Although this vegetable is most commonly grown in the Southern United States, it’s certainly not limited to that area. They need a lot of warmth, so cooler zones will benefit from starting their seeds inside.
When looking through seed you may want to look for the word “spineless” for this African native. These varieties aren’t quite spine-free, but they are close). You’ll still want to wear some gloves when harvesting this to avoid irritation from the leaves or stems.
Some varieties include:
- ‘Annie Oakley’
- ‘Clemson Spineless’
Choose a location that drains well, as okra doesn’t like having soggy roots. Add organic matter to the soil to supply nutrients, and consider applying a fertilizer like manure as a side dressing as the plants grow.
Wait until it’s warm (definitely after the last frost date) or start inside. Start your seeds by soaking them in water overnight to help them germinate faster. Plant them about 1″ deep. Make your rows 3′ apart and thin the seedlings when 6″ tall so that plants are 2′ apart within the rows.
Water them at least weekly once their roots are established. They can tolerate some short periods of drought if necessary.
You shouldn’t have to worry about many insects at all. Sometimes stink bugs or aphids may attack your okra plants.
In about 50-60 days, you should be able to harvest your okra. Don your gloves to avoid touching any spines. Use a knife or pruners to remove them instead of pulling them off. Pick your okra when it is about 2-4″ long. Watch your okra carefully – it takes less than a week after flowering, usually, to grow to this size.