plantation, a couple of bushes are not enough here.

Gather the okra pods when they reach 4-5 centimeters in size. So make sure you have scissors or secateurs to hand when you go out to grab the crop as it is very difficult to tear the pods by hand. The anatomy of this plant is such that the fruits are in the axils of the leaves, if you carelessly tear off the pod, the nearby leaf will shrivel and this will weaken the plant.

Sometimes it is tempting to hold the fruit longer to make it grow larger. However, the fibers harden rapidly, the outer fibers become coarse, and the pods become unfit for food.

The main indicator that you have picked the fruit in time is the ease of cutting. Young fruits are very easy to chop, but if you have trouble cutting the pods, they are overripe fruits, which will not become soft even after cooking and should be thrown away. There is no need to choose the seeds from unripe okra pods, they also become soft and tasty after cooking.

Taste of okra is not easy to describe, but if you are a fan of asparagus beans and a fan of vegetable dishes, you will certainly like it. For me, it is an improved version of string beans, more buttery and rich.

Secrets of growing okra
Bamia "Lady's Fingers". © Ludmila Svetlitskaya
Secrets of growing okra
Bamia "Eagle Pass". © Ludmila Svetlitskaya
Secrets of growing okra
Bamia 'Alabama Red'. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Bamia varieties that I grew

This season I had three of the most marketable varieties of bamia on trial. I would like to tell a little about each of them.

Lady Fingers Pamia

This variety is the most affordable and the seeds of this one can be found in many trade outlets. Nevertheless, of the three varieties tested it was the outsider. The okra had the narrowest pods and the thinnest walls and not much flesh.

The pods were pentagonal in cross-section, with a wall 1 mm thick. The top of the fruit was covered with hairs and had a lettuce color. The height of the bushes was also lower than the others, about 40 centimeters.

In terms of taste: okra "Ladyfingers" did not differ from other varieties, so you can safely plant this variety to form an opinion whether you like okra.

Bamia 'Eagle Pass'

The plants in this one variety yielded the tallest bushes-over 1.5 meters high with a thick trunk 3 centimeters in diameter and large lobed leaf lamellae about 30 centimeters.

Most notable thing about 'Eagle Pass' are its pods. They are the same lettuce color and covered with small stripes as the 'Ladyfingers' variety. But the pod consists of many facets, and when you cut it open, you find that the fruit has a noticeably thicker wall - 2-3 millimeters. This, of course, affects the overall yield for the better, and the multifaceted pod itself is noticeably thicker.

In addition, such a star structure makes the appearance of the fruit more original, in the cut resembling gears and stars. This variety is described as having a lower mucus content, which for some growers is an added advantage because it does not require additional treatment to remove excess mucus juice.

Despite the powerful trunk, this okra had to be tied to a support, as the adult "palm" although it does not break, it tilts on its side in the wind.

Secrets of growing okra
Fruit okra "Ladyfingers" (right) is significantly inferior to the variety "Eagle Pass" (left).

Bamia "Alabama Red"

The main difference is the dark red color of the trunk and petioles, the leaves are green in color, although the veins are also slightly reddish. The flowers of this variety do not differ in any way from other okra cultivars - the petals are lemon-colored and there are small maroon areas in the center.

Because of the name of the variety one might sometimes think that the pods of this okra should differ in red, but this is not quite true. The pods are the same light green color and the only difference is a slight maroon-red dusting near the end of the pod.

The fruits of this variety remain gentle longer and do not become rough even when they grow to 10-cm in length. It also has a pleasantly sweet flavor that is not found in most other varieties. "Alabama Red" is quite tall, and adult plants reached 1 to 1.5 meters in height.

Secrets of growing okra
Leaf okra "Eagle Pass" has an impressive size. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya
Secrets of growing okra
The foliage of okra 'Alabama Red' is distinguished by dark veins. © Ludmila Svetlitskaya

Dear readers! There are many interesting varieties of okra, the seeds of which can be purchased from collectors. In the future, I plan to test in my own conditions new cultivars of okra in order to choose a few of the best varieties. At the moment the best for me was okra "Eagle Pass". I will continue the experiment next season.

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