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 fiber which helps maintain a healthy digestive system. 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
|Annie Oakley II|
|North and South|
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|
|*SEE PLANT NUTRIENTS SECTION FOR INFORMATION ON NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT AND APPLICATION.|
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 4" depth, usually in early June. Plastic mulch, row cover and high tunnels can be used to help achieve the heat requirements.
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. Pod tenderness (which is desirable) decreases as size increases. Most varieties will lose their tenderness 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, where it may be stored for 7 to 10 days.