Okra

Introduction

Okra is a warm season plant in the hibiscus family. The immature pods are used in soups, stir fries, pickles, and stews. The mucilage in okra acts as a thickening agent in soups, such as gumbo. Its nutritive value includes high fiber content; soluble in the form of gums and pectins that lower serum cholesterol, and insoluble. Okra also contains approximately 10% of the daily recommended vitamin B6 and folic acid.

Okra does best in warm weather and will die with frost. Most varieties have hairs on all parts of the plant that can cause skin irritation, so gloves and long sleeves may be needed for harvest.

Types and Varieties

OKRA VARIETIES
Annie Oakley II
Clemson Spinless
Cajun Delight
North and South
Zarah

Fertilizer

Apply lime according to soil test to maintain a soil pH at 6.5 to 7.0.

If plants are to be grown on plastic mulch, the amount of nitrogen fertilizer to be sidedressed can be reduced, since leaching is minimized. If using transplants, apply a liquid fertilizer at transplanting, especially with cool soil conditions. Use a high phosphorous starter fertilizer mixed at a rate of 3 lb/50 gal water. Apply 8 fl oz (1 cup) per transplant.

 

PLANT NUTRIENT RECOMMENDATION ACCORDING TO SOIL TEST RESULTS FOR OKRA
OKRA NITROGEN (N)* LBS PER ACRE PHOSPHORUS (P) LBS P2O5 PER ACRE POTASSIUM (K) LBS K2O PER ACRE
SOIL TEST RESULTS   VERY LOW LOW OPTIMUM ABOVE OPTIMUM VERY LOW LOW OPTIMUM ABOVE OPTIMUM
Broadcast and Incorporate 50 150 100 25-50 0 200 100 50 0
Sidedress 3-4 Weeks after Planting 40 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sidedress 6-8 Weeks after Planting 40 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL RECOMMENDED 130 150 100 25-50 0 200 100 25-50 0
*SEE PLANT NUTRIENTS  SECTION FOR INFORMATION ON NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT AND APPLICATION.

Planting

Seeds are sometimes soaked in water for 24 hours due to their hard seed coat to encourage germination. Transplants may be started in the greenhouse, preferably on a heat mat kept at 75 to 90°F, and transplanted to larger pots 6 weeks before planting into the field at the 3 to 4 leaf stage. Okra grows best at 75 to 90°F and should not be planted outdoors before the soil temperature reaches 65 °F at the 4" depth, usually in early June. 

Plant populations range from 7,000 to 15,000 plants per acre, depending on the variety. Spacing ranges from 12" to 24" in the row (100 to 50 plants per 100 feet of row respectively) with 36" between rows.

Harvest and Storage

Flowering will occur as soon as 45 days after seeding, depending on the variety, and pods are ready for harvest 5 to 6 days after flowering. Tenderness of the pod decreases as they increase in size. Most varieties will lose their tenderness, desired by the market, when they exceed 3" in length. For this reason okra plantings must be picked almost every other day. Pods are harvested by twisting them off the plant or cutting with a knife. After harvest, room cool or use forced air to bring the okra down to 50 to 55°F at 85-90% relative humidity for 7 to 10 days.