Basics of Growing Okra Outdoors

Basics of Growing Okra Outdoors

Most people associate Okra with Southern cuisines and gardens, so it may be surprising to learn Okra will grow in Northern gardens as well. The Okra plants will need a little pampering in cooler climates, just like sweet peppers and tomatoes, but it isn't complicated at all. Okra is actually quite easy to grow. It also produces the most stunning flowers of any vegetable plant, so even if you're not a fan of the vegetable, put Okra in the flower garden!

Growing Okra

Start Okra indoors 3-4 weeks before the last spring frost, if you live in a cooler climate (zones 4-6). Don't try sowing outdoors as the plants won't have enough time to reach full maturity. In warmer regions, Okra can be direct seeded in the garden after the soil has warmed to 65F. 

  1. Plant in full sun, in moist well-draining soil.
  2. Sow Okra seeds 1/2" deep and 12-18" apart. The stems of this plant really stretch out, so don't crowd them. Arrange rows 3-4 feet apart.
If you are transplanting Okra to your garden, wait until after all danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50F. Don't plant it too soon or it won't grow.

  1. Keep the plants well-watered, at least 1 inch of water per week. In hot regions, water more often.
  2. Okra is often slow to take off, and you may think it isn't going to produce anything. Then, it'll suddenly surge into production. Keep an eye on it! Once it gets going, it will continuously produce pods for months.
Harvesting Okra
  1. In 55-70 days, fruit will begin to form and is ready to harvest.
  2. Harvest fruits when they are less than 4" long; they'll grow much longer and turn woody and tough – not good eating!
  3. Use a knife or sheers to cut Okra off the stem.
  4. Once the plant has produced a little bit, remove the lower leaves. This encourages the plant to produce faster.
  5. In peak season, check the plant every other day for harvesting. If you don't, you'll end up with overgrown, tough pods.

We love the classic green Emerald Okra, developed by Campbell's Soup Company, but our favorite is the Red Burgundy. The pods of Red Burgundy are more tender, and we just love the color, which stays during cooking. 

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