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Planning, Growing, and Harvesting Okra Plants

Okra, a vegetable categorized under tropical crop, is known for its edible green seed pods. The lady’s finger is a fruit rich in fiber, essential vitamins, proteins, folate, and high potassium levels. The anti-oxidant properties of Okra often go unnoticed, which is necessary for fighting cancer. The said fruit often found itself in the diet chart of goiter patients due to its high iodine content. Surprisingly, Okra finds its application in manufacturing paper, cardboard, and fibers using its fiber and dried fruit skin. India makes it to the top of the list when it comes to okra cultivation across the globe.

Overview of Okra

Biological Name

Abelmoschus esculentus belonging to the Malvaceae family

Plant Type

Annually

Maturity Period

45-60 days.

Maturity Size

3-5 ft tall.

Soil Type

Sandy loam soil is rich in organic elements.

Soil pH

6.0 – 6.8 is the optimum pH

Exposure

6-8 hours of sunlight every day.

Hardiness (USDA Zone)

6-8

Spacing

Row to row 45cm; plant to plant 30 cm.

Bloom Time

February – March, June- July can get considered as the okra season.

Toxity

They areNon-toxic and edible.

Flower Color

green, yellow, purple.

Growth Rate

30- 45 cm apart.

Native Zone

Ethiopia and Sudan.

Maintenance

When it reaches about 4 inches in height, routine mulching required keeping out weed growth and maintaining moisture in the soil as much as possible. A proper amount of water gets supplied during the scorching season.

History of Okra:

Okra cultivation originated from southeastern Africa in Ethiopia and Sudan but soon found its way in India.

With its wide variety of related species and dominant characters, India significantly plays a role in making the country one of the world’s leading producers. Due to the requirement of warm climatic conditions, okra cultivation thrived in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperature regions.

However, West Africa, India, the Philippines, Thailand, and Brazil are the countries where the popularity of Okra cultivation thrived over time.  

Nutritional Facts:

The nutritive property of Okra is astounding. The fruit gets abundantly filled with carbs, proteins, fibers, magnesium, folate, and various vitamin groups.

The anti-oxidant content of Okra helps the body to steer away from harmful molecules called free radicals. The high polyphenols content of Okra keeps a heart-healthy.

The mucilage present in the Okra binds with cholesterol during digestion and excretes it from the body instead of letting cholesterol gets deposited in the body.

The lectin present in Okra may inhibit the growth of cancer-growing cells in the body.

Nutrients and Minerals

Due to its long growth and delayed onset of fruition, Okra must get very balanced nutrition to keep his vigor intact and increase production.

Experts strongly suggest going for a soil test before adding any fertilizers to the soil to get a proper estimate of the required nutrition of the earth. Underdosing or overdosing will fetch no result at the end of cultivation.

During field preparation, add at least 15 tones of FYM. Farmers cultivating Okra in regions where rainfall is high should add 75kg of nitrogen, 50kg of phosphorous peroxide, and at most 55 kg of K2O per hectare.

Areas that receive considerable sunlight should go for 40 kg of nitrogen and 40 kg of phosphorous peroxide. During the sowing, experts suggest half the dose of nitrogen to be used and a complete dosage of potassium and phosphorous, while the remaining half of nitrogen to get used as top dress in equal splits.

First, split to get used after the first month of sowing, while others get used before Okrrra’s flowering.

In regions where soil type is acidic, one of the biggest obstacles for okra cultivation is high P fixation/ low P mobility. Given, fertilizers with high phosphorous content are expensive, cultivating Okra proves to be a financial disaster.

However, using Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi can prove to be a saver. Though using these fungi significantly raises the cost of cultivation, its eco-friendly nature and 25% enhancement of production balance out the additional expense.

When to Plant Okra: 

Before planting Okra, the seeds need to be soaked in water for at least 18 hours to soften the harsh seed coat and germinate readily.

The best time to plant Okra is during the onset of spring when the rough winter has passed along with the snow frosting.

The ideal temperature of the soil for Okra to cultivate is around 65 degrees. Once the Okra starts growing, thin them gradually so that the spacing of 45 cm creates maintained.

Where to plant Okra: 

Okra can get planted in various places, from extensive scale harvesting to small-scale cultivation. The flexibility of this plant makes it one of the easiest plants to grow if a few things need to be kept in mind.

Okra needs a warm temperature and sandy loam soil for it to thrive. Pests issues can get easily bypassed using proper soil management and crop rotation technique.

How to grow Okra: 

Weed act as the biggest threat to okra cultivation. So, try to remove weeds when the plant is young and follow a routine mulching system to prevent weeds’ growth.

A 2-3 inch high layer of mulch will execute the job abundantly. Once the plant starts growing and reaches a height of about 3 inches, begin thinning the plant to be 30-45cm apart from each other.

Proper water management in the summer months is the key to healthy okra cultivation. Once the first gets done, remove the lower leaves, this assists in rapid growth for the next harvest.

Variety of Okra: 

The okra varieties available in the market:

  1. Baby Bubba Hybrid:  Hybrid variant of Okra is quite popular among small-time gardeners as they grow up to be small in size, and they are ideal for growing them in pots and containers. The fruits are dark green, and their size ranges in around 2-3 inches.
  2. Blondy: This variety also belongs to the dwarf family and reaches a height of about four inches. The fruits are a bit pale green and size about three inches. They are one of the spineless variants and are one of the best growing choices in cooler regions.
  3. Burgundy: Burgundy variant reaches about five feet in height and diameter ranges around forty inches. As the name suggests, the fruits are burgundy in color and look great in a background of bright green leaves. They mature in 49-60 days.
  4. Clemson Spineless: they are one of the most popular variants in the market, and as the name suggests, it belongs to the spineless group. The plant reaches about four feet and becomes ready to harvest in 55-60 days.   

Grow Okra in Pots: 

People residing in colder regions should place the germinating seeds in a pot and keep them indoors. The okra plant cannot withstand cold and needs warmth or direct sunlight until it reaches at least 3 inches in height. Once the desired size gets achieved, the cultivator can take it outdoors, giving the plant a strong chance of survival.

Grow Okra in Container: 

A bucket-type container is the best for a person thinking to plant Okra in the container. The taproots of the Okra tend to go deep into the soil, and a 20 liters container does the job ideally.

A container of 20 liters, the best bet should be the dwarf variety as they don’t go too deep as the plant retards the development of the roots.

The technique will prevent the plant from reaching its proper height and, in the process, affect the yield.   

Harvesting Okra: 

The first harvest will get initiated after two months from the time of planting. The harvesting should get initiated when the plant reaches around 2-3 inches in height, and every other day farmers should harvest them. A technique often gets used to determine whether the pod is too old or not.

One can use a knife to cut the stem on top of the cap; if the branch does not separate easily, chances are the pod is too old for consumption.

Experts strongly advise wearing gloves and long sleeves when harvesting Okra as they have tiny spines on them, which may irritate the skin. However, some spineless variety of Okra gets cultivated, and the struggle to harvest them gets eliminated.  

Pests and Diseases: 

The critical pests and diseases which significantly hampers growth are as follows:

  • Spotted Boll Warm:  This type of pest attacks okra cultivation from May to September. The larvae initially bore into the shoot and eventually ended up in the fruit, making them unfit for human consumption.
  • Jassid: The pest sucks on the cell sap making the okra leaves turn pale and curl upwards. Drying of the curled leaves in the margin follows. They also attack the plant from May to September.
  • Red Spider mite: This pest feeds on the underside of the leaves and, similar to jassid, makes them curled and wrinkled.
  • Yellow vein Mosaic disease: Root-knot nematode 

Fertilizers and Manure:

Fertilizers rich in nitrogen are ideal for okra cultivation. Phosphorous and potassium are the other two minerals that play a leading role in the proper growth of Okra.

Home compost can get used as manure in okra cultivation.

Poultry manure and NPK fertilizers yield promising results in the cultivation of Okra on a large scale.  

Recipes: 

  1. Pan-fried Okra with cornmeal
  2. Okra and rice casserole
  3. Okra in country ham cheese.

FAQ:

How long does it take for Okra to grow?

Approximately, it takes about 55-60 days for an okra plant to bear fruits. However, some variants may take as long as 70 days.

What is the best way to grow Okra?

Growing Okra and harvesting it involves a series of steps that need to get followed strictly. The likes of climatic conditions, soil type, and periodic mulching help the process.

Is Okra easy to grow?

Growing Okra is quite simple, be it in the backyard or large-scale cultivation. The steps like protecting the germinating seeds, warm weather conditions, and a few nitrogen fertilizers can do the job.

Is okra fruit?

Okra is a hairy herbaceous plant that gets annually and bears edible fruit as Okra grows from the ovary of the okra flowers and contains the seed making it a fruit.

Does Okra need trellis?

Growing Okra doesn’t need too much effort, and they do not use a trellis. Okra tends to increase tall, but they are not like vine plants that require a framework. They are more tall shrubs.

What to do after picking Okra?

Once the Okra gets detached from the plant body, it needs to be refrigerated appropriately to increase its lifespan by slowing down its decaying.

How many Okra will one plant produce?

Whole grown Okra cultivated in favorable conditions can fetch about 20-30 pods per plant. However, miniature hybrid variant okra will produce much fewer pods per plant.

How big should Okra be before you pick it?

Ideally, when the length of the pod reaches about 3-4 inches, pick them, else they will get tough and old unsuitable for consumption.

How do you pick fresh Okra?

A simple technique gets followed to identify fresh Okra from an old one. Use a knife to cut the stem from the cap. If it gets cut easily, it can get categorized as fresh Okra, while challenging to cut means the Okra is old and tough.

What is the best month to plant Okra?

The onset of spring is the best month to plant okra seeds when the soil temperature can get considered warm and bright sunlight is available for a more extended period.

How long does it take for Okra to grow?

It takes about two months from the point of sowing to harvesting. However, some hybrid variants may take more time to be harvest-ready.

What can you not plant near Okra?

The likes of cucumber, melons, and pepper plantations should get avoided from the okra plant in every way. Cucumber and melons consume a lot of water, so Okra making it impossible for Okra to grow in favorable conditions. Pepper plantations repel cabbage worms, and that can create raucous for okra cultivation.

Is Okra easy to grow?

Okra is very easy to grow with little effort from the farmer’s end. Proper water management, nitrogen fertilizers or home compost manure, and careful pest control are all it takes for okra cultivation.

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