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Growing Okra: A Low-Maintenance Crop that Produces All Summer

A relative of the ornamental hibiscus, okra is a large, dramatic plant to grow in the home garden as well as a low-maintenance crop that produces all summer. That means, you plant once and get months of free food. I suspect that many people avoid growing okra because they don't know how to cook it. Of course, fried okra is a classic use for okra, but I prefer mine roasted or pickled. If you need further inspiration, check out this list of recipes from Southern Living

How to Grow Okra

Once okra has germinated, it’s easy to grow and maintain with few pest issues, but I have heard a lot of people say that they have trouble getting it started. There are a few things you need to know about starting okra to be successful.

  • Wait until it’s hot- Okra likes hot soil, so there’s no point in planting early. Minimum soil temperature for okra germination is 60° but ideal temperature for germination is 95°. Anywhere from 75-80° offers good germination rates.
  • Soak seeds first- Soaking okra seeds overnight before planting helps soften that tough outer shell, cutting a week or more off germination time. The enzymes in milk may help often the shell faster than water, but just soaking in water is sufficient. 
  • Plant in damp soil- The soil must be damp, but not soggy, before you plant. If it hasn't rained, then water the area well the night before you plant. Keep the soil damp until you see germination and continue to water regularly until the plants are established.
  • Place several seeds in one hole- Because germination rates tend to be low, place up to 5 seeds in one hole, 12 to 18 inches apart. Once the plants are 4 inches tall, thin to one plant per space by cutting the extra seedlings at the soil line. Never pull up plants when thinning, as this can damage the root system of the plant you want to keep.

Starting Okra Seeds Indoors

I do not start okra indoors early because it is just one of those crops that will not be hurried. It likes heat and won’t accept anything less than ideal temperatures to thrive. It is better to wait and have a successful harvest than to get frustrated with early attempts and give up. If you do start okra indoors, you will need grow lights and seed starting heat mats, which are available from Gardener's Supply.

Because it is a beautiful, low-maintenance crop that produces all summer, growing okra is always on my garden plan. Thanks to its consistent production throughout summer and fall, we eat okra year-round! By pickling and freezing okra, we cut down on our grocery costs and are able to eat organic.

What is your favorite way to eat okra? 
Please share your favorite recipe in the comments!



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