If you’re a gardener, you know that there are certain things that you just can’t plant from store-bought fruits and vegetables.
You often have to start them yourself from packets of seeds if you want to get the best results.
But what about okra? Can you plant store-bought okra and get good results?
The seeds from store bought okra can be used to grow new okra plants. With some careful preparation you will be able to plant your okra seeds into small peat pots which you can put into the ground when the seedlings develop.
How do you grow okra from fresh okra?
Like many plants store bought okra can be used to produce fresh plants but you need to do a little preparation beforehand.
When you are preparing your okra, separate the seeds from the fleshy part and put the seeds into a dish filled with lukewarm water then leave to soak overnight.
You will need a good quality, fine and warm soil for the okra to germinate in, so prepare your seedbed well and water it beforehand.
Sow the okra seeds into the soil, about half an inch deep about 3 inches apart.
Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged and, when the seedlings begin to appear thin them out to 18 inches apart, leaving the strongest plants.
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Is okra directly planted?
For the best results you should sow your okra seeds in the spot where they will stay for the rest of the season.
A warm, sunny spot will provide the best results for okra.
When should okra be planted?
Okra can be planted in spring once the ground has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed – about 3 weeks after the last frost is a good idea.
If you have a greenhouse or cold frame then you can plant okra into the soil about 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost.
The cold frame will need to be about 3 to 4 feet tall to provide enough room for the plants to grow.
Can you grow okra in pots?
You can grow okra in pots on a warm, sheltered patio or balcony but the plants will need a hot summer to produce a good crop.
Pot grown okra can perform well in a greenhouse and, if you are successful with greenhouse grown tomatoes then you should be able to grow a reasonable okra crop too.
Can okra be transplanted?
Okra plants don’t transplant well and many gardeners grow the seeds in peat pots or other biodegradable containers that can be planted into the ground without disturbing the plant.
If you are unable to get peat pots then you can use thin cardboard tubes, such as those from the centre of toilet rolls, just fill them with compost and sow the seeds.
When the plants are large enough to plant out do as you would with peat pots, plant in the soil and keep well watered to allow the pot to disintegrate and the plants to grow.
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Do okra plants come back every year?
Okra is a perennial but is mostly grown as a annual plant.
If the conditions are right where you live, a constant warm climate with good sunshine levels, then your okra plant will grow throughout the year.
In a more temperate climate okra grows as an annual and will need re-sowing every year.
When can you harvest okra?
Harvest your okra pods once they have grown to between 7 and 10 inches long, if your plant produces edible flowers then you should pick those too as soon as they open up.
Pick the fruit regularly to encourage further production, leaving enough fruit on the plant to develop.
Once you have harvested all your okra pods let the plants die back naturally – in a warm climate the plants will re-grow next year.
If you live in an area where the winters are cold then dig the remains of the plant up and use them in the compost heap.
What pest problems do okra face?
Okra is very rarely, if ever, troubled by pests or diseases.
If you are growing your okra in a greenhouse then you may find that greenfly and whitefly can be attracted to the sticky flower buds, spray the plants with a weak soapy mix or a commercial pesticide to remove them.
Do you need to feed okra plants?
As long as you have a good nutrient rich soil you won’t need to feed okra.
If your soil is not the best then use a soluble fertilizer once every four weeks to help to keep the plants growing strongly.
Does okra flower?
Yes, okra will produce flowers that only last for a very short time, in some cases just a single day.
The flowers will drop from the plant and will leave behind a small stub and, from this stub the okra pod ( the edible part of the plant ) will grow.
What are the flowers like?
The okra plant is a member of the hibiscus family and it’s colourful flower is very similar to that of the common mallow.
The most common colour for most varieties of okra plants will be bright yellow, but there are also pink, orange and white flowering varieties too.
While you are waiting for your plant to flower check the leaves, they are long and narrow – almost sword shaped.
Can you eat okra flowers?
Yes, in some parts of the world the okra flower is considered to be a delicacy.
It goes well dipped into batter and deep fried or added to noodle dishes.
The flowers can also be made into fritters too – just dip them in beaten egg and fry until golden brown before serving.
What soil types do okra plants grow in?
Okra likes a rich, moist loamy soil that is well aerated.
If you have heavy clay soils then try using an organic matter such as compost or manure to give it a lighter texture.
The best pH level for growing okra is between 5 and 7, adding garden lime may help to achieve this if the soil is acidic.
Your okra will need at least 6 hours of full sun per day, so make sure it receives some shade from the hottest part of the day in hot climates.
You can add a mulch around your plant if you wish, but don’t add too much as this can make the soil too cold and moist and lead to fungal problems.
Growing okra is a relatively easy process. If you have a sunny spot and rich soil then your plant should be happy.
Try different varieties if you get the chance, some may grow better in certain climates than others.
If you find that they do well in your garden make sure to save the seed from this year’s crop and re-sow them next year.